Profile of shale gas shows benefits, reveals the problems.

July 25, 2011 • Alan Septoff

energyNOW!, a news service focusing on energy, has put out a good, balanced piece titled "The Promise and Problems of Shale Gas".

One of the key quotes from Professor Tony Ingraffea indicates why drilling is simply not safe:

"The studies haven't been done to allow a potential landowner who wants to lease his land to answer the following question: am I hurting my family's health or my neighbor's health by doing this?  They don't know how to answer that question.  They can't answer that question."

Environmental Groups Respond to Corbett Marcellus Commission

July 25, 2011

(Harrisburg) - A number of environmental and community organizations gathered outside Governor Corbett's office in the state capitol today to respond to the Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Groups universally criticized the Commission's final report, issued last Friday, as a product of its industry make-up and decried the secrecy employed to generate the final product.

"The Commission recognized the need for regulatory improvements, but in effect gave barely a nod to the serious and accelerating health and environmental problems in Pennsylvania's gas patch," said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer with Earthworks. "With strong incentives for the expansion of drilling, limited protections, and a willingness to violate the rights of landowners through forced pooling and municipalities by overriding zoning rights, the recommendations are yet another way to favor industry over citizens."

PA’s Marcellus Shale Commission: dealing a stacked deck?

July 16, 2011 • Nadia Steinzor

When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett appointed the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission in March, the short study time allotted (120 days) and the fait accompli nature of its mission to guide the responsible development of natural gas due to its presumed economic benefits raised alarm bells. Many even wondered whether the final report was already written.

Today this suspicion seemed to be well-founded as the Commission hurriedly voted on a series of recommendations. Because the actual text of these presumably draft proposals were kept from the public and the media, their full content and context were visible only to the players at the Commission table.

Groups Call on Corbett Marcellus Commission to Issue Moratorium and Protections for Pennsylvania residents

July 15, 2011

(Harrisburg) -- The Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water released today a letter to Gov. Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, sent earlier this week, calling for a moratorium on further drilling pending study of the cumulative impact of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. The letter also listed recommendations to the Commission regarding what protections need to be implemented immediately to address the numerous problems with drilling identified thus far. 22 organizations from across the state signed the letter, which is available at: http://www.pacleanwatercampaign.org/.

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To get a PA drilling bill, residents are asked to swallow a bitter pill

June 16, 2011 • Nadia Steinzor

With Pennsylvania s Marcellus Shale train rushing down the tracks nearly 3,100 wells drilled, two-thirds just since 2010 the present seems like a good time to adopt measures to protect health and the environment.

Yet as legislators drag their feet on regulatory change, another measure is gaining traction: adoption of a severance tax or impact fee. This is critical to ensure that the companies profiting from drilling also pay for the pollution, infrastructure damage, and safety risks that result, rather than continuing to make taxpayers foot the bill. (According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, the lack of a severance tax has already cost the state $190 million since late 2009.)

At Federal Fracking Hearing, Citizens Face Off Against Industry

June 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, PA, June 13 -- Tonight a federal task force on hydraulic fracturing holds a hearing in Pennsylvania's gas patch, and citizens will testify to water contamination, air pollution, and other health and community hazards of industrial gas development. But the panel will also hear from fracking supporters -- some of them drawn to the event by the natural gas industry's offers of airfare, hotel rooms, and meals.

Strength in numbers

May 12, 2011 • Nadia Steinzor

For decades, gas and oil companies have enjoyed seemingly unshakeable influence over policy and politicians. So it s nice to think that they might be paying attention to recent events, in which citizens have spoken so loudly and clearly that decisionmakers have been forced to listen.

Yesterday, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted unanimously to temporarily table a request by XTO Energy (ExxonMobil Corp.) to withdraw 250,000 gallons of water a day from a stream in Broome County, NY known for its unique trout habitat. It wasn t a full meeting agenda that did it but the receipt of over 7,000 emails and hundreds of letters in just over a week from residents and organizations across the region, thanks to an outreach push by Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its allies.

The key argument made was that issuing the permit would be premature and risky given the current moratorium on drilling permits in the Basin and work now underway to assess the impacts of gas development, including water withdrawal. Hopefully the commissioners will ultimately heed this logic; they'll certainly have another chance to hear it from more residents because they did agree to another citizen ask: to hold a public hearing on the application in the area that would be most impacted by the withdrawal.

Pennsylvania Memogate: regulatory agency shifts power to the top

April 1, 2011 • Nadia Steinzor

That Pennsylvania s DEP stands for Department of Everything Permitted as opposed to Environmental Protection has long been a joke among gas drilling activists. But now the agency itself has brought the image a step closer to being reality.

According to a new directive, DEP inspectors must now secure pre-approval from the Secretary before being able to issue gas company violations or taking related actions. Leaked from the agency to the media, the memos are short and informal. But they pack a punch straight into the gut of efforts to protect public health and the environment from the mad rush to drill in the Marcellus Shale.

On a practical level and in combination with continued budget cuts to the agency the action spells additional paperwork, delays, and backlog. More broadly, it takes influence over enforcement away from trained civil servants working in the field and puts even more in the hands of the Secretary, a political appointee chosen by avowedly pro-drilling (and gas industry bankrolled) Governor Tom Corbett.