Bridlewood Quality of Life Coalition


Last Post for BQLC by kim0917
14 February 2010, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

BQLC has done its work and will no longer be posting. Many new groups are emerging with excellent ideas and we are choosing to bow out to decrease confusion to the Flower Mound citizens. We encourage you to visit the sites listed below often to keep abreast of natural gas activity in Flower Mound and other areas. We need you to stay involved.

 Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling

http://stopthedrilling.blogspot.com/

 Flower Mound Cares

http://mysite.verizon.net/fmcares

FWCANDO!

http://www.fwcando.org/home

 

Earthworks

Oil and Gas Accountability Project

OGAP is a resource for citizens and communities that are dealing with oil and gas development.

http://www.earthworksaction.org/oil_and_gas.cfm

PROPUBLICA

investigative journalism in the public interest

 http://www.propublica.org/



CHANNEL 8 NEWS LINK ABOUT LOCALLY FOUND TOXINS IN AIR by kim0917
2 November 2009, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Quality of Life

Channel 8 News

Cancer-causing toxin found in air near gas facilities

http://www.wfaa.com/video/wfaageneral-index.html?nvid=410614



GAS WELL REPORTS by kim0917
2 November 2009, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Quality of Life

Town of Flower Mound

 Gas Well Status Report:

http://www.flower-mound.com/env_resources/pix/pdf/Gas%20Well%20Status%20Report.pdf

For Flower Mound there are 2 steps to this process.

  1. Each applicant must first apply to the Texas Railroad Commission. 
  2. Once a applicant has the Texas Railroad Commission approval, then they may apply for a permit through the Town of Flower Mound.  (The town ordinances are based more on surface setbacks).

Texas Railroad Commission website that identifies natural gas permits, well sites and much more.

 http://gis2.rrc.state.tx.us/public/startit.htm

Go down and change the “County” to Denton.  
Then zoom in on Flower Mound.  The further you zoom in you will start to see well sites street and names.  
Go to Map tools and select “Identify Wells”
If you click on the well sites it will give you additional information like: Operator, Well Logs, and Drilling Permits.

 



Open Letter by kim0917
19 October 2009, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Quality of Life

Citizen Rights, Property Rights, and Quality of Life

The below letter to the Town Council was sent to us. It really makes sense of this whole issue here in Flower Mound. We have been accused of making this a political issue. You can read the FMCAUD’s mission to see that it has never been about politics.

It seems there is an effort out there to discredit those of us that want to protect our property, health, safety and quality of life.
We are not holding parties with free food and passing out propaganda.

This is not a political party issue.
This is a PROTECTING OUR PROPERTY RIGHTS ISSUE!
and
This is a QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUE! Period.
please read the letter.

As I read the pro’s and con’s of Gas Drilling in rural and urban area’s, one thing strikes me. People seem to ignore history.

Protected Industries
Not so long ago in the United States, we did not have laws or regulation for: Slavery, child labor, tobacco, industrial, and financial industries. Left to their own moral and ethical choices, the individuals whom profited from these activities rarely made the right choices. As evidenced by history.

In each case, the United States government stepped in and created laws & regulations to protect its citizens. It didn’t happen overnight. Citizens had to step up and demand their rights, for which many died.

Gas & Oil Industry Exemptions:
The Gas & Oil Industry is exempt from the following Federal Laws:
· Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
· Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
· Safe Drinking Water Act
· Clean Water Act · Clean Air Act
· National Environmental Policy Act
· Toxic Release Inventory under the Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act

It doesn’t take a genius to know that when an industry is exempt from so many “Health” related regulations, something is wrong.

There are independent studies being produced almost daily about the adverse affects, just from “Fracking”. Airborne toxins, leaks, spills, and legal & illegal dumping produced by the Natural Gas Drilling companies. All of the affects have yet to be determined, but dying animals & vegetation would allude that this is not safe for humans.

Citizens Rights
In November of 2008, Flower Mound’s Town Council passed an ordinance banning smoking in restaurants, bars, and parks. Our council understood that public smoking was an infringement of rights. Flower Mound residents also have the RIGHT to Safe Drinking Water, Clean Water in our Wells, Ponds, Lakes, Rivers, Streams, and Aquifer; Clean Air, and Conservation, Environmental, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know protections. We also have the RIGHT to protect our homes from damage and devaluation.

