A complete list of all FracTracker posts.

EPA Considers Expanding their Fracturing Study to Include Air Impacts

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may consider including in their hydraulic fracturing study the impacts on air quality that the shale gas extraction process could have. Direct conversations with EPA staff indicate that they plan to conduct a full life cycle analysis and assess greenhouse gas issues, and may also look at air quality in general. You can read the full explanation in the reposted article from the Daily Sentinel below, but sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words; in the following snapshot from FracTracker’s DataTool, check out the lack of ozone monitors located near current Marcellus Shale gas wells in PA.

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EPA considers expanding fracturing study to air quality
BY DENNIS WEBB – THE DAILY SENTINEL
Reposted – August 14, 2010

Recently retired Environmental Protection Agency environmental engineer Weston Wilson is best known for criticizing his employer’s 2004 finding that hydraulic fracturing poses little or no risk to domestic groundwater.

Now, the Denver EPA whistleblower is encouraged by the agency’s interest in studying the natural gas development procedure’s potential impacts on air quality as well.

“I’m proud of EPA now,” not just for undertaking the study, but indicating it may expand the study’s reach beyond water, Wilson said.

His position puts him at odds with the oil and gas industry. At a Denver EPA meeting this summer, several industry representatives argued the study should be limited, as directed by a congressional committee, to the relationship between fracturing and groundwater. “And certainly not air quality,” as Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance put it.

But one of a number of Garfield County residents who say their health has been affected by drilling says he supports the idea of the EPA considering whether fracturing creates airborne health concerns as well.

“I think they should look at all aspects that affect public health,” Ron Galterio said.

He and several other Battlement Mesa residents say they’ve suffered ill effects from fumes from recent nearby fracturing operations by Antero Resources.

Josh Joswick of the San Juan Citizens Alliance told the EPA during its Denver meeting, “I don’t think you can study water without studying air.” Read more.

Permitted Wastewater Facilities and the Monongahela River

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During a recent FracTracker training session, CHEC’s director Dr. Conrad Dan Volz used the following maps created with FracTracker’s DataTool to demonstrate the potential impact that additional oil and gas activities in Pennsylvania could have on the state’s watersheds and waterways. The first map you see below shows all of the facilities in PA that applied for and received approval from the state to accept and treat the liquid waste that results from oil and gas operations.

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Some things of note in the map above:

  1. The number of facilities in the Monongahela drainage, which is a source of drinking water for many people in the Pittsburgh area.
  2. The facilities in the Allegheny River and Susquehanna River drainage.

In the map below, we have zoomed in on the Monongahela River drainage to take a closer look at the 13 permitted facilities that could impact that area.

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The signifiant number of permitted facilities along the Monongahela River got us wondering what the cumulative impact could be on the Monongahela drainage, especially since the TDS (total dissolved solids) level fluctuated above drinking water standards in 2009; below are some approximate calculations on the amount of contaminants that could be discharged into the river from those facilities on any given day.

Major Facilities Accepting Wastewater in the Monongahela Drainage and Volume Permitted

Permitted Site 1000 Gallons/Day
1) McKeesport – Monongahela (POTW) 115
2) Clariton Municipal Authority – Peters Creek (POTW) 60
3) Mon Valley Brine (Monongahela River) 200
4) Authority of Borough of Charleroi – Monongahela (POTW) 30
5) Municipal Authority of Belle Vernon – Monongahela (POTW) (2 permits) 10
6) Municipal Authority of Belle Vernon – Monongahela (POTW) 5
7) Borough of California – Monongahela (POTW) 10
8) Brownsville Municipal Authority – Dunlap Creek (POTW) 9
9) Franklin Township Sewer Authority – South Fork Tenmile Creek (POTW) 50
10) Waynesburg Borough – South Fork Tenmile Creek (POTW) 8
11) Shallenberger-Ronco – Monongahela (NPDES permit effective. As of 10/31/09, WQM permit in progress.) 500
12) Shallenberger-Rankin Run (NPDES permit effective on 11/1/2008.) 125
13) Shallenberger Connellsville – Youghiogheny 1,000
14?) Somerset Regional Water Resources (East Branch Coxes Creek) (RO and Evaporators proposed. NPDES permit granted on 12/17/2009. Amendment to the NPDES permit is pending.) ?
Range of TGD: 612 – 2112

Concentrations of Selected Important Contaminants from Marcellus Shale Flowback Water (FBW)*

