FRACKING in Pennsylvania, Butler County (Just North of Pittsburgh)

Below is a typical monthly roundup of events relating to Fracking published by the excellent local anti-fracking group Marcellus Outreach Butler (www.marcellusoutreachbutler.org) – it reflects daily life in an active fracking area. By understanding what life is like in these damaged communities, we will be better informed when it comes to dealing ‘again’ with the pressures of shale gas extraction in Co. Fermanagh.

Butler County Well Count

  • Total Number of Wells: 625
  • Total Well Pads: 205

Around the County

CONNOQUENESSING TWP(Township)—Connoquenessing Elementary School was evacuated on April 17 due to an odor of natural gas in the building. The students were evacuated at 10 AM and sent to the Intermediate High School in Butler Township. Peoples TWP was called to find the source of the leak, but inspectors were unable to find any leaking gas lines in or around the building. Peoples blamed the odor on nearby fracking operations and declared that it was safe (?) for students to return to the school, which they did at 1:15 PM. The distinct rotten-egg smell of natural gas is not naturally present in the gas, but rather is a chemical called mercaptan that is added before being sent into residential lines. However, Duquesne University biologist Dr. John Stolz says that some of the compounds present in “wet gas,” which is what lies under Butler County, give off a similar odor, so it is more than plausible that fracking is responsible. Rex Energy’s Shipley well pad is located a mere 1,750 feet from the school in Connoquenessing borough.

BUTLER TWP—Residents have recently reported hearing loud noises, seemingly coming from nowhere. Following an on-the-ground report on April 14, it was determined that the noise is emanating from the AK Steel A pad on Schaffner Road, located between the AK Steel plant and the Highfield neighborhood. The XTO pad, located on a property zoned single-family residential and surrounded by houses, is currently in the fracking stage. Residents over a mile away can hear it, likening the sound to a freight train going past. The noise is still occurring as of this writing.

PROSPECT BORO—XTO applied for permits for the first well pad within borough boundaries on April 18. The Coretsky well pad would be located on Crown Hill Road, just west of Route 528, south of the intersection of 528 and 488. If approved, the well pad would house two wells. It will be less than one mile from Moraine Elementary School and downtown Prospect.

WINFIELD TWP—Two new well pads were permitted in the township at the end of March, both on Marwood Road. The first, permitted on March 21, is the PER W34 pad, located just east of Spiker Road on Marwood. It will house one well. The other, permitted on March 23, is the PER W32 pad located on Bear Creek Road just south of Marwood and will house two wells. Both pads belong to Penn Energy.

SLIPPERY ROCK TWP—MOB hosted an electric car show on April 21 as part of the Macoskey Center’s Earth Fest at the center on SRU’s campus. Throughout the day, a Chevrolet Volt, a Chevrolet Bolt, a Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, a Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid minivan, a Tesla Model 3, two Tesla Model S’s, and even a 2003 Toyota RAV-4 EV were on hand for visitors to sit in and learn more about.


Across Penn’s Woods

COUDERSPORT—JKLM Energy has withdrawn from a controversial frack-waste treatment plant at the headwaters of the Allegheny River in Potter County. The Pittsburgh-based company had proposed a plant next to the Coudersport municipal sewage plant that would have “treated” wastewater produced by fracking, and then release it into the Allegheny River, which at that point is no wider than our own Connoquenessing Creek. The Allegheny turns north and heads into New York for about 15 miles before turning back into Pennsylvania. The Seneca Nation reservation occupies almost the entire length of the New York part of the river, and they objected fiercely to the plan, which would have threatened their drinking water. JKLM’s voluntary withdrawal came after Coudersport borough council rejected the plan. Read more here.

PENN-TRAFFORD—A citizen’s group in Westmoreland County has filed suit to reverse a zoning ordinance passed in 2016 by Penn Township, Westmoreland County that designated special “mineral extraction overlays.” Protect PT has challenged the ordinance in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court under Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which guarantees environmental rights to the citizens of the commonwealth. Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, an environmental engineer from Cornell University, was among the witnesses called by Protect PT, as were Dr. Ned Ketyer, a Pittsburgh pediatrician, and Tom Daniels, a land use expert from the University of Pennsylvania. Read more here.

LANCASTER—A new Franklin & Marshall College/StateImpact Pennsylvania poll shows that more people are opposed to fracking in Pennsylvania than in 2014. The new poll shows that 50 percent of respondents, no longer a majority, support fracking in Pennsylvania, while 42 percent do not. However, 55 percent said that the environmental risks of fracking outweighed its potential economic benefits, while only 30 percent said the economic benefit outweighed the risk. Read more here.

MARIETTA—704 pounds of dynamite was stolen from a construction site for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lebanon County. Williams Partners, which is building the highly-contested pipeline in eastern Pennsylvania, reported that 16 cases of dynamite and 400 blasting caps were stolen during the weekend of April 14-15. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is investigating and has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Read more here.


