August newsletter

Thanks for a Great Member Meeting!

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Our July member and supporter meeting was well attended, with plenty food and good conversation. Thank you to all who came; we enjoyed seeing and talking with each one of you! During the meeting, we heard from Garrett Hoover, a graduate student in biology at West Liberty University who is helping us with water monitoring. We also watched a short film on environmental justice, including how it’s tied into other forms of justice and how we can accomplish big, important things when we work together! The post-film discussion was inspiring!

At CCJ, we’re always working to find ways to empower, educate, organize, and advocate for people in the communities we serve, and we look forward to seeing and talking with you soon. We will be tabling at the Washington County Fair in Building 1 all this week. Stop and see us if you can!  Also, don’t forget to add the date of our next meeting to your calendar: August 27th from 6-8 p.m.!

What to Ask Your Local Officials When a Well Pad is Too Close For Comfort

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The Augustine well pad in Cecil Township has raised a lot of questions for local residents, who recently built their homes where a well pad is permitted to operate, at a minimum required distance from their homes, by part of the same Board of Supervisors that oversaw the permitting of their neighborhood. The people living in Windsor Woods, a new community development, don’t own their oil and gas rights, and only recently were they minimally informed of the oil and gas development. 

As the operations at the Augustine Pad picked up, residents came to their Board of Supervisors seeking answers and help. Unfortunately, they left with even more unanswered questions. 

The following is a series of questions and answers that residents can use to inform their conversations with the Board going forward. This information should help people to understand what the Board of Supervisors has the power to do in managing oil and gas development. 

Does the community have the ability to challenge the pad development and permitting process through existing zoning laws?

  • Challenging well pads through zoning laws is not consistent across townships, and many townships have been unsure where oil and gas development falls into the zoning categories as they stand. Many communities lack any zoning at all. The following resources can be used to further understand how the zoning of oil and gas has played out elsewhere in Pennsylvania: 


What power does the board of supervisors have to regulate and minimize the impact of the Augustine Pad?

    • Act 13- “Act 13 of 2012 enacted stronger environmental standards, authorized local governments to adopt an impact fee and built upon the state's ongoing efforts to move towards energy independence as unconventional gas development continues.”

    • State of Pennsylvania Act 13 Impact fee language 

    • Article 1 Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution says that it is necessary to invest in the power of local government to minimize impacts of development in order to protect public natural resources. Townships can go above and beyond what is in Act 13 as long as it is justifiable. 

    • Townships can say they want a greater setback distance for homes in certain areas; for instance, depending on the density of the residential parcel or to protect property value. However, there needs to be something specific about the community that gives the township vested interest in protecting it, for example, sensitive populations.

What should residents specifically ask of the township?

    • Keep in mind that there is a difference between hearing public comment, and listening and considering public comment. 

    • Residents should feel empowered to ask that the Board require a traffic study so that when decisions are made around infrastructure accountability, the township can ask the oil and gas developers for exactly what is needed on certain roads and in specific communities.

    • Residents should feel empowered to ask for a comprehensive air study, including but not limited to how increased development of oil and gas operations across the township will impact air quality, specifically related to the density of residential neighborhoods and the topography.  

    • In the conditional-use permitting process, the Board of Supervisors can negotiate with the company, in this case Range Resources, to invest where they want them to. The bottom line is that Range Resources wants to develop Cecil township, and it is on the Board of Supervisors to hold them accountable and negotiate on behalf of the residents to widen, improve, and invest in infrastructure impacted by the industry. 

    • People should feel empowered to ask their elected officials to gather additional information in general.

If at any point residents are hearing that the oil and gas industry will not develop Cecil Township further if they are required to invest in infrastructure and respect setbacks, people should push back and insist that the wet gas is here, that the company has already leased and paid continued bonuses to maintain leases, and that the petrochemical buildout, including the Beaver Cracker Plant, the Mark West Processing Plant, and the connecting Shell-Falcon Pipeline, indicates otherwise. Further, development is coming and folks should not be afraid to demand increased safety and health measures be taken. 


To follow up on any of this information, or for more information regarding oil and gas development, feel free to contact Heaven Sensky at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org, or 724-229-3550 ext 103.

