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PA Data Shows Marcellus Wells 1.5 to 4 Times More Likely to Have Violations


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

Analysis by Offending Versus Drilled Wells

This map shows Marcellus Shale and other oil and gas violations issued between 1-1-2007 and 9-30-2010. [map removed]

In a recent post, I examined the relationship between different types of wells in Pennsylvania and the number of violations per offending well. This post expands on that theme by examining the number of violations per wells drilled, and addresses a number of complications that are associated with that analysis.

This graph shows the mean number of violations per well type in Pennsylvania. This is based on a list of 9,370 violations provided by the PA DEP from 1-1-2007 through 9-30-2010. Please note that this reflects only wells where violations occurred, not every well of this type within Pennsylvania.

This chart shows that of all the offending wells, Marcellus Shale wells clearly have more violations per well than their conventional counterparts, and that among the Marcellus wells, those that were drilled horizontally have more violations associated with them than vertical wells do.

I focused on offending wells rather than total wells for two reasons. First, all of the data that I needed to do this analysis was complete from one source except for which wells were flagged as horizontal, which I obtained from permit information on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website. On the other hand, I do not have any sort of estimate for the total number of wells drilled in the state. PASDA maintains a list of DEP data which contains at least 123,000 oil and gas locations, but there is no indication which of these have been drilled. The DEP maintains a list of drilled wells since 1998 on their website, but that omits well over a century of hydrocarbon production.

My second reason for focusing on offending wells was that I thought the values for the “All non-Marcellus” and “All Wells” categories would be bloated by their antiquity. After all, commercial oil wells have been in the state since 1859, while DEP data shows that the earliest Marcellus Shale well was spudded on March 6, 2006, and drilling began on the earliest horizontal well on February 12, 2008.

Even though the violations that I was considering were all issued after January 1, 2007, I had some reason to suspect a data skew of this sort: abandoned wells. The DEP violation list indicated 1,111 violations where the drilling operator failed to plug a well, all but five of which were not Marcellus Shale wells. This category alone accounts for nearly 12% of the total violations, and is almost certainly dominated by wells that were drilled long before the start date of the violation dataset.

Drilled Well Analysis

Keeping these factors in mind, I still wanted to take a look at how many violations per drilled well there were in the various categories, so I compared the violations data to the list of wells since 1998 mentioned above.

Number of Violations by Well Type for wells drilled between 1-1-1998 and 10-21-2010. All violations are from 1-1-2007 through 9-30-2010.

Number of Violations by Well Type for wells drilled between 1-1-1998 and 10-21-2010. All violations are from 1-1-2007 through 9-30-2010.

Obviously, my prediction of bloated values for non-Marcellus Shale wells is not supported by these numbers, with more than four times as many violations per drilled Marcellus Shale well than its conventional counterpart. Still, I am uncomfortable with this presentation of the data, due to the fact that it includes eight more years of traditional wells than Marcellus Shale wells. It does allow for the likelihood that older wells were included in the violation list, but perhaps overly so.

Number of Violations by Well Type for wells drilled between 1-1-2007 and 10-21-2010. All violations are from 1-1-2007 through 9-30-2010.

Number of Violations by Well Type for wells drilled between 1-1-2007 and 10-21-2010. All violations are from 1-1-2007 through 9-30-2010.

These are the numbers that are most affected by the large abandoned well data skew, and still Marcellus Shale wells are 1.5 times more likely to have a violation than their more conventional counterparts. All of the values for Marcellus Shale wells are nearly identical to the set from 1998 onward, because all but two of those wells are in both datasets. I consider the two datasets to be bookends for non-Marcellus Shale wells and total wells, since the data is skewed by time in different ways. Marcellus Shale wells are therefore somewhere between 1.5 and 4 times more likely to have violations than all other wells in the Commonwealth.

Horizontal Wells

Marcellus Shale Wells by Type and Year, 2006 through 2010

But what about horizontal wells? When we considered violations per offending well, they had 0.76 more violations per well than vertical Marcellus Shale wells, but when compared to the total number of wells of those types, vertical wells actually had slightly more violations than horizontal wells. Why is this?

Marcellus Shale Violations per Drilled Well, 2007 through 2010

The 2008 spike in horizontal violations per drilled well is based on a very small sample size, and does not account for the difference that we are looking for. The opposing trends of the rapid expansion of horizontal wells and the steady erosion of the number of violations per well drilled certainly does, however. Most of the vertical wells were drilled when there were more violations per well, and most of the horizontal wells were drilled when there were fewer.

