Category Archives: Interstate

Shale Gas Drilling, Human Health, and the Environment – Public Hearing in Harrisburg

When: View in Calendar » May 2, 2013 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Where: Minority Caucus Room (Room 418, Main Capitol building), Harrisburg PA
Categories: Interstate
Tags: air Fracking gas drilling Greg Vitali House Democratic Policy Committee public disclosure public health public hearing shale gas water
What:  Public Hearing of the House Democratic Policy Committee
When: Thursday, May 2, 2013, 10:00 a.m.
Where:  Minority Caucus Room (Room 418, Main Capitol building), Harrisburg PA

State Representative Greg Vitali will host a hearing of the House Democratic Policy Committee in Harrisburg on Thursday, May 2nd  on shale gas development in Pennsylvania.

The hearing will be broken down into four panels: Air issues, water issues, public health/public disclosure, and surface issues.

The hearing is focused on what to do with regards to drilling in those communities where it is already happening.

 


From EcoWatch: Meet Anthony Ingraffea—From Industry Insider to Implacable Fracking Opponent

By Ellen Cantarow

Why, exactly, is high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing such a devastating industry? How best to describe its singularity—its vastness, its difference from other industries and its threat to the planet?

When I interviewed Dr. Anthony Ingraffea—Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University and president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Inc.—I realized that his comments were perhaps the clearest, most compactly instructive of any I’d heard on fracking. So I expanded the original interview to include Ingraffea’s reflections on his odyssey from an industry insider to an implacable fracking opponent, with his descriptions of the fascinating nature of 400 million-year-old shale formations and what, precisely, corporations do when they disrupt these creations of nature.

Ingraffea is perhaps best-known for his co-authorship of a Cornell University 2011 study that established the greenhouse gas footprint of fracking as being greater than that of any other fossil fuel including coal. The lead-investigator for Methane and the Greenhouse-Gas Footprint of Natural Gas from Shale Formations, often called “The Cornell Study,” was Robert Howarth, David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Microbiology. A third co-author was research aide Renee Santoro.

Ingraffea has been a principal investigator on research and development projects ranging from the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through Schlumberger, Gas Research Institute, Sandia National Laboratories, Association of Iron and Steel Engineers, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman Aerospace. Having been an industry insider for so long, he’s a formidable opponent of anyone who dares to go against him in a debate about high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

His passion for social justice has infused his teaching. He has promoted the entry of women and minorities into engineering. Among his teaching awards are the Society of Women Engineers’ Professor of the Year Award in 1997 and the 2001 Daniel Luzar ’29 Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Engineering. He organized and directed the Synthesis National Engineering Education Coalition. Its mission: improving undergraduate engineering education and attracting larger numbers of women and minorities to the field.

Those who have watched Ingraffea in action know him for his simplicity and clarity, his refusal to indict his opponents on any but rigorous scientific grounds, the logic with which he demolishes them and his sense of humor. Several years ago, towards the end of a long talk in Pennsylvania (see video below), Ingraffea mentioned that on Halliburton Corporation’s website the corporation lists hydrochloric acid (HCl) among its fracking chemicals. Halliburton also notes that HCl is commonly used in preparing black olives.

See the original article here

Watch the video:

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 10

When: View in Calendar » January 10, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

TODAY’S FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 10th

Today is day 30 in the regs comment calendar, the last day of our Thirty Days Project. On this date in 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and kicked off a civil war.

The only question that remains: Will Governor Cuomo make the same mistake?

Section 550.2 (a, b)

To carry out the functions outlined in section 550.1 of this Part, the Department of Environmental Conservation has created a [Bureau] Division of Mineral Resources.

The [Bureau] Division of Mineral Resources is headed by a [chief] director who is responsible for the administration and enforcement of all rules, regulations, orders and amendments thereof of the Department of Environmental Conservation relating to the exploration and drilling for, and production, transportation, purchase, processing and storage of oil and gas and other wells regulated under Environmental Conservation Law Article 23, and the prevention of any pollution resulting therefrom.

 

In other words, the Division of Mineral Resources, whose core mission is to “regulate the extraction of oil and gas,” is both the manager of gas extraction for New York State and the environmental watchdog of that manager. There is no separate, autonomous division within the DEC that is tasked with the “prevention of any pollution resulting therefrom.” New York is one of only eight states in which the state environmental agency has this combined function.

The director of the Division of Mineral Resources is Bradley J. Field. Field is directly responsible for the scientific integrity of the (still unfinished) supplemental generic Environmental Impact Statement that is the scientific basis for the regulations that we’ve examined together for the past 30 days. The sGEIS also serves as the scientific basis for the Governor’s imminent decision on fracking.