Anyone who tells you differently should understand the American Constitution. These people aren’t just infringing on our rights, they are trying to take them away.

This isn’t about the rural residents of Flower Mound’s rights. Their 100 wells have been approved. Williams can drill anytime they choose. They can do seismic testing on their property. No one from the Town has taken away their rights. I have no problem with these property owners getting paid for their minerals. Although, I do have a problem when my property rights are infringed upon.

THIS IS ABOUT the RIGHTS of residents who live in more dense neighborhoods. Williams and other gas drilling companies want your rights.

Greedy Gas Drilling Companies have come to Flower Mound! William’s most recent efforts to erode our ordinances are, by gathering rural residents at weekly events at the Circle R Ranch, where they buy their dinner and espouse untruths. Telling that if you don’t get the Town to allow Seismic Testing on streets and Tank Farms, these people will be taking away YOUR money.

What they aren’t telling these residents is that they, Williams, have sent a contract to the Town asking for Seismic testing on ALL Town Streets. Or that they will be using Eminent Domain to condemn portions of resident’s property to run these pipelines carrying these toxic chemicals back to their new “Industrial” zone.

When you don’t have the truth on your side, I guess the only thing LEFT to do is to lie. Wanting to protect your rights doesn’t make you left wing liberal, just ask the NRA.

You don’t have to be a Republican, Democrat, or even an Independent to want to protect your Rights.

You may own your minerals and you may not. You may of signed a lease and you may not signed a lease.

This is not about politics…never has been and never will be.

It is a QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUE!

Protect our Rights:
Currently, our only protection from these companies is our Town ordinances. This is not the first attempt to weaken our ordinances. Each time they have been attacked, our ordinances has held up to the law.

This will certainly not be the last attempt at changing our ordinances. Over 64,000 residents live in Flower Mound. More than 60,000 of them live east of Shiloh Rd and most live on less than one acre neighborhood lots. The way our current ordinances are written, it makes it hard for drilling companies to drill cheaply. They will start at the fringes and continue picking away, until our community is drained dry. The question is “what will residents be left with”?
…… Plummeting property values, and toxins in the air, soil, and water.

Just ask all those who have come before us.

Members of Town Council do not change or allow erosion of our ordinances. Keep our Ordinances strong: Vote NO on Seismic Testing on public roads and “Tank Farms”.



Homeowners: SAVE your Property Rights from Drillers by kim0917
13 October 2009, 2:40 am
Filed under: Quality of Life, Uncategorized

If you do not live near a current drilling site today, that does not mean that you are out of the woods.  LISD has signed a lease. For the folks who live near Riverwalk keep your heads up.  South end of town, Hillard has signed a lease.  New leases on Wichita Trail have been signed.  The slight change in ordinances could change your situation.  There are no take backs, if this gets passed.  Please take time to sign the Petition before October 15th.  Council needs to know residents don’t want to bear the risks.

Homeowners: SAVE your Property Rights from Drillers

The Town has been asked, and is considering, making 2 changes to our Oil and Gas Ordinance.  
1.    Allow Seismic testing on the town’s public roads ways, which would include neighborhood streets.  
2.     Allow “produce water” (fracking wastewater) gathering and storage system that would transport produced water from other pad sites/location to a central storage location for removal by wastewater hauling trucks.  

This was proposed by Williams Gas Drilling, but would impact all drilling companies in Flower Mound. Town staff denied William’s request (see Town fact sheet).  Despite staff’s position, Council is proceeding with approval.  Mayor Smith & Council Member Levenick have both signed a Gas Lease with Williams.  William has told leasees they will not drill and they will not get their big $ if this does not pass. Which is why over 600 rural residents have signed a petition asking the council to vote yes. (See October 5th Council meeting)

Why you should object to losing your property rights.  VOTE “NO”

1.   Texas Supreme Court has found that mineral rights are superior to surface rights.  (The only thing protecting our property rights from drillers is our Town Ordinances).