A breakdown of ABB property documents recently published by DEP

The ABB property in Muse, PA

The ABB property in Muse, PA

CCJ organizer Heaven Sensky has been working closely with people in Cecil Township around several issues, including the purchase of 87 acres in Muse known by the township as “the ABB Property.” Months ago, many residents of Cecil Township attended a public meeting regarding the ABB property, but few of their many questions were answered. When they questioned the history of the property, the locations of current monitoring wells, and the long term use of the large parcel of industrial land, they were left confused and with even more questions. At one point, residents were asked to file their own Right-To-Know Law Request for information, rather than the local government sharing with them what was known.  

At that point, CCJ filed a Right-To-Know Law Request with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all documents from the last four decades, including correspondence, pertaining to the ABB property. On July 15th, the DEP published 12 extensive reports dating from April of 1990 to December of 2003. They also published the consent order and agreement (summarized in a previous blog), a 2017 groundwater monitoring report, and Cecil Township’s notice of their intent to remediate the property. 

After careful review, we are able to release a summary of those documents below, along with a series of questions still unanswered by the township. 

On June 6, 2019, CCJ filed a Right-to-Know Law Request with the DEP seeking copies of the following environmental investigation reports related to the Muse Property owned by ABB:

    • Site Assessment and Environmental Compliance Audit Report (April 1990) C-E Environmental Inc. 

    • Report of Field Investigations (March 1994) ABB Environmental Services Inc. 

    • Phase III – Site Characterization Report (December 1994) ABB Environmental Services Inc. 

    • Phase IV – Remediation Pilot Test Program Report (September 1995) ABB Environmental Services Inc.

    • Phase IV – Soil Remediation Report (April 1996) ABB Environmental Services Inc. 

    • Environmental Status Report (August 2003) MACTEC

    • Waste Characterization Report (March 2009) EQ- Environmental Quality Company 

    • Final Closure Report – Solid Waste Landfill (August 2009) MACTEC

    • Sampling and Analysis Plan – Southern Landfill Berm (August 2009) Conestoga-Rovers & Associations (CRA) (now GHD)

    • Southern Landfill Berm Characterization Report (January 2010) CRA (now GHD)

    • Groundwater Monitoring Reports (2001 – 2016) MACTEC/CRA

    • “Final Environmental Indicator Inspection Report for Former CE Cast Facility”, Muse-Bishop Road, Muse Pennsylvania 15350 (December 2003) Tetra Tech FW Inc., One Oxford Valley-Suite 200, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, 19047-1829

Copies of those reports can be viewed here.

Cecil Township submitted a Notice of Intent to Remediate the property pursuant to the Consent Order and Agreement with the DEP. According to the Notice of Intent to Remediate, “[a]s a result of historical manufacturing and recovery operations at the site, the soil and groundwater were impacted by volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, and metals. Primary contaminants include trichloroethene and trichloroethate and related daughter products, and 1,4-dioxane.” 

Trichloroethene- aka “Trichloroethylene is a synthetic, light sensitive, volatile, colorless, liquid that is miscible with many non-polar organic solvents. Trichloroethylene is used mainly as a degreaser for metal parts. Upon combustion, it produces irritants and toxic gases. Occupational exposure to trichloroethylene is associated with excess incidences of liver cancer, kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. (NCI05)”

1,4-dioxane- “1,4-Dioxane is a clear liquid with a faint pleasant odor. It mixes easily with water. It is used as a solvent in the manufacture of other chemicals and as a laboratory reagent.1,4-Dioxane can be released into the air, water, and soil at places where it is produced or used as a solvent. In soil, 1,4-dioxane does not stick to soil particles, so it can move from soil into groundwater. Studies in animals have shown that breathing vapors of 1,4-dioxane affects mainly the nasal cavity and the liver and kidneys. Swallowing liquid 1,4-dioxane or contaminated drinking water, or having skin contact with liquid 1,4-dioxane also affects the liver and kidneys. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers 1,4-dioxane as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. The EPA has established that 1,4-dioxane is likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

According to the 2017 Groundwater Monitoring Report, “the concentrations of daughter compounds such as cis-1,2-DCE, 1,1-DCE and vinyl chloride are generally increasing or stabilizing, while the parent compound concentrations (i.e. trichloroethene and trichloroethate) are generally decreasing.” One semi-volatile organic compound (SVOC), 1,4-dioxane, continues to the present in groundwater underlying the Muse Property. 

cis-1,2-DCE- “...appears as a clear colorless liquid with an ether-like odor. Flash point 36-39°F. Denser than water and insoluble in water. Vapors heavier than air. Used in the making of perfumes. EPA: Inadequate information to assess carcinogenic potential.”