All of this begs the question: Why are there so many fewer violations per well than there were three years ago? Is it because the industry is more in compliance with the regulations, or that the DEP is not equipped to monitor the rapidly expanding industry? Are we getting the same level of environmental protection from the Commonwealth as we did in 2007? These questions should be a part of the policy discussion as Pennsylvania continues to understand the effects of Marcellus Shale drilling operations.

Updated West Virginia Marcellus Shale datasets on our DataTool


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

Click on the map for a dynamic view and for more information.

[map removed]

I have posted updates of West Virginia’s Marcellus Shale permit and well data onto our FracTracker DataTool. The information was downloaded from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Office of Oil and Gas website.

I searched the DEP website for Marcellus Shale wells and found 1,463 different locations. When I looked at the at permit data, I got almost 12,000 records for 1,464 Marcellus Shale distinct wells.  It seems difficult to believe that all but one permitted well has already been drilled, and a closer look at the data shows that really can’t be the case.

[image removed]
In this dataset, there are 1,338 Marcellus Shale permits issued (green), 21 permits canceled (red), and 39 permit applications returned (yellow).

Of those permit records, only 1,338 are listed as having the permit issued. Unlike the Pennsylvania well list which includes only spuded wells, it seems that the West Virginia DEP thinks of the well list as a summary of the permit list, rather than a list of sites that have actually been drilled. In addition, West Virginia does not include the spud date on their oil and gas well data. Instead, they use the date for the last permit that was received for the well, which in no way indicates whether drilling activity has commenced.

I have contacted the West Virginia DEP for clarification on this point, and will share their response as a comment on this space.

Denver, CO – Days 1 and 2 of the APHA Conference


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Communications Specialist, CHEC & DrPH Student, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH); and Drew Michanowicz, MPH, CPH – GIS Specialist, CHEC & DrPH Student, GSPH

My coworker, Drew Michanowicz, and I landed in Denver, Colorado on Saturday morning in preparation for the 2010 American Public Health Association Conference. CHEC sent us to this meeting of over 12,000 public health professionals in order to learn more about the impacts of natural gas drilling in shale formations where it has been occurring longer than in the Marcellus Shale, to ascertain how FracTracker’s blog and DataTool can be improved upon, and to get a general feeling on the perspectives that people concerned with prevention have about the gas drilling.

Days one and two in Denver involved getting oriented with our surroundings, and attending a few meetings, including a very interesting one for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

On Saturday, Drew’s friend who lives in Denver gave us a quick tour of the city. Downtown appears to have been built on a grid, something I wish Pittsburgh could have done to make it easier to navigate! Aside from the residents’ sincere interest in skiing, buffalo, and tiaras apparently, here are some interesting facts…

The streets are wide, and we saw tons of people walking the streets. (The unseasonably warm weather certainly didn’t hurt.) Denver has some of the healthiest residents in the U.S., probably due to their incredible system for public transit and biking. Denver sits at the foothills of the Rockies and has some of the most beautiful sunrises (picture left) I have ever seen. Additionally, the residents of Denver seem laid-back and appreciative of the natural resources they have at their close disposal.

Another fact that many people probably don’t know about Colorado: shale gas drilling is quite prevalent here, with over 27,000 wells drilled state-wide. (PA has about 1/20th the amount of drilled wells in the Marcellus Shale so far.) Despite the passion that Colorado residents seem to have for their natural environment, natural gas drilling occurred quite prevalently here.

What does this tell us about the future of drilling in the much larger Marcellus Shale play (which underlies most of PA)? See the snapshot below to view all of the shale gas plays in the continental U.S.

[map archived]

Revise West Virginia Environmental Policy to Properly Characterize Ozone Air Pollution


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

Ozone is Produced by Reactions of Organic Compounds Released During Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction Activities with Sunlight and Oxides of Nitrogen

By: Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH – CHEC Director and Principal Investigator
Story Inspired by FracTracker work of Kathleen Tyner

I was searching over new snapshots on the FracTracker database and noticed one done by Kathleen Tyner. Her snapshot (below) shows Marcellus Wells drilled in West Virginia overlaid with locations of ozone monitoring devices placed by WV DEP personnel for monitoring this criteria air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

[image removed]
Analysis of this snapshot reveals only 6 monitoring locations within the vast geographic area of West Virginia where Marcellus Shale gas extraction operations exist.