See the Marcellus Outreach Butler website for much more detailed information on the effects of unconventional shale gas extraction and fracking in Pennsylvania.

Video of Jessica Ernst presentation in Enniskillen on 17 Oct 2017.

Jessica Ernst gave a very insightful presentation into the obstacles she faced when she raised the issue of poor safety by fracking Companies in Alberta Canada.

For a video of the presentation please access using the links below. The video was very kindly organised by our colleagues in LAMP [Letterbreen and Mullaghdun Partnership].

FFAN also include here the talk that Jessica Ernst gave the week before in Malton, England which is close to the fracking that has already started in North Yorkshire.

Jessica Ernst Enniskillen talk, October 17, 2017, after storm ophelia:

**RE-SCHEDULED** Jessica Ernst Talk Tues 17 Oct 2017 at 7.00pm in Fermanagh House, Enniskillen.

***  JESSICA    ERNST  TALK  CANCELLED  TONIGHT  [ MON 16th]    ***  RE-SCHEDULED  FOR TOMORROW  NIGHT  AT  7.00PM.  SAME   VENUE =  FERMANAGH  HOUSE ***

Jessica Ernst is an Environmental Scientist from Alberta who will visit Fermanagh this month with her presentation:
‘The story of how fracking ruined my water’.
She will tell her story of taking the Oil & Gas company EnCana, the Alberta government and the energy regulator to court when ‘gold standard’ regulations failed.

Jessica Ernst Talk Mon 16 Oct 2017 at 7.30pm in Fermanagh House, Enniskillen.

Jessica Ernst is an Environmental Scientist from Alberta who will visit Fermanagh this month with her presentation:
‘The story of how fracking ruined my water’.
She will tell her story of taking the Oil & Gas company EnCana, the Alberta government and the energy regulator to court when ‘gold standard’ regulations failed.

FFAN response to FODC Local Development Plan

Below is the FFAN response to the FODC Local Development Plan. This response was sent to the Planning Department & all FODC Councillors on 28 November 2016

RESPONSE  TO  FODC  LOCAL  DEVELOPMENT  PLAN.   NOV.  2016

On 3rd October 2016 the draft documents ‘Fermanagh & Omagh Community Plan [FOCP]’ and ‘Local Development Plan [LDP]’ were published by the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council [FODC]. These documents have been open for an eight week period of public consultation that ends on Monday 28 November.

In 2015 FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network] and many groups and individuals took part in the community engagement process to help draft what the people of this council area wanted to see in those plans. A strong cross-community consensus came from those meetings that the exploration and extraction of oil or gas from shale rock [commonly known as fracking] was incompatible with the sustainability remit inherent in both the FOCP and the LDP.

FFAN have studied the LDP paper and found that the wording used to oppose fracking is much weaker than was demanded by the Public at last years consultations. FFAN and many other groups and individuals have been involved in the current round of  ‘consultations’ last month and we state yet again that the LDP is not reflecting the wishes as clearly expressed by the public.

Many reasons exist to show that fracking will be detrimental to both the health & economy of the FODC area.

Attached are:

  1. a synopsis of health issues & fracking from the Irish College of General Practitioners Forum Journal. also see link   http://www.icgp.ie/assets/93/C9E3CD95-DD94-5BAE-F22851597666F0F4_document/Fracking.pdf
  2. summary of the report by the Economist Dr Brenna O’Roarty presented last year at a conference in Fermanagh on Fracking.
  3. See www.concernedhealthny.org [Concerned Health Professional of New York] for the ever growing compendium of scientific evidence linking fracking to ill health. Fourth edition came out this month.

For all the above reasons FFAN request that a total prohibition on Fracking is clearly stated in the FODCs LDP.

FFAN request the following three changes in the LDP to be incorporated int the final draft.

1) Section 8.8. [page 65] the proposed definition of short term as explained in Option 2 should be shortened from 15 to 5 years.

2) Q9b [page 68]  ‘ Are there any other areas that should be considered as ACMDs [ Areas of Constrained Mineral Development]? ‘ Our [FFAN] answer is ‘ Yes, the whole of the FODC area should become an ACMD.’

3) Section 12.30 [page 97] This section dealing with fracking is not explicit enough in its’ opposition to Fracking. The FODC should have a presumption of a total prohibition on Fracking in the FODC area.

Thus the following wording should be used to replace the current single sentence in section 12.30.

“The local development plan includes the presumption against unconventional hydrocarbon exploitation in line with the Strategic Planning Policy Statement. Fermanagh and Omagh District Council will oppose the granting of petroleum exploration licenses over target strata described as shales, mud-stones, coal seams and ‘tight’ sandstone formations. There will be a presumption against planning applications associated with the exploration and/ or development of petroleum resources situated in shales, mud-stones, ‘tight’ sandstone formations and coal seams.”

Thank you.