Conversions to pounds of contaminant per day into Monongahela drainage

  • 612,000 gallons FBW * 3.79 L/gallon* 161,636 mg/L dissolved solids*2.2*10-6 pounds/mg= 824,825 lbs. of TDS
  • 612,000 gallons FBW * 3.79 L/gallon* 2,950mg/L Barium*2.2*10-6 pounds/mg= 15,053 lbs. of barium
  • 612,000 gallons FBW * 3.79 L/gallon* 3,280mg/L Strontium*2.2*10-6 pounds/mg= 16,737 lbs. of strontium
  • 612,000 gallons FBW * 3.79 L/gallon* 95,400 mg/L chloride*2.2*10-6 pounds/mg= 486,812 lbs. of chloride
We will add more information to this post as we investigate the above amounts of contaminants and how they compare to the volume of fresh water in the river and to other types of discharges that regularly enter the waterway.
Related Information:

Conservation department says no state forest lands are left for gas leasing

BY LAURA LEGERE (STAFF WRITER) – THE TIMES-TRIBUNE
Reposted- Published: August 13, 2010

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There are no unleased acres left in Pennsylvania’s state forests where Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling sites, pipelines and access roads could be built without damaging environmentally sensitive areas, according to a new analysis by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Nearly 139,000 acres of state forest have been leased for gas drilling since 2008 and money from those lucrative leases – a total of $354 million – has been used to help balance the last two state budgets. But DCNR Secretary John Quigley said the era of leasing large parcels of state forests for gas drilling is over. “We may do some little stuff here and there,” he said, “but in terms of large-scale leasing, we’re done.”

The department’s findings, demonstrated in a series of overlain maps on DCNR’s website, show the forests in northcentral Pennsylvania above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale crowded by leased land, parcels where the state does not own the mineral rights and places where development must be restricted.

Of the 1.5 million acres of state forest underlain by the shale, 700,000 acres have already been leased or the mineral rights under them are controlled by an owner other than the state. An additional 702,500 acres are in ecologically sensitive areas – places with protected species, forested buffers, old growth or steep slopes. Another 27,500 acres are designated as primitive and remote lands, 49,600 acres were identified through a forest conservation analysis as priority conservation lands, and the last 20,400 acres are so entwined with the other sensitive areas that they cannot be developed without damaging them. Read more.

Intriguing Article about Shale Gas and Alternative Energy Sources

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Shale gas is considered by many in the industry to be an ideal transition fuel toward renewable energy. This article written in June by Daniel Botkin, professor emeritus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, discusses whether extracting shale gas is worth the risk and also compares the benefits and drawbacks of other energy sources. Great read!

Updated Marcellus Shale Wells Drilled Snapshots

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Our GIS Specialist, Drew, has added an updated dataset from the PA DEP onto the data tool showing all of the Marcellus Shale wells that have been drilled in PA since 2007. (We don’t have the records for anything before that – YET – because all of those records are still just on paper.)

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We know that leases are already being sought after and signed within Pittsburgh’s city limits. Tell us what you think about drilling that is occurring near sensitive areas (e.g. on school properties, biologically diverse lands, or in major cities). Do you feel that the regulations and policies currently in place are stringent enough to properly protect public health? To learn more about some of the issues associated with gas extraction activities, be sure to check out the PA Land Trust Association’s incident report.

Quick Update – Postponing WV FracTracker Mtg

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The FracTracker meeting that we planned to host on August 13th in West Virginia has been postponed. We will let you know when this meeting is rescheduled. In the meantime, please give us your feedback: malone@fractracker.org.

Gas Well Explosion – Indiana Township, PA

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On Friday a two-year-old shallow gas well exploded in Indiana Township (Allegheny County), PA killing two workers. According to sources, multiple parties are involved in the investigation, including the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Allegheny County fire marshal and Huntley & Huntley Inc., the Monroeville company that employed the workers. Read more>

This incident follows the EPA’s public comment meeting on Thursday, which was convened to gather citizen input on an EPA study that will assess the safety of hydraulic fracturing (and related issues) involved in Marcellus Shale gas extraction. Additionally, two hearings are planned today in PA. One will review emergency response procedures and the other will assess proposed state regulations. While Friday’s tragic accident did not occur at a Marcellus-depth well, it highlights why appropriate safety measures must be put in place as the Marcellus Shale play is explored further.

In an attempt to track and visualize the vital importance of drilling safety, CHEC is compiling a database of Marcellus incidents on FracTracker’s data tool. Additional organizations are participating in this process. If you have data that you would like to contribute to the dataset, please email (malone@fractracker.org) or call us (412-624-9379).