West Virginia is characterized by some of the highest elevation peaks and ridges in the Appalachian range, an area where weather inversions can be frequent and can hold air pollutants in valley areas for days if not weeks. If ozone and other air contaminants are trapped in these valleys, over time concentrations of these pollutants can build up without being cleared by prevailing winds. Without proper placement of ozone monitors (and other types of monitors for other criteria pollutants generated) in these characteristic areas no one will be able to pickup ozone concentrations in air. Ozone is formed by the reaction of organic chemicals volatilized into air from Marcellus Shale gas extraction activities, including:

  • drilling,
  • diesel exhaust [truck traffic and running compressors],
  • wastewater impoundments,
  • condenser stations,
  • pipeline leaks,
  • cryogenic plants,
  • compressor stations,
  • mercaptan injection stations,
  • chemical plants – existing oxides of nitrogen from coal powered electrical generation facilities and other industrial operations (see the figure below), and
  • sunlight.

Additionally, over large geographic areas of the state there are very few ozone monitors shown which could pick up ground level ozone as it is advectively transported by wind over large areas of the state.

Ozone is a criteria air pollutant that has been associated with a variety of health problems, including:

  • airway irritation,
  • coughing,
  • pain when taking a deep breath,
  • wheezing and breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities,
  • inflammation, which is much like a sunburn on the skin,
  • aggravation of asthma,
  • increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis, and
  • permanent lung damage with repeated exposures.

Given the importance of ozone to human health outcomes and its ability to also affect plants, it is vital to understand ozone concentrations and exposure over space and time.

West Virginia’s Environmental Policies

The State of West Virginia needs to reevaluate its environmental policies in light of the explosion of activity in the Marcellus gas fields. Significant funding should be provided to state environmental enforcement agencies to perform research into:

  1. Where ozone effects might be pronounced due to topographic variation;
  2. Understanding where ozone monitors should be placed to be able to predict ozone exposure reliably for each sub-regions populations (especially children); and
  3. Determining the number of additional ozone air monitoring stations for proper statistical analysis and spatial modeling.

Additionally, the placement of Marcellus Shale wells is ongoing and accelerating. Since over the next 25 years it is reasonable to assume that there could be up to 100,000 Marcellus shale wells in West Virginia – as well as additional associated infrastructure including stripping and refining stations, compressor stations and pipelines – the State of West Virginia needs to set aside significant funding to ensure that ozone monitoring is ongoing. This funding should also ensure that data generated are analyzed and communicated to the public using proper and accurate risk communication language with numerous outlets so all citizens are informed of this air hazard regularly. Finally, since the Marcellus Shale gas industry will be moving throughout the state over time – developing wells and infrastructure as needed -any state program needs to have enough flexibility to move with the industry. Better yet, the state should require planning documents from industry. This can allow it to predict where the industry will move next so that baseline, pre-extraction air levels of ozone and other air contaminants generated in this process can be compared to the levels generated post-production

Locations of NOx Sources in the States of West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania by Tonnage. NOx is a precursor contaminant that can react with organic compounds volatilized from Marcellus Shale gas extraction activities to produce ozone. Note large sources of NOx as you move down the Ohio and West Virginia border, in Northern West Virginia, and on the Pennsylvania border.

Improved PA DEP Drilling Data Transparency


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

Recognizing the need for government and industry-related drilling data to be more transparent, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) has added new resources to their oil and gas website for data related to natural gas drilling compliance and production. As the press release says, this is the first time that all of this information is available online from the PA DEP.

See the map below for an updated view of the number and location of Marcellus well violations based on data provided by the PA DEP. You can zoom in using the magnifying glass button in the gray toolbar to inspect an area more closely. Or you can click on the “i” in the toolbar and then on a point on the map to inspect an individual record:

[image removed]

While we applaud the PA DEP’s efforts to improve the accessibility of drilling information online, the new section still has some HTML quirks and can be difficult to find when trying to navigate there from the DEP’s homepage. The Center for Healthy Environments has been in discussion with various citizens, media personnel, regulatory agencies, and academic institutions about the possibility of using FracTracker’s DataTool to aid in improving data transparency. We strongly believe that data transparency leads to better-informed decision making and fear reduction; FracTracker can provide an easy-to-use, online, user-generated platform to present data and associated information about drilling in shale formations.

If you would like to know more about how FracTracker works, just check out this page and keep your eyes peeled for an online tutorial coming soon, as well.