1,1-DCE- “is an industrial chemical that is not found naturally in the environment. It is a colorless liquid with a mild, sweet smell. It is also called vinylidene chloride. 1, 1-Dichloroethene is used to make certain plastics, such as flexible films like food wrap, and in packaging materials. It is also used to make flame retardant coatings for fiber and carpet backings, and in piping, coating for steel pipes, and in adhesive applications.H224: Extremely flammable liquid and vapor [Danger Flammable liquids] H332: Harmful if inhaled [Warning Acute toxicity, inhalation] H351: Suspected of causing cancer [Warning Carcinogenicity]”

vinyl chloride- see 1.1-DCE

In addition to a brief description of the site contamination, the Notice of Intent to Remediate requires a general description of proposed remediation measures. In response, Cecil Township stated: “Remediation options will be evaluated in a Remedial Investigation Report. However, at this time it is envisioned that engineering and institutional controls will be utilized to eliminate potential exposure pathways to identified contamination.” 

Going forward, residents should feel empowered to ask the Board of Supervisors the following questions, which continue to remain unanswered despite the plethora of documents released by the DEP. 

Importantly, according to the Consent Order and Agreement with the DEP, the Remedial Investigation Report is not due until January 3, 2021. It is CCJ’s understanding that Cecil Township has not completed its remedial investigation. 

  • Question: What kind of engineering and institutional controls will be used? 

  • Question: When will that remedial investigation be completed? 

According to the Notice of Intent to Remediate, the intended future use of the property may include development of a public works building and related structures and roads.

  • Question: Are there other intended future uses? 

The ABB property consists of a whopping 87 acres. The township mentions use for a public works building, but hasn’t answered questions around the use of the rest of the property. Because of ABB’s industrial categorization, and its inability to ever be used for residential development, a question of what residents can expect the township to do with it going forward is pertinent. A remediated ABB could be a beacon for further oil and gas development including well pads, compressor stations and processing stations. Residents need to be able to trust their township in protecting the health and safety of their children not only now, but in the future. 

Residents should also continue to encourage a public meeting with DEP officials. Though many open-ended questions are complex, they still must be answered by the DEP. In the event that the DEP does agree to a public meeting, people should feel free to reach out to CCJ to break down questions and prepare for the meeting. In addition, historical and intergenerational knowledge of what is buried at ABB and where continues to be valuable, and folks with information should continue to share. 

As always, special thanks go out to the community members in Cecil that continue to work tirelessly around these issues to demand answers for themselves and their neighbors. The next Supervisors meeting is this Monday, August 5th at 7:00 PM. 

For more information on the ABB Property and Muse Slate Dumps, Oil and Gas Development, or to get connected with CCJ, feel free to contact Heaven Sensky at heaven@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550 ext. 103.

On retirement, and keeping in mind the words of Margaret Mead

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The Heinze family

Thank you to Rick Heinze, a CCJ member and supporter, for this contribution to our What’s on your mind? blog series!

It’s a little frustrating that my retirement activities aren’t what I dreamed they would be. In my dreams, I was going to visit exotic places, improve my birding skills, learn to play the banjo I bought 25 years ago at a garage sale, take interesting college courses on the internet (e.g., western PA history), and learn to throw my atlatl. The rest and relaxation that I had earned through working in my younger years would now become my life. 

I have always considered myself an environmentalist. I saved water, recycled items, bought a car that gets good gas mileage, reduced/reused/recycled, and took part in other actions that I hoped would make the world a better place. Then the climate crisis became real, and it was obvious that doing those activities was not nearly enough. The Paris Accords, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and many other scholarly studies and discussions on the climate made this abundantly clear. I could no longer rest and relax during my retired life knowing that the planet my grandchildren were to grow up on would be so dramatically different than the nature and the outdoors that I had so loved during my own life. For example, millions of people will be (and are being) uprooted from their homes. Others will no longer be able to grow food because of the warming environment and the uncertainty of rain (or an excess of rain).