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Public Meetings on Marcellus Shale

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Fellow Pittsburghers – If you are one of the many people interested in the issue of hydraulic fracturing & how it could affect the environment & public health, be sure to attend the following meeting:

  • Thu, July 22, 6pm – 10pm
    Hilton Garden Inn, 1000 Corporate Drive, Canonsburg, PA 15317
The EPA is looking for your input into developing its proposed plan to study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing & drinking water. You are being asked to pre-register for the meeting at least 72 hours ahead of time either by visiting: [link removed] or by calling the toll-free number 1-866-477-3635.

UPDATE: CHEC’s own Dr. Charles Christen attended the July 22nd meeting held by the EPA. See what the Pittsburgh Business Times had to say about the gathering that drew a crowd of over 1,200 people!

Thanks to a post from our readers, we were made aware of a meeting that the PA DEP is hosting to gather community input in this area about proposed regulatory changes. Be sure to check out the post from that reader below for the additional meetings being held across the commonwealth:

  • Mon, July 26, 7pm – 9pm
    Waterfront Conference Room A & B, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4745

Comments may be submitted electronically to the Board at RegComments@state.pa.us & must also be received by the Board on or before August 9, 2010. A subject heading of the proposed rulemaking & a return name & address must be included in each transmission.

 

Fractracker Must Thrive and Survive by Your Comments

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There has been some very good comments from Fractracker contributors, and I would like to share and help to facilitate further commenting…

1) Many of the data sets currently uploaded to Fractracker are from the PADEP’s “2010 Permit and RIG Activity,” under “Reports” from the Bureau or Oil and Gas Management Home Page. These are open to the public.
2) The PADEP provides permit information prior to the January 1, 2007 date, but NOT in the form of “RIG” reports. The RIG report includes an explicit location such as latitude and longitude that is necessary for visualization in Fractracker. The PADEP did not start transferring hard-copy forms into digital data sets of permits and drilled locations until 2007. Therefore, any Marcellus Shale drilled prior to the January 1, 2007 digitizing date is not included in the permit or SPUD data on Fractracker.
3) We have received comments that the Permits and Drilling locations data sets are missing data, incomplete, and or the locations can be off by as much as 15 miles. These are great comments and are integral to sharing and regulating good vs. bad information. It is certainly possible that these data sets are incomplete, missing data, and are not as precise as we hope.
4) Possibilities of seemingly incomplete data sets and maps; drilled wells and permit locations may not exist in Fractracker because they are wells that predate the January 1, 2007 digitizing date (see above), human error in transferring data to digital version, uploading to the host, data sets simply are incomplete, and location accuracy of drilled wells may be generalized.
5) The power of crowdsourcing programs such as Wikipedia, Netflix and Amazon ratings, Facebook, OpenStreetMap, and of course Fractracker allows the “crowd” or many people to assist by contributing their knowledge or experience to refine tasks, regulate information, and develop highly quality controlled outputs.
6) Comments and collaboration on the blog as well as within individual data sets, snapshots, etc., is not only encouraged, it is crucial to the principle of Fractracker.

Components of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid

Frac fluid containers - Image from: www.donnan.com

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On June 30th, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection made public the fluids used to hydraulically fracture the ground in PA. You can find that list on the DEP’s site here. However, some controversy ensued due to a mix up between the DEP & the material safety data sheets. Diesel fuel, which is listed in the linked document above for example, is only stored on site for other purposes – not injected into the ground.

“The original list was a compilation of the chemicals identified on safety documents called material safety data sheets that hydraulic fracturing contractors must submit to the department, but he [Scott Perry, the director of DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management] did not realize that it included substances the contractors use both above and below ground on a well site, he said. The second list was winnowed by a DEP chemist, who recognized that some of the chemicals on the initial list are not among those injected underground during the fracturing process.” …

CHEC’s director, Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, said he understands that the department is trying to respond to an “absolute clamor out there to get this information,” but he said the list posted Wednesday is more an attempt to “mollify people’s complaints that they are not releasing information” than to provide data that citizens can use if they want to test their drinking water before & after drilling. “What to me is valuable is to get information on not only what goes down but also what comes up” from the wells in the form of salt & metals-laden waste fluids, he said. (The Times-Tribune)

The map below shows all of the public & private water wells in PA in blue & the Marcellus Shale wells drilled to date in black (as well as vividly demonstrates why we need to be vigilant of the potential impact that this industry can have on our quality of life). [image removed] 
In response to growing frustration over the lack of industry disclosure of these chemicals, Range and Chief plan to disclose the chemicals it uses to hydraulically fracture methane gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region.

September 9, 2010 Update: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has issued voluntary information requests to nine natural gas service companies regarding the process known as hydraulic fracturing. Read more.