In October 2009, Field gave a presentation on the DEC’s proposed regulatory framework for fracking before the Business Council of New York. His powerpoint presentation was full of dollar signs. Ecological metrics did not appear. There were slides on landowner royalties but none on air pollution, radiation, chemical spills, well casing failures, risks to water, impacts to biodiversity, or potential public health effects.

Bradley J. Field is a signatory to a declaration that denies the existence of human-induced climate change. The Global Warming Petition asserts that there is “no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will in the foreseeable future cause, catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

Bradley J. Field is the man in whose hands the fate of our children rests.

For our final comment of the 30 Days project, let’s focus on the big picture: conflicts of interest, democracy, and the role of science in political decision-making. (And remember to weave into your remarks an appeal to DEC employees to do the right thing and come forth as whistleblowers. Here again is the address where anonymous whistleblowers can send information: P.O. Box 6956, 450 Central Ave. Albany, NY 12206)

 

As you compose your final missive to the DEC, here is Rachel Carson for inspiration:

“We should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us.”
–Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Crossing the Rubicon is the point of no return. But New York stands on the near bank of that river, and the choice still lies before us.

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 9

When: View in Calendar » January 9, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 9th

On this date in 1965, “Beatles ’65″ hit number one on the Billboard Album charts. Featured as a first release was the flamenco-embellished ballad, “I’ll Be Back”:

You know if you break my heart I’ll go, but I’ll be back
Again, ’cause I told you once before goodbye,
but I came back again.

 

Feel free to sing along as we work together on Section 750-3.12, which governs the beneficial uses of fracking wastewater. It told you once goodbye. But it comes back again.

Section 750-3.12(a)(b)

(a) All HVHF wastewater must be treated, recycled, or otherwise properly disposed through the life of the well in accordance with all applicable federal and state laws.

(b) The discharge of flowback to the ground is prohibited. The discharge of drilling fluids, formation fluids and production brine to the ground is prohibited, except in accordance with the terms and conditions of B.U.D. (Beneficial Use Determination).

 

In other words, it is against the law to pour fracking wastewater straight onto the ground UNLESS it’s being poured straight onto the ground in order to do something beneficially useful. In this case,B.U.D. refers to the practice of spreading fracking wastewater onto roadways to control dust or melt ice. (It’s salty.) Under this beneficial use, this fluid is now called “production brine.”

Many of those commenting on the previous draft of the proposed regulations expressed their strong concerns about the road-spreading of production brine. These fluids are contaminated with heavy metals and low-level radioactive materials that naturally occur in deep shale formations.

In its response to our previous comments, the DEC gave no reply to those concerns:

Response 3898:

The revised regulations at 750-3 prohibit the discharge of flowback to the ground, but allow the discharge of drilling fluids, formation fluids and production brine in accordance with the terms and conditions of a BUD. The analysis for the BUD considers the geographic area and/or specific roads on which the production brine can be spread and would take into account impacts to water supply bodies or aquifers in the area. If approved, the BUD would restrict the quantity of brine spread to minimize runoff of excess brine a nd potential impact to ground and surface waters. Within the Department, the Division of Materials Management is responsible for the issuance of BUDs.

 

In its non-response, DEC provides no references to scientific research. In fact, no studies have ever been done. There are no studies on the toxicology of production brine. There are no studies on the impact of production brine on the water quality of lakes and streams. No studies have ever investigated the potential radiation exposure to humans (or grazing dairy cows) from the routine use of production brine as road salt.

Nevertheless, there are some thoughts about all of the above that we might wish to provide the DEC. They come from Ivan White, staff scientist for the National Council on Radiation Protection (a Congressionally chartered agency charged with authority and responsibility to coordinate public information on radiation protections and measurements). Here are excerpts from his report, “Consideration of Radiation in Hazardous Waste Produced from Horizontal Hydrofracking”:

 

If radioactive waste is spread on…a paved road with a crown, some of the waste will inevitably run off the road and finds its way into a waterway or onto grazing fields or crops with resulting pathways. The radioactivity in the waste remaining on the road will be resuspended by the traffic into the air with the resulting direct exposures to humans…

Waste spread on a dirt road is adsorbed by the dirt. When the dirt dries out, the radioactive waste is resuspended in the dust from the road…The dust is inhaled by humans and animals and deposited on local vegetation…

The radiation dose from a single truck travelling 40 miles per hour on a dirt road in rural New York State may appear to be insignificant, but the cumulative dose from 30 to 40 years of trucks could very easily be significant…

 

Other points to consider as you compose your comment:

 

    • In November, Westchester County Board of Legislators voted unanimously to ban the use of production brine on county roads.