Science Advisory Board Members Announced for the EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

Reposted Email Update from the U.S. EPA

On September 10, 2010, the Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office posted a List of eighty-five Nominated Candidates for a Panel under the auspices of the SAB that will provide independent expert advice on EPA’s draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan to investigate the potential public health and environmental protection research issues that may be associated with hydraulic fracturing. Download the List of Candidates (PDF).

(Some of the people that we know who are serving on that committee include Michel Boufadel (Temple), Dave Dzombak (CMU), Tony Ingraffea (Cornell), Sandra Steingraber, John Stolz (Duquesne), Jeanne VanBriesen (CMU), and Radisav Vidic (Pitt).)

While public comments on the initial list is closed, the SAB Staff Office is seeking public comment on an additional list of candidates to be considered for this SAB Panel. The additional list of candidates is located here.  Comments should be submitted to the attention of Mr. Edward Hanlon,Designated Federal Officer, no later than November 22, 2010. E-mailing comments (hanlon.edward@epa.gov) is the preferred mode of receipt.

Click here for more information on the EPA hydraulic fracturing study. To report non-emergency suspicious activity related to oil and gas activity, please call the EPA Eyes on Drilling toll-free tipline at1-877-919-4EPA or send email to eyesondrilling@epa.gov.

Utah Wells and Violation Discussion


Utah Oil and Gas Industry Overview


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

[image removed]
Utah Oil and Gas Wells.
Click on the map for more information.

I pursued oil and gas data from Utah due to the accessibility of the relevant information, and because a map of major shale gas plays indicate several formations of interest in the state, notably the Hermosa and Mancos Formations.  However, I learned from Utah’s Oil and Gas Permitting Manager and Petroleum Geologist Brad Hill that while there has been discussion of extracting gas from shale formations, currently none of the wells in the state are producing shale gas. On the other hand, he did indicate that most of the wells in the state had been stimulated to some degree with hydraulic fracturing.

The state is relatively new to the oil and gas industry. Although only one well from 2008 is listed as a test well, it seems fair to conclude that at the very least, the three total wells from 2003 through 2005 should fall in that category as well, even if they are classified as gas wells.

Horizontal Wells


For a state where most of the wells are hydraulically fractured, there are very few horizontal wells.  It is also noteworthy that most of the wells that are drilled horizontally are oil wells, not gas.  While 3% of oil wells are permitted to drill horizontally, the same is true for only 0.8% of gas wells.  The reason for this is not clear at this time.

Geographic Information

Geographically, Uintah County is by far the most active portion of the state for natural gas permits, while Duchesne County is similarly dominant for oil drilling activity.  Together, Carbon County and Uintah County account for about 93% of the gas permits, while Duchesne County and Uintah County combine for 92% of the oil wells.


Violation Information


Violation data from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining is not posted online, so I submitted a request, and received the data promptly.  That dataset includes comments as to what happened to cause the violation, as well as mitigation efforts to date.  For the moment, however, we are most interested in an overview of the data.  I have therefore condensed the violations into eight categories for ease of use.

Statewide, there is a gas leak for just over 1% of the permits issued, and for Uintah County, where the vast majority of the gas operations are, that figure is just 0.4%.  But in Emery County, there is a gas leak violation for 16% of the permits issued, and Duchesne County that figure is 22%.
The reason for this disparity is not provided, however the numbers do seem to suggest that violations of this type are more frequent where the gas drilling operations are relatively sparse.  I mentioned that Carbon and Uintah Counties together account for 93% of the gas operations in Utah.  If we consider those two counties to have an established gas industry with the rest of the state being exploratory in nature, we see a dramatic difference in the frequency of gas leak incidents.

Pennsylvania Wells and Violation Discussion


Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Industry Overview


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

Oil and Gas Wells in Pennsylvania since 1998. Click on the image for more details. [image removed]

The extraction of oil in Pennsylvania has been ongoing since before the Civil War, and the natural gas industry is also well established. The boom in production due to the hydraulic fracturing of gas from the Marcellus Shale formation is, however, quite recent.

A proper analysis of the oil and gas industry starts with the question, “How many wells of each type are there?” Unfortunately, the figures for non-Marcellus Shale and total wells are approximate. On their website, the Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (PASDA) maintains a list of over 123,000 oil and gas locations in the state, based on Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) data. Through our efforts, CHEC has found over 6,000 more locations from permit information available on the DEP website, bringing the total of oil and gas locations to over 129,000.