2.   Homeowners are not covered by insurance if Seismic activity causes damage.

3.   If damage is caused to our HOA common property it also is our $$.

4.   Burden of Proof for damage is on the damaged party (good luck on that one – read the Town fact sheet)

5.   Wastewater is not just water or salt water.  It contains highly toxic chemicals including known carcinogens. (See Article on Radio Active Waste)

6.   Common carrier pipelines in Texas have a statutory right of eminent domain.  They can put pipelines carrying these toxic chemicals in our yards, parks, and school (LISD has already leased their minerals).  (See supporting information sheet for Texas Railroad url)

7.   Pipelines break!  When a pipeline breaks, you don’t notice until major damage has already occurred.  Say it breaks in your backyard and your pets or kids find it first.

8.   The Gas and Oil Industry are exempt from:  The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and the EMERGENCY PLANNING AND COMMUNITY RIGHT TO KNOW ACT and many more.

9. Williams is drilling 100 wells and wants 30 tanks in their “tank farm” less than 1 ½ miles from homes and schools.  (Read the Clean Air report from Dish Tx)  What will Keystone and other drilling companies want to do???

10.  If you have signed a lease or do not own your mineral rights you may not have the ability to refuse Seismic Testing if incorporated in the ordinance.  Check your deed restrictions and or lease agreement.

Say No by signing the online petition:  (Over 600 rural residents have asked Council to vote Yes) http://www.petitiononline.com/fmogord9/petition.html

Contact your Town Council and ask them to protect what is left of your property rights.  Ask them to vote No to Seismic testing & Toxic Waste pipelines/”Tank Farms”. http://www.flower-mound.com/council/council.php


Supporting Information:
URL to last Monday night’s town meeting, where the Town Manager gave a report why the Town Staff said no to William’s request.  Click on the October 5th video and select Managers Report. http://www.flower-mound.com/public/fmtv.php <http://www.flower-mound.com/public/fmtv.php>

URL to Town Fact Sheet under “Seismic Testing and Produce Water Gathering System”: http://www.flower-mound.com/env_resources/env_resources_ong.php <http://www.flower-mound.com/env_resources/env_resources_ong.php>

URL to the White paper that the Town distributed at Monday’s Meeting (Collection Facilities “Tank Farms”: http://www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/ProducedWatersWP0401.pdf <http://www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/ProducedWatersWP0401.pdf>

URL to the New Article on Radioactive waste surface…, which the Town distributed at Monday’s meeting: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-norms_11wes.ART.East.Edition1.420fc23.html <http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-norms_11wes.ART.East.Edition1.420fc23.html>

URL to Dish Tx air quality report:
http://www…townofdish.com/ <http://www.townofdish.com/>

1.   Texas Supreme Court has found that mineral rights are superior to surface rights. What this means is that although oil and gas companies will often promise to keep all disturbance removed from actual residential settings, if it is necessary to conduct further exploration that necessitates the use of your land, whomever owns mineral rights or possesses a lease to mineral rights can enter your land at any point in time with no notice, and you cannot receive compensation for any damage caused by their incursion on your property except if the damage is caused maliciously.  Unfortunately “Seismic Testing” is not considered malicious. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/173748/real_estate_market_woes_mineral_rights.html?cat=6
2.   Common carrier pipelines in Texas have a statutory right of eminent domain. Common carrier pipelines are operators that transport oil, oil products, gas, carbon dioxide, salt brine, sand, clay, liquefied minerals or other mineral solutions.
For example, a pipeline transporting hazardous liquids would be a common carrier, and would have the right of eminent domain. A ‘common carrier’ pipeline transporting natural gas would be a ‘public utility’ (more commonly referred to as a ‘gas utility’), and also would have the power of eminent domain. The Railroad Commission does not have the authority to regulate any pipelines with respect to the exercise of their eminent domain powers. (http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/about/faqs/eminentdomain.php ).


Oil and Gas Industry exemptions: http://www.ewg.org/reports/Free-Pass-for-Oil-and-Gas/Oil-and-Gas-Industry-Exemptions

Sign the petition asking Council to vote NO.  (Over 600 rural residents have a signed a petition asking council to vote yes.  Don’t let your vote go uncounted)
 
Attend the October 15th Council Meeting @ 6:00.  Residents will not be allowed to speak at the work session.  Therefore if you have question send them to the council prior to the meeting.
 