 

    • The County of Ulster also has a ban: “The Hydraulic Fracturing Brine Prohibition Act.”

 

    • A 2012 geochemical study found that fracking wastewater contains concentrations of radium and barium that are hundreds of times higher than the U.S. drinking water standards.

 

  • The “Beatles ’65″ lead-off songs were “No Reply” and “I’m a Loser.”

 

 

And don’t forget to include an alter call to the DEC employee who is tasked with reading comments. Something like–

To whomever is reading these words: Help us. 19.5 million people live in New York State, and we all need clean water. Please come forward, speak out, and save lives. You will be a hero to us all.

Whistleblowers can mail information anonymously to–

PO Box 6956
450 Central Ave.
Albany, NY 12206

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 8

When: View in Calendar » January 8, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

 

FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 8th

Today is day 28 in the regs comment calendar. On this date in 1877, Crazy Horse and his warriors engaged the U.S. Calvary in the final battle of a war against recurring white invasions into Lakota territory. Even though, six months earlier, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull had overwhelmed General George Custer and his army at the Battle of Little Bighorn, victory was not with the Lakota on January 8th. His people starving and cold, Crazy Horse forsook Montana Territory and surrendered in Nebraska.

The land defended so ferociously by Crazy Horse is now under lease to the oil and gas industry, as I saw firsthand when I traveled to eastern Montana in summer 2011.

Our topic today is invasive species. Let’s start with plantain—the weed with oval leaves and knobby spikes that grows from the cracks of a thousand sidewalks. Plantain is a European species, whose seeds arrived in America unintentionally, perhaps caught in the seams of Puritanical clothing. Establishing itself when forests are cleared or soil trampled, plantain was called “white man’s footprint” by native Americans. Where the English walked, plantain followed.

Some invasive species bring serious economic consequences—along with threats to health and safety. Invasive aquatic species can block water intake pipes, tangle up motor boats, and smell horrible. These effects create problems for irrigation, hydropower, fisheries, tourism, and shoreline real estate.

On land, invasive species can increase the risk for fire, as when phragmites (common reed) takes over. Invasive insects (the Asian long-horned beetle and the emerald ash borer are two) can weaken trees, create risk of falling limbs, interfere with the flow of sap, and harm maple syrup production.

New York State takes very seriously the threat of invasion by non-native plants and animals. The New York Invasive Species Council and Invasive Species Advisory Committee were created in 2007 to classify such species, combat those already present in our state, and prevent future invaders. The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse, a project administered by Cornell Cooperative Extension with an assist from NY DEC, runs a public education program.

To slow the invasion of aquatic aliens, New York State limits felt-soled wading boots and issues directives for the scrupulous cleaning of all fishing gear and boats. (Even the family dog is not supposed to jump—still wet—from one New York lake into another without a thorough scrubbing first.)

To combat terrestrial invaders, quarantines are slapped on lumber, and the movement of firewood is restricted—as all campers know.

Invasive species are much more likely to get a foothold when ecosystems are disturbed and stressed. Drilling and fracking operations are inherently disturbing and stressful to ecosystems, if only because 3 to 20 acres of land must be bulldozed for every wellpad—and additional land cleared for access roads and pipelines. What plan is put in place by the revised regs put to prevent intrusions by invasive species?

There are two mentions of invasive species in the regs. One requires the keeping of a list:

Section 560.3(a) Application Requirements

In addition to the requirements found in Part 552 of this Title, an application for a permit to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well subject to this Part shall contain information specified on a department-approved form including:

(16) a list of invasive species found at the well site and description of the best management practices which will be used for preventing the spread of these invasive species, including measures being used to prevent new invasive species from being transported to the site;

 

And the other requires the creation of a map:

Section 560.3(c) Mapping requirements

With each application for a permit to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well subject to this Part, the owner or operator shall provide:

(3) a map at a scale specified by the department showing the location and identity of all occurrences of invasive species within the proposed well site,

 

And there is also this mention of an invasive species management plan in the corollary Regulatory Impact Statement:

Section 560.6 of the proposed rules contains detailed well construction and operational requirements for HVHF wells and separate subdivisions are included in the rule to specify requirements for: site preparation; site maintenance, such as the design standards for reserve pits; drilling, hydraulic fracturing and flowback, such as the need for intermediate casing and monitoring requirements during fracturing operations; and reclamation requirements that specify how wastes generated on the well pad should be managed and further specifying that reclamation of the well site should be consistent with an invasive species management plan.

