Those Fracking Letters to the Editor

June 15, 2011

To the editor,

The Press Enterprise headline, ‘Fracking comes to area” hardly captures what’s coming to Columbia County now that Williams Production Appalachia (WPA) has struck gas “gold.” Let’s not speculate about the pollution threatening our wells, streams, and the Susquehanna River, the millions of gallons of water required for fracturing which will drain our rivers and creeks, further concentrating its carcinogens, the destruction of our roads, the 24/7 noise, congestion, and safety hazards produced by drilling operations and truck traffic, or that neither the gas nor the profits are destined for Pennsylvania. Let’s examine the facts:

The Citizen’s Voice reports that WPA is “poised to become a major player.” In fact, WPA’s spokesperson Helen Humphreys is lying to Sugarloaf Township residents. She claims WPA is “still ‘trying to determine how much gas might be in the rock formation.’” False: “State Department of Environmental Protection records show Williams has recently been issued two gas well permits for Benton and one for Sugarloaf Township in Columbia County… ‘Our plan is to develop those properties, that is, drill on those properties,” Williams spokesman Jeff Pounds said…’” WPA leased 45,000 acres, mostly in Pennsylvania, paying $501 million, and added 10,00 acres in Columbia County—paying only $2,800 an acre. WPA effectively owns the PA State Game Commission who, economically strapped, continues to lease more land to the corporation in Bradford and Lycoming County. WPA owns the Gulfstream, Northwest, and Transco Pipelines—none of which deliver to Pennsylvania, and two of which deliver out of the country—raising the price of natural gas in Pennsylvania.

The Buffalo News reports that since 2008, “Marcellus Shale drillers in Pennsylvania amass[ed] 1614 violations,” “1056 identified as most likely to harm the environment.” WPA ranks at #11 of the 26 top violators: 32 violations/seven wells. A comparatively small operation compared to Chesapeake Appalachia (149 violations/190 wells) or Cabot Oil and Gas (93 violations/73 wells), yet 32/7 makes WPA not only a major player, but a major environmental violator. WPA’s average violation per well is 4.6, #6 of 26—well behind Cabot. Chesapeake doesn’t even make the top 26. Moreover, WPA is listed among the 55% of all gas corporations in Pennsylvania failing to meet production-reporting deadlines in 2010. Specific violations include: “Site conditions present a potential for pollution to waters of the Commonwealth,” “Pit and tanks not constructed with sufficient capacity to contain pollutional substances,” “Failure to properly store, transport, process or dispose of a residual waste,” “Failure to notify DEP of pollution incident,” and that’s just Franklin Township.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts BIG GAS from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. “[S]hale gas drillers don’t have to disclose what chemicals they use.” Nonetheless, “fracking has already been linked to drinking water contamination and property damage in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.” Of the 29 common fracking chemicals 13 are known carcinogens, 8 are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and 24 are hazardous air pollutants. Examples: methanol, formaldehyde, naphthalene, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene xylene, lead, hydrogen chloride, ethylene glycol, 2-butoxyethanol, and diesel which, according to the EPA “poses the greatest threat to underground sources of drinking water.”

Sugarloaf Township could become the next Dimock whose aquifer is so polluted that “one woman’s water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair,” not to mention the obliterated property values of folks who’d like to sell their homes and move. Trouble is, some residents have already sold out. Bigger trouble is that we’re all going to pay for the environmental tsunami that’s coming if we don’t stand up NOW.

Wendy Lynne Lee

July 25, 2011

To the editor,

In June, I detailed the pollution for rivers, streams, ground water, well water, and air produced by hydraulic fracturing, fact that fracking involves draining millions of gallons from Pennsylvania water ways—meaning less clean water to drink and greater concentration of carcinogens in what remains, 13-known carcinogens utilized in producing the “earthquakes” necessary to release the gas from the shale, fact that an unknown number of additional chemicals used are protected as proprietary rights—and hence unknown to the affected public, fact that fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, fact the Williams Production Appalachia is lying about their drilling plans for Columbia County, WPA’s alarming record of environmental and safety violations—6 on the list of the top 26 violators in PA, fact that WPA controls 55,000 acres in PA, 10,000 in Columbia County and more in state parks and game lands in Bradford and Lycoming Counties, traffic, vehicular hazard, noise, road and bridge destruction that will accompany WPA’s mammoth presence in townships like Benton, fact that not one fracking dollar of either the product or the profits is destined for Pennsylvania.

Fracking in Pennsylvania is a disaster-in-the-making. Yet only fifteen residents of Benton Township appeared to protest WPA’s proposal for a water withdrawal station near Rt. 487. The zoning board gave approval with nary an outcry. Some local’s biggest worry is they might be milking less than their neighbors from the fracking cash cow. They whine about being taken by “landmen” for low-ball deals, and feign surprise at corporate greed—all the while corporations like WPA cheerily park machinery on their property, letting it sit there like conversation pieces. Will Benton Township supervisors feign the same fake-shock over destroyed roads and bridges? Decimated resources? Plummeting property values? Contaminated wells?

Fracking must be BANNED. There’s no way to adequately control its pollutant waste: “When a well is fracked, a small earthquake is produced …The gas trapped inside is released and makes its way to the surface along with about half of the “fracking fluid,” plus dirt and rock that are occasionally radioactive…Volatile organic compounds…and other dangerous chemicals are burned off directly into the air during this on-site compression process…the returned fracking fluid… is either trucked off or stored in large, open-air, tarp-lined pits on site, where it is allowed to evaporate. The other portion of the fluid remains deep underground—no one really knows what happens to it” (“A Colossal Fracking Mess”). In other words, the massive pollution of both air and water—some of it radioactive, some of it unaccounted for—is the single GUARANTEED product of fracking.

Why didn’t we demand a ban long before the Dimock disaster? Ignorance, jobs, and the bizarre idea promoted by local corporatists like Tom Anderson who insist environmental regulation is some leftist plot. Perhaps they think WPA can be successfully sued. Absurd. Corporations left to regulate themselves and to control that information are virtually un-sue-able. Indeed “wastewater treatment plants…often don’t know the exact makeup of the water they’re treating, nor do they have the capacity to remove all contaminants.” Try to prove your ignite-able tap water’s WPA’s fault. “When you live next to a gas drilling operation… you don’t have any control of your own property,” says a Taylor County man who can no longer graze his horses on his OWN land. Jobs ARE important. So important we’re apparently willing to sell out our kids, state lands, properties, and our health for them. Is the pay going to be enough to make up for the massive losses? Not a chance.

Wendy Lynne Lee

Wendy Lynne Lee | Professor of Philosophy, Bloomsburg University



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