 
Why Flower Mound Should NOT Negotiate with Williams to Change Gas Drilling Ordinance

If every gas driller incites “lease holders” to overrun city hall, Mobs will hold the town hostage and there will be nothing we as homeowners can do to protect ourselves from potential threats of:
 
–      Drilling toxic waste,

–      Uninsurable property damage,

–      Property devaluation, and

–      Cost of subsidizing drilling with our community tax dollars

Ordinance Change Briefing

Williams Drilling and Shiloh Road residences are asking for variances to our drilling ordinance.  Williams is using pressure on the Shiloh Road to storm city hall. Williams has threatened not to drill on the Shiloh Road leases unless the Shiloh residence can get Flower Mound Town council to change the drilling ordinance.    This ordinance change would allow for seismic testing and toxic wastewater piping in our neighborhood and near your homes, walls, pools, and ground piping.  
 
We think that the Williams and the Shiloh Road group have a right to drill.  Williams has been granted drilling permits by the Town of Flower Mound based on existing drilling ordinance.   We do not think the town should approve or negotiate on Williams contract “paper” nor should they open the ordinance given the direct and aggressive impact Williams is trying to have on Flower Mound politics.
 
Flower Mound Home Owners Drilling Bill of Rights

Seismic damage is not covered by homeowners insurance therefore we do not want seismic events in our neighborhoods.  
 
We do not want drilling within 1000 ft of our homes nor do we believe toxic waste should be piped through our neighborhoods.
 
We do not allow wastewater piping, tanks and infrastructure that produce toxic waste to be routed or located in our neighborhoods.
 
Homeowners, HOA’s nor City surface rights should NOT be taken away by changing the ordinance or offer code variances that would cause complex legal issues weakening the drilling code.
 
Taxpayers should not pay for or subsidize gas-drilling efforts.  They are heavily subsidized and protected by the government already.  
 
We recommend that air quality checks and other remediation and safety processes/standards be put in place to further protect town neighborhoods health and safety.  

Call to Action:
1. Sign the online petition.  http://www.petitiononline.com/fmogord9/petition.html <http://www.petitiononline.com/fmogord9/petition.html>

2. Contact your town council and tell them you don’t want them to change the ordinance
3.  Go to the October 15th (6:00) Town Council meeting.  If you are unable to make it, please send e-mail with your concerns.



Wastewater woes in Pennsylvania…Is this what is in store for Flower Mound? by kim0917
13 October 2009, 2:36 am
Filed under: Quality of Life

Below is an article published October 3, 2009 about the problem that Pennsylvania is having with wastewater and  water contamination. The first treatment plant to treat “total dissolved solids” in wastewater won’t be ready until 2013. Pennsylvania’s oil and gas wells currently produce 9 million gallons of wastewater a day but the treatment plants will only have a peak capacity of 0.4 million gal./day.

 

Is this what we want for Flower Mound?  Often it is hard to be the one to take a stand but we must take a stand against this pollution! We can’t be distracted by the gas and oil companies propaganda, mineral right owners quest to profit at our Town’s expense, or the misinformation that surrounds us about natural gas drilling safety. Support our Gas and Oil Ordinances and Variances and if you do anything, make them stronger. Do not allow the seismic testing, wastewater pipelines, and unnecessary drilling in our Town. Please fight for Flower Mound.

 

Thank you for your consideration and time that it takes to educate yourselves in the best interest of our Town.

 

Kim Brinkman

 

Energy & Environment

With Natural Gas Drilling Boom, Pennsylvania Faces an Onslaught of Wastewater

by Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica – October 3, 2009 11:05 pm EDT
The McKeesport Sewage Treatment Plant, one of nine plants on the Monongahela River that has treated wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling operations. (Joaquin Sapien/ProPublica)
Workers at a steel mill and a power plant were the first to notice something strange about the Monongahela River last summer. The water that U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy used to power their plants contained so much salty sediment that it was corroding their machinery [1]. Nearby residents saw something odd, too. Dishwashers were malfunctioning, and plates were coming out with spots that couldn’t easily be rinsed off.