 

In other words, industry gets to come up with the plan. The regs provide no parameters. If the operator wishes to base a plan around the idea of, say, repeatedly blasting a fog of herbicides and pesticides at the offending organisms, there is nothing in the regs to prevent that.

The regs do not provide for assessment of the plan. It is not required to work. If best management practices combined with list-keeping and map-making fail to halt the encroachment of invasive species, no consequences ensue to the driller.

The regs only address invasive species near the well pad site. The regs overlook the possibility of invasive aquatic species introduced during water removals, transfers, and discharges.

Dunkard Creek in West Virginia was taken over by an invasive “golden algae” after drilling companies illegally dumped briny wastewater there. This species, normally found in brackish waters in Texas, may have hitchhiked in on gas drilling equipment from out of state. All other living organisms in Dunkard Creek—fish, mussels, and salamanders—died.

At least two noxious aquatic species have already established a toehold in New York State waterways. One is didymo, otherwise known as rock snot. It’s a single-celled algae so named because it makes a stony brook look like, well, that kid in your kindergarten class who lacked Kleenix skills. Rock snot covers streambeds with thick, mucus-y layers and so interferes with fish foraging and reproduction.

The other is hydrilla. Originally imported as an aquarium plant, it is spread by fragments carried from one lake to another. Hydrilla can cover a whole lake in green dreadlocks, blocking sunlight and killing fish. It also makes swimming an entirely unpleasant experience.

Nothing in the regs compels drillers to follow the DEC-sponsored rules that boaters and anglers must comply with—namely, scrupulous cleaning and drying of holding tanks and equipment, along with clothing and footwear.

Changes in microclimate are often drivers of alien species incursions. When forests are fragmented, light levels and wind speed increase. The regs do not address this phenomenon, even though forest fragmentation is a known consequence of fracking.

The regulatory impact statement does not consider the economic impact of invasive species introduced by fracking. Weeds or insect pests carried by trucks or construction equipment can flourish in disturbed areas around wellpads and, from there, spread to nearby agricultural fields.

Many invasive species are impossible to eradicate. According to the New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse:

The best method for controlling garlic mustard, or any other invasive plant, is to prevent its establishment. Disturbances in the forest understory that would allow for rapid invasion should be minimized. This would include limiting foot traffic, grazing, and erosion-causing activities. Monitoring the forest understory and removing any garlic mustard plants as soon as they are introduced will help to prevent the establishment and spread of this invader.

 

Why are individuals advised to limit foot traffic through forests so as not to disturb the understory while drillers are allowed to bulldoze and fragment at will?

Fracking will increase the colonization of New York State by invasive species. It is unavoidable, and the regs do nothing to mitigate this problem. From loss of swimming and fishing to impacts on tourism and farming, there will be economic consequences. What are they?

 

(And don’t forget to add our whistleblower message):

Dear DEC reader,

Please do the right thing and courageously speak out on the flawed, corrupt process that is bringing fracking to New York. Children’s lives depend on public servants speaking out. We will support you. Whistleblowers can send information anonymously to–

PO Box 6956
450 Central Ave.
Albany, NY 12206

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 7

When: View in Calendar » January 7, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 7th

Today is day 27 in the regs comment calendar. On this date in 1975, the prestigious Bollington Prize was awarded to upstate New York’s own A.R. Ammons, a nature poet who wove both scientific data and ecstatic praise into his verse. As poet-in-residence at Cornell University, Ammons was fascinated with the shifting fluidities of biological systems, and he occasionally typed very long poems on scrolls of adding machine paper. Ammons wrote, “though I have looked everywhere / I can find nothing lowly / in the universe.”

Ammons is also the author of my very favorite two-line poem:

Their Sex Life

One failure on
Top of another

 

Although he died ten years earlier, I feel certain Archie Ammons would have enjoyed the findings of a 2011 paper, “Life in the Deep Subsurface,” published in the journal Geology, which reveals that life extends far deeper into the dark heart of the planet than geologists presumed possible just a few decades ago. As it turns out, the radioactive, magma-warmed rocks a mile below our feet house complex communities of organisms: “life in the deep subsurface is ubiquitous and comprises a larger proportion of the biomass on Earth.”

Geologists now believe that, by weight, more than half of all life on Earth likely lies within deep geological strata. That’s important to know. That much biomass means that below-ground organisms almost certainly play a role in the global carbon cycle and may also very likely participate—in ways we don’t yet understand—in regulating the Earth’s climate system.