Dr Carroll O’Dolan, on behalf of FFAN

Great news from across the border

“Last Thursday, history was made in Ireland!  A Bill to prohibit exploration and extraction of Petroleum from shale, tight sands and coal seams was brought before the members of the Oireachtas who unanimously supported the Bill and agreed to bring it to the next stage (the committee stage) of the process towards becoming law.  This Bill, when enacted, will act as a comprehensive ban on fracking, which is its primary objective.  The campaign against fracking has won a significant victory and has proved that fracking is not wanted in Ireland and that opposition to fracking comes from every party in the Dáil and from every province in Ireland.”

Good Energies Alliance Ireland.  Read more here

Fracking likely to damage tourism

A report published by the University of Florida has shown that there will be perceived risks and threats associated with fracking, that will repel tourists from areas where the practice is to take place.

The report entitled ‘Fracking and Parkland: Understanding the impact of hydraulic fracturing on public park usage’ investigated the integration of unconventional shale gas extraction with public recreational spaces.

The authors found that out of 255 people surveyed from five Appalachian:

  1. Most respondents expressed familiarity with the process of hydraulic fracturing. More than 60% reported being either somewhat familiar or very familiar with the term “hydraulic fracturing”; on the other hand,10% had never heard of the term before taking the survey. Nearly one-third of the sample lives in a region impacted (either currently or expected to be) by fracking. Most respondents (40%) oppose fracking in any form, while 23% are supportive, 25% are on the fence, and 12% are unsure.
  2. Park users are concerned fracking that occurs on or near their public parks will negatively impact their participation. Only one-third of participants indicated their willingness to participate in recreational activities near fracking operations (33%, compared to 38% unwilling and 29% neutral). More than half of all respondents expressed: concern that a fracking operation would limit their ability to access their park (52%); willingness to travel further to visit a park unaffected by fracking (56%); and support for legislation prohibiting fracking near their favorite park (58%).
  3. In general, park users believe that fracking on public land is unnecessary and bad for the environment. More park users agree fracking on public land is bad for the environment (48%) than those who agree fracking has no impact on the environment (16%). More park users also support banning fracking on public land (46%, as opposed to 20% who agree with promoting it). 50% of respondents believe fracking on public land should be subject to greater oversight and regulation, while 13% believe it should be subject to less oversight and regulation. When neutral responses are removed from calculation, the contrasts are much starker.
  4. While park users generally hold strong opinions that fracking has a negative impact on the natural environment, most park users surveyed for this study are less critical when it comes to its economic benefits. Park users attitudes toward the economic impact of fracking on public land were far more neutral (e.g., regarding its contribution to traffic and gas prices), and in some cases, were positive (such as its impact on the creation of temporary jobs).
Magho Viewpoint, County Fermanagh. (image source: tripadvisor.co.uk)
Magho Viewpoint, County Fermanagh. (image source: tripadvisor.co.uk)

The question citizens of County Fermanagh must ask is if tourists will be less likely to use our county for recreational purposes, for if this is so, then this will lead to a detrimental economic effect for the region.

Perhaps more importantly though, for those of us that live here, we know that we currently enjoy an environment which is beneficial to our health and well being. How will this effect our positive well being if the perceived risks of unconventional shale gas extraction turn out to be real?

To read the report in full, please click here. Leave your comments below.

Fracking: UK Government offers ‘green light’

According to the BBC, the practice of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, otherwise known as fracking, may be coming to the UK sooner than expected after parameters for the practice were outlined today.

(image source: bbc.co.uk)
(image source: bbc.co.uk)

The Committee on Climate Change have stated that fracking can be conducted so long as 3 key criteria are met, those of methane leaks, gas consumption, and UK carbon budgets.

 

  • Emissions should be strictly limited during shale gas development, production and well decommissioning.
  • Overall gas consumption in the UK must remain in line with UK carbon budgets.
  • Emissions from shale gas production must be counted as part of the UK’s carbon budgets.

Though the government is confident these conditions will be reached, a spokesman admitted that any increase in current carbon emissions in future would make current targets even more challenging.

Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction racking has come under heavy scientific criticism since its inception during the 2000’s, in particular, from a health perspective, with the British Medical Journal having previously criticised the safety of the practice, and the Australian Medical Journal, The Lancet, who denounced the detrimental health implications of fracking.

Of the three criteria listed above that will be used as key performance indicators to green light unconventional shale gas extraction, namely  methane leaks, gas consumption, and UK carbon budgets, it is perhaps regrettable that ‘social health’ has not been listed as another criteria that must be passed. One could perhaps list ‘environmental health’ as another criteria that takes into account changes in air water and soil quality, or ‘net community economics’.

By doing so, there could be a minimum of six gates that need to be walked through. However, perhaps these last three are not within the remit of scope of the Committee of Climate Change, in the way that it will be for the local communities that must live with Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction on a daily basis.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.