 

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection soon identified the likely cause [2] and came up with a quick fix. The Monongahela, a drinking water source for 350,000 people, had apparently been contaminated by chemically tainted wastewater from the state’s growing natural gas industry. So the DEP reduced the amount of drilling wastewater that was being discharged into the river and unlocked dams upstream to dilute the contamination.

But questions raised by the incident on the Monongahela haven’t gone away.

In August, contamination levels in the river spiked [3] again, and the DEP still doesn’t know exactly why. And this month the DEP began investigating whether drilling wastewater contributed to the death of 10,000 fish on a 33-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek, which winds through West Virginia and feeds into the Monongahela. A spate of other water contamination problems [4] have also been linked to gas drilling in Pennsylvania, including methane leaks that have affected drinking water in at least seven counties.

2011: 19 million gallons, per day

Pennsylvania is at the forefront of the nation’s gas drilling boom, with at least 4,000 new oil and gas wells drilled here last year alone, more than in any other state except Texas. This rapid expansion has forced state regulators to confront a problem that has been overlooked as gas drilling accelerates nationwide: How will the industry dispose of the enormous amount of wastewater it produces?

Oil and gas wells disgorge about 9 million gallons of wastewater a day in Pennsylvania, according to industry estimates used by the DEP. By 2011 that figure is expected to rise to at least 19 million gallons, enough to fill almost 29 Olympic-sized swimming pools every day. That’s more than all the state’s waterways, combined, can safely absorb, DEP officials say.

“I don’t know that even our [water] program people had any idea about the volumes of water that would be used,” said Dana Aunkst, who heads the DEP’s water program.

Much of the wastewater is the byproduct of a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing [5], or fracking, which pumps at least a million gallons of water per well deep into the earth to break layers of rock and release gas. When the water is sucked back out, it contains natural toxins [6] dredged up during drilling, including cadmium and benzene, which both carry cancer risks. It can also contain small amounts of chemicals added to enhance drilling.

But DEP officials say one of the most worrisome contaminants in the wastewater is a gritty substance called Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS, a mixture of salt and other minerals that lie deep underground. Drilling wastewater contains so much TDS that it can be five times as salty [7] as sea water.

Large quantities of TDS can clog machinery and affect the color, taste and odor of drinking water – precisely the problems reported along the Monongahela. While TDS isn’t considered particularly harmful to people [8], it can damage freshwater streams, which is what happened when TDS levels spiked in Dunkard Creek this month. West Virginia’s DEP is investigating whether TDS-laden wastewater from a coal mine near the creek could be to blame. It is also investigating reports that wastewater from natural gas wells may have been illegally dumped into the stream.

Gas drilling companies currently dispose of their wastewater in Pennsylvania’s municipal sewage plants, which then discharge it into rivers and streams. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns against [8] this form of treatment, because the plants aren’t equipped to remove TDS or any of the chemicals the water may contain. Of even more concern, TDS can disrupt the plants’ treatment of ordinary sewage, including human waste.

A lack of capacity

When U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy complained about the Monongahela’s water in 2008, the DEP found [9] almost twice as much TDS as the agency considers safe [10]. DEP officials blamed some of the problem on the river’s low flow last summer and on abandoned mines that have leaked TDS into the river for decades. What apparently tipped the balance, however, was the drilling wastewater that nine sewage plants were discharging into the river.

Steve Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, argues that most of the TDS came from abandoned mines, not from drilling wastewater. A study [11] prepared for a different trade group came to the same conclusion.

Rhoads also says Pennsylvania’s waterways “are not anywhere near” their capacity to handle TDS and that the DEP’s estimate of how much wastewater the industry produces is “completely exaggerated.”

DEP chief John Hanger is confident his agency can control the wastewater problem. In April drilling companies began temporarily trucking their wastewater to other states or to sewage treatment plants in other parts of Pennsylvania: the idea is to dilute it by spreading it among more rivers. Hanger said a more permanent solution will begin on Jan. 1, 2011, when he has promised that new regulations [12] will be in place requiring that the wastewater be treated by plants capable of removing TDS.

But an examination of public records, visits to sewage treatment plants, and extensive interviews with state officials by ProPublica reveal flaws in the DEP’s plans.