Some of these 129,000 locations were undoubtedly never spudded, but that level of information is not available at this time. There is data as to which Marcellus Shale wells have been spudded, as all of the Marcellus Shale wells are recent enough to have digital information about them on the DEP website.

I compiled this information about drilled wells from information that is on the DEP website, and it indicates that there are only ten wells that were drilled horizontally that were not extracting from the Marcellus Shale formation.  I have seen comments in violation data indicating that wells not flagged as Marcellus had become Marcellus wells by drilling deeper. I do not have data to suggest that this situation accounts for all ten horizontal wells that are not flagged as Marcellus Shale, but I would not find that surprising.

Violation Information

[image removed]
Fire in Hopewell Township PA – Atlas Energy drilling site 3-31-10

In the past few days, the DEP has posted oil and gas violation data on their website. Several weeks ago, the DEP provided CHEC with a comprehensive list of 9,370 violations in the period between January 1, 2007 and September 30, 2010. This is more than ten times the number of violations that has been obtained from both Utah and West Virginia, although the nature of this list is also far more complete than that of the other two states. Additionally, Pennsylvania has a more extensive oil and gas industry than either of the other two states.

For example, the table above shows over three thousand administrative violations, one thousand instances of failing to plug a well, and four hundred cases where the well operator failed to restore a site after the conclusion of drilling operations. The nature of the violation information from the other two states leads me to suspect that their violation lists were simply compiled differently, and that these problems that the Pennsylvania DEP regulators have seen so much of are not absent in the other states.

I have condensed the original list of 109 violations categories into 12 in order to facilitate analysis. Some of these distinctions were relatively simple to collapse.  For example, wastewater spills and brine spills clearly belong together. Other examples were less clear. One of the original categories was “Improper storage of residual waste”, which does not explain whether or not a spill had occurred. For that reason, it was included with, “Inadequate pollution prevention”, although the violation might well have been issued after an impoundment overflow.

Where are the Violations?

In terms of geographical distribution, we see that three contiguous counties in the northeast quadrant of the Commonwealth—Bradford, Susquehanna, and Tioga—account for a majority of the Marcellus Shale violations, Two northwestern counties—McKean and Venango—have noticeably more violations than the rest of the counties in terms of oil and gas operations that are drilled into other formations.

Violation Analysis

For states where the oil and gas industry is relatively recent, it is straightforward task to compare violations to the number of permits or spudded wells. With the long history of mineral extraction in Pennsylvania, the results of that comparison here is somewhat problematic.  For example, while the 1,111 instances of failing to plug a well issued during this 45 month timeframe is a frankly staggering total, only five of those were for Marcellus Shale wells. This makes sense, as the more recent Marcellus wells are more likely to still be productive, while a violation for an uncapped well could potentially be issued for a long abandoned well that was recently discovered.

The point of bringing up this example is to suggest that due to the long timeframe of oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania, a straightforward comparison of Marcellus Shale to non-Marcellus Shale violations by the number of wells of each type is probably misleading. And, as mentioned above, we are not altogether clear on how many conventional wells that there are in the state in the first place.

However, if we look at the number of violations per well against the more limited scope of wells which are in violation, some interesting trends come to light, and the issue of severely skewed results due to the antiquity of the conventional oil and gas industry in the state seems effectively mitigated in this analysis as well.

To be clear, this does not suggest that there are an average of 2.56 violations per well in Pennsylvania. It does indicate that when the DEP sees a situation in which violations must be filed, there are typically more than one problem at a time. As the data above shows, wells drilled into the Marcellus Shale have a higher number of violations per offending well than do those in other formations, and the horizontally drilled Marcellus wells have more still.

West Virginia Wells and Violations Discussion


West Virginia Permits and Wells


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

According to their website, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Office of Oil and Gas is responsible for over 55,000 active and 12,000 inactive oil and gas wells in the state. To obtain a scope of the Marcellus Shale activity, I queried that state’s online permit and well databases on November 1, 2010.

The search of permitting data yielded 11,836 records, however a closer look at the data shows that there have been only 1,474 permit applications received from 1,464 wells, with the rest of the dataset providing detailed information about the same locations. Of the total number of applications, a total of 590 are horizontal. There are a total of 1,338 permits that have been issued, of which 533 are horizontal.

From the well database, there are 1,463 Marcellus Shale wells, 1,334 of which are gas wells, one is a commercial brine disposal well, and the remaining 128 wells of an unspecified type. Since as of November 1, 2010 there are only 1,338 permits issued for the Marcellus Shale, those unspecified wells are a curious presence.
Results of Permit Applications. Green dots are approved permits, yellow dots are permits that have been returned, and red dots are rejected permits. Click the map for more information.