So I decided that, for the sake of my precious granddaughter and the children of her generation, I must get more involved in teaching people about this crisis and helping them to understand that, though we thought this crisis would happen 30 years from now, we are already experiencing it. I have always done the easier things, such as educating myself on climate change and donating money to the right causes (CCJ, Sierra Club, Climate Reality). But, as we are learning, this is not enough. Money is helpful, but our time is precious! I am trying to get out there and become really involved in supporting the changes that will be necessary to reverse or slow down the damage we have caused. I am doing things that I am not comfortable doing, such as running in an election and knocking on doors in my community so that I can talk to people. Right now I’m trying to build up the courage (and find some support) in order to picket my state senator’s office after her party passed some very troubling legislation which will increase water pollution in our area. Will any of my activities matter? Who knows, but I have to try. I can only hope that anthropologist Margaret Mead was right in her assertion that we should “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  With the support of CCJ and you, I can become a committed citizen and hopefully make a positive difference!

CRDA no. 7 Public Hearing Recap

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A Public Hearing for the pending Coal Refuse Disposal Area (CRDA) No. 7 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water permit was held last Wednesday, July 17 at the Morris Township Community Center in Graysville, PA.  The Observer-Reporter and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette attended the meeting (and their stories are linked here with their respective names).  

Only a handful of concerned residents were able to make the mid-afternoon meeting time on a Wednesday: the meeting was held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. In our history of requesting and attending meetings like this, community members have consistently pressed for meetings to be held at times that are accessible to residents, but these requests are invariably ignored. The unwillingness to consider residents is a disservice, and allows for an inaccurate portrait of a lack of concern around the issue.  

For their part, Consol Energy doesn’t mind the low turnout. “We own all the surface properties affected by the construction in this permit area, so we didn’t expect a lot of people to show up,” said Anthony Drezewski, Consol’s director of land resources. They didn’t expect many people to attend because they have effectively and systematically removed them (and thus, part of the “problem”) from the permit area. Not only have these landowners and taxpayers been displaced, but the coal companies will now devastate and devalue some 900 acres of a beautiful, lush and thriving valley. This, in turn, will drive down property values and bring further costs to taxpayers!

Consol executives will use and abuse the land and workers until it no longer lines their pocketbooks, and then the burden of their operations will fall upon the taxpayers of Greene County and the rest of Pennsylvania.  


Statement on Columbia Gas Explosion in Washington, PA

photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

photo credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Center for Coalfield Justice staff, like many in the Washington area, were shocked and scared by the Columbia Gas Pipeline explosion, which destroyed one house and impacted several others, on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. We are waiting with our community to hear news about the five people injured in that explosion and sending our thoughts and best wishes to the impacted families. We also want to recognize and thank the first responders who rushed to the scene. Columbia Gas has taken full responsibility for the incident, and we hope that they act promptly to repair the damages caused to our community. 

Pipelines are complicated infrastructure, deserving of, at the very least, increased transparency about their location, function, and potential risks. Our communities are deserving of improved emergency response plans that prioritize the swift communication of incidents to the surrounding community. 

For more information on the incident, take a look at media coverage linked below:

Observer-Reporter: https://observer-reporter.com/news/localnews/five-injured-in-north-franklin-township-house-explosion/article_2a722694-b3cd-11e9-a137-1f81bc7773a1.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR1Z1d7axJjXHpWHw5dAJeO_XfzzyszPAwAdxrHgZOYdAUUQDmRYR_MfN2o

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: https://www.post-gazette.com/local/washington/2019/08/01/Columbia-Gas-apologizes-Washington-County-Park-Lane-house-explosion-North-Franklin/stories/201908010127

WTAE: https://www.wtae.com/article/columbia-gas-washington-county-house-explosion-pressure-regulator/28580073

WPXI: https://www.wpxi.com/news/top-stories/columbia-gas-takes-responsibility-for-explosion-that-destroyed-home-injured-5/971632094