Currently, no plant in Pennsylvania has the technology to remove TDS, and it’s unlikely that new plants capable of doing so can be built by 2011. The company whose bid is furthest along in the permitting process says its plant won’t be ready until at least 2013. And at its peak that plant would be able to treat only 400,000 gallons of wastewater a day [13]. The DEP would need 50 plants that size to process all the wastewater expected by 2011.

In the meantime, the DEP is allowing municipal sewage plants to continue taking drilling wastewater, even though none of them can remove TDS. “That’s not what these municipal plants are designed to handle – the DEP is inviting legal problems as well as environmental problems,” said Bruce Baizel, a senior attorney for the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, a Colorado-based nonprofit that focuses on the environmental impact of natural gas drilling.

As the DEP’s responsibilities continue to grow, its operating budget could be slashed: The state legislature’s latest draft of Pennsylvania’s 2010 budget calls for a 25 percent cut in DEP funding.

Caught off guard

Hanger says Pennsylvania’s extensive experience with oil drilling – the first oil well in the country was drilled here in 1859—has prepared it to quickly deal with gas drilling problems.

But ProPublica found that the DEP was caught off guard by the amount of wastewater the industry would produce when drilling began in the Marcellus Shale, a deeply buried layer of rock that some analysts say holds enough gas to meet the nation’s natural gas needs for more than 20 years [14].

When energy prices spiked in 2008, drillers flocked to Pennsylvania, bringing sorely needed revenue and jobs. A recent Pennsylvania State University study [15] touted the benefits drilling brought last year: 29,000 jobs and $240 million in state and local taxes.

Even the industry’s wastewater promised profits.
The traps that collect solid waste at the Clairton sewage treatment plant have to be cleaned out periodically with shovels. (Joaquin Sapien/ProPublica)

“Cha-ching!” is how Francis Geletko, financial director for the sewage plant in Clairton, described his first thought when he learned that drillers would pay five cents a gallon to get their wastewater processed at his plant. The 1960s-era facility is in such desperate need of modernization that workers still use shovels to remove solid waste from its traps and filters. Many of the state’s plants are similarly outdated: A recent report [16] commissioned by Gov. Ed Rendell concluded that Pennsylvania needs to spend $100 billion over the next 20 years to maintain its aging sewage plants and pipelines.

Plant operators say the DEP didn’t initially offer them much guidance about processing the water, a complaint the DEP doesn’t dispute.

Ed Golanka, who manages a sewage plant in Charleroi, said that when he checked with the DEP nobody told him that state and federal laws required his plant to get an amendment to its permit before accepting industrial wastewater. The amendment would require expensive modifications that Charleroi couldn’t afford, he said.

“At the time it was a new subject for all of us,” Golanka said. “There was a limited amount of conversation [with the DEP] until the issue with TDS last summer.”

Aunkst, the DEP’s director of water standards, said he didn’t know the plants along the Monongahela were accepting the water until the spring of 2008, when people complained about long lines of trucks idling at sewage treatment plants. But the agency was so short-staffed that it didn’t respond to the complaints immediately. Aunkst said many DEP regulators had left for more lucrative jobs with drilling companies.

“As the industry was ramping up, we were ramping down,” he said. “In order for us to really catch these people we have to almost have an inspector coincidentally there on the day that these trucks pull up, because we have so many facilities and so few staff.”

The DEP is supposed to inspect the plants once a year, but ProPublica found that most inspections are triggered by pollution violations or equipment failures.

A review of inspection records [17] at the DEP’s Pittsburgh office showed that only three of the nine plants along the Monongahela were inspected in the year before Allegheny Energy and U.S. Steel complained. One plant hadn’t been inspected in five years. DEP officials warned that those records may not have been complete, because inspection reports aren’t filed electronically and pages from the files may have been sitting on an employee’s desk during the two days when ProPublica was there in March.

Inspections occur even less frequently at sites where wells are drilled. According to minutes taken at an October 2008 meeting of DEP officials, the agency has so few inspectors that they visit gas wells only once every 10 years.

After Aunkst heard about the trucks, he wrote a letter [6] to all the state’s sewage plants, reminding them that they couldn’t take the wastewater without a special permit.