Violation Data

Unlike other states in which violation data has had to be requested, the West Virginia DEP has separate spills and violation databases available on their website. The spills database includes 463 records between the dates of January 1, 2000 and September 30, 2010, while the violation data includes an additional 245 records from the same time frame.

Even together, these totals are less than one tenth of the number of violations that have occurred in Pennsylvania since 2007, although these lists do no not seem to include much of the administrative and abandoned well violations that are so prominent in the Pennsylvania data. I should also note that the 67,000 current and abandoned wells that West Virginia oversees is roughly half of Pennsylvania’s 129,000 known oil and gas locations.

I condensed the original list of 134 different spill types into six categories to facilitate analysis. Most of the instances of merging categories were straightforward. For example, brine spills and wastewater spills clearly belong together. A few, such as “Substance from gas well” required some degree of guesswork.

The other violation database includes the relevant West Virginia legal code. Most of the categories seem logical, however a few, such as “Libraries” and “Religious, Educational, and Nonprofit” seem to be illogical oil and gas violation categories. Libraries may well be a mistake, having come up only once, but with 41 instances, it seems likely that the latter legal chapter has some relevant code for the oil and gas industry.

As with the spills data, this dataset includes numerous entries with multiple violations, resulting in a total number of violations that is higher than the number of records in the online database.

Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project

By Veronica Coptis, Mountain Watershed Association


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

The Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project (MSCP) has been developed to empower citizens to take steps to protect their property, their health, and the environment, principally our water resources, from impacts of extracting Marcellus shale in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project will be a model so that other watersheds and communities can easily replicate the project in their region.

The Mountain Watershed Association is currently piloting the project in the Youghiogheny River watershed. Collaborators include the Center for Healy Environments and Communities, Three Rives Waterkeeper, Clean Water Action, PennEnvironment, Group Against Smog and Pollution, and the Fayette County Conservation District.

Our goal is to hold informational meetings on Marcellus shale throughout the Youghiogheny River watershed in order to ensure that people have the tools necessary to protect themselves and their properties from drilling. Additional informational meetings will be held in the Somerset, PA and Farmington, PA areas in Spring 2011. We are following these informational meetings with visual assessment training. The visual assessment trainings are designed to involve citizens in using their senses in providing oversight of drilling operations, for example, learning to recognize illegal water withdrawals or spills or air pollution. At these trainings citizens are provided with in-depth information on permitting, regulations, air and water impacts, a safety briefing, the Fracktracker data system, and an overview of our MCSP data reporting forms, through which citizens can report impacts to us and also to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

To date, Mountain Watershed Association has sponsored two informational meetings in Connellsville, PA and Greensburg, PA. Approximately 60 people attended these meetings, and each received a toolkit with valuable information on topics including private water well protection, health impacts, and permitting and regulations. This packet is available for download at our website: www.mtwatershed.com. Presentations at the informational meetings included:

Visual assessment training

We have also sponsored one Visual Assessment training session in Mount Pleasant, PA. Fifteen people attended and each person received our Citizen Surveillance Manual, an 80 page manual designed to provide an in-depth overview of Marcellus shale and also instructions for how to safely and effectively conduct visual assessments. This training session was designed to be very interactive, and there was excellent discussion with those in attendance regarding Marcellus development throughout the Yough River watershed. The Citizen Surveillance Manual is also available on our website at www.mtwatershed.com.

Presentations include:

  • Chuck Christen from the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, the drilling process and the potential public health impacts from Marcellus shale extractions
  • Ned Mulcahy from Three Rivers Waterkeeper: regulations and laws related to the natural gas industry
  • Myron Arnowitt from Clean Water Action: water impacts from Marcellus shale activity
  • Sue Seppi from Group Against Smog and Pollution: air impacts from Marcellus shale activity.
  • Heather Fowler from the Fayette County Conservation District: well site hazards and safety

The Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project gives citizens in Southwestern Pennsylvania an opportunity to take action to protect their watersheds and communities from the impacts of Marcellus drilling. For more information on the MCSP you can email veronica@mtwatershed.com or call at 724-455-4200 ext 4#. We also encourage those interested to join our mailing list in order to receive updates on this project. Visit www.mtwatershed.com to join. The data gathered from this process will eventually be uploaded onto FracTracker’s DataTool [link removed]. Check it out to see the other data presently available to registered users.