But before he sent it, TDS levels in the Monongahela skyrocketed, causing U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy to complain. The chain of events made Aunkst remember two other peculiar incidents: Two creeks had been sucked dry, and DEP inspectors suspected that drilling companies had withdrawn the water to fracture nearby wells.

“We were trying to scramble, to put it bluntly, to get our act together to figure out how we were going to address these withdrawals as well as the disposal issues,” Aunkst said.

The DEP did two things to quickly lower the Monongahela’s TDS level. It unlocked [18] dams upriver to flush out some of the TDS. And it ordered [19] nearby sewage treatment plants to reduce the amount of drilling wastewater they accepted to just 1 percent of the total amount of water that flowed through their plants each day.

The cut shocked the industry. Trucking water to distant sites is far more expensive than treating it locally, and some drillers threatened to take their rigs to other states if they couldn’t dispose of their water in Pennsylvania.

“Basically, it shuts us down,” Lou D’Amico, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania, told a local newspaper [20]. “We can’t generate fluids we can’t dispose of.”

The DEP issued a news release [21] assuring the public that the TDS was “not considered a major human health risk … But under the circumstances, if consumers have concerns, DEP recommends consumers use bottled water for drinking and preparing food until the exceedance is eliminated.”

Some sewage plant operators were so alarmed that they stopped taking any wastewater at all.

But by January, the uproar had subsided. TDS levels in the Monongahela were back to normal [22] and plant operators began accepting the wastewater again, although in smaller quantities.
Joe Rost, executive director at the McKeesport Sewage Treatment Plant (Joaquin Sapien/ProPublica)

“We didn’t want to be the ones to stop the economy from growing in this area, and we felt that we were helping the country become energy independent,” said Joe Rost, executive director at a sewage plant in McKeesport, 14 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Setting goals

Federal guidelines specifically recommend against sending drilling wastewater to ordinary sewage plants, as Pennsylvania is doing now, because it might damage the plants and taint drinking water supplies. But the EPA approved Pennsylvania’s plan, because the DEP promised to have more aggressive regulations in place by 2011.

“Every time you set an aggressive goal generally you have a transition period to get there,” said Jon Capacasa, the EPA’s top mid-Atlantic water pollution enforcer.

To keep the water safe until then, the DEP has promised to add more TDS monitors along the Monongahela, although they haven’t been installed yet. And before the DEP allows a sewage plant to accept drilling wastewater, the agency will assess the current TDS level in the stream where the water will be discharged, to make sure it can handle the additional load.

The DEP also has promised to tighten TDS discharge standards by 2011, so that all drilling wastewater will be treated in plants capable of removing TDS. The agency has streamlined the permitting process for companies that want to build the new plants. But when ProPublica interviewed spokesmen for eight of the 17 plants that have been proposed, all of them said it will be impossible to begin operating by the 2011 deadline.

A spokesman for Larson Design Group, whose application [13] is furthest along in the process, expects that after it gets its permit it will need at least 40 months to build the plant and begin operating.

Temporary lull

Drilling has slowed in Pennsylvania this year, because natural gas prices have dipped to about a third of what they were at the peak of the boom last summer. But the lull will almost certainly be temporary. The DEP expects to issue permits for approximately 700 wells in the Marcellus Shale in 2009, up from 450 in 2008.

“Companies are willing to get these permits now because they know that competition is going to heat up,” said Raoul LeBlanc, a senior financial consultant at PFC Energy, which provides financial and political advice to energy companies and governments. “When prices rise they will want to be the first to drill more wells.”

Congress is preparing for the expansion, too. A group of Democratic legislators has introduced a bill [23] that would allow the federal government to regulate the hydraulic fracturing drilling process under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The bill prompted an immediate backlash from the oil and gas industry, which says state agencies like the DEP are doing a good job of regulating drilling.

Even if the bill is passed, however, it won’t directly address Pennsylvania’s most pressing drilling-related problem: protecting the state’s water supply against the coming onslaught of wastewater.

 

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STAR-TELEGRAM: Air-quality tests raise questions about natural gas wells in the Barnett Shale by kim0917
4 October 2009, 11:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 Article in the Star-Telegram…October 3, 2009

http://www.star-telegram.com/804/story/1659163.html




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