This underground microflora consists of bacteria, fungal filaments, and an ancient domain of life called Archaea. All these need to be killed off during fracking operations because these microbes can feed on the fracking gels and proliferate inside the well casings, thus interfering with the flow of gas. The industry name for this phenomenon is bio-fouling.

Along with deep-life organisms, the water used to frack a well can also contain “lowly” life forms—especially if that water is sucked out of rivers, streams, or lakes. These surface microbes, too, can proliferate in the warm temperatures a mile below and sheathe the inside of well casings.

The industry solution to bio-fouling is biocides: potent, all-purpose poisons that are added to fracking fluid to wipe out all living organisms in the well and in the bedrock—whether they originate from the sunlit surface or are indigenous to the deep, dark shale. Biocides are substances used to kill living things. Of all the toxic chemicals in fracking fluids, biocides are the most lethal.

Section 560.69(c)(9) Well Construction and Operation: Drilling, Hydraulic Fracturing and Flowback

Only biocides registered for use in New York may be used for any operation at the well site. Products must be properly labeled, and the label must be kept on-site during application and storage.

 

According to industry, biocides represent about .001 percent of fracking fluid’s total volume.

If 3 to 5 million gallons of fluid are used for a single frack job, 30-50 gallons of biocide are poured down every gas well and forced into the cracks of the fractured shale. That’s a bathtub of poison with every frack.

Biocides registered for New York State are found within this list of NYS registered pesticides.

Questions to ponder:

 

    • What happens to the biocides during a chemical spill, blowout, or a well casing leak?

 

    • Are ALL deep-life bacteria, Arachaea, and fungus killed by biocides? Might some still be alive when the fracking flowback comes up to the surface? If so, could these species colonize our drinking water? Could they become invasive in rivers or lakes? Are they pathogenic?

 

    • If fracking flowback waste is run through municipal sewage treatment plants, what happens to the biocides? Will they kill off the beneficial microbes used to break down organic matter? (If so, increased nitrogen will be sent downstream, resulting in algal blooms and dead zones.)

 

    • Does the mass poisoning of deep-life ecosystems bring unintended consequences for human life?

 

    • If the DEC has no answers to above questions, can it be said that this reg provides sufficient protection for public health and environmental integrity?

 

  • What would A.R. Ammons say?

 

 

And don’t forget to open or close your submission with a direct plea to the DEC employees whose job it is to read our comments. Something like—

To those in the DEC who read this, please consider raising your voice and speaking out for the health of children across the state and generations to come. Expose the nature of the process going on behind the scenes and the disregard for science.

Whistleblowers can mail information anonymously to–

PO Box 6956
450 Central Ave.
Albany, NY 12206

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 6

When: View in Calendar » January 6, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 6th

Today is day 26 in the regs comment calendar. In the Western Christian calendar it is also Epiphany, which commemorates the arrival of the three Magi and a miracle made manifest. More generally, “epiphany” refers to any profound revelation.

Even DEC employees can have epiphanies. Out of a belief that many good people work within that agency—including those who are going to be put to work reading our many comments—I’m going to suggest that we begin today, and all five days remaining until the Jan. 11 deadline, with a direct appeal to our readers.

Some employees in the DEC must have direct knowledge about gas industry influence on DEC decision-making. Somebody must know about what really happened to all the previous comments we submitted on the sGEIS, about the ongoing secret health review, and about all manner of things related to the process by which these regs were released in the first place. There must be DEC employees with access to documents and emails that contain, well, profound revelations.

I have in mind something like this:

Dear DEC comment reader,

Whoever is reading this, please speak out. Be a whistleblower. Save the lives of many New Yorkers and the health of generations to come. You will find great support among a plurality of New Yorkers who know the truth about this practice. You will be a hero.

 

And, because Frack Action has set up a dedicated post office box for this purpose, let’s also include the following information on this and all future comments:

Whistleblowers can mail information anonymously to–
PO Box 6956
450 Central Ave.
Albany, NY 12206

 

And with epiphanies in mind, let’s now turn out attention to cement well casings.

Engineers once presumed that, absent a shoddy cementing job, well casings provided a permanent, unbreachable barrier between the fractured shale and the drinking water aquifers above. But revelations and manifestations have occurred.

First, some basics: After a borehole is drilled from the surface of the earth all the way down to the gas-containing shale—which can be a mile-long hole—steel pipe is lowered into it. Once assembled, it’s called a casing string. The casing string then cemented in place to stabilize the wellbore and—importantly, for our conversation—to seal off the deep shale, which is full of brine, radioactivity, hydocarbons like butane and benzene, and, of course, methane—from the aquifers that lie above it.

Gas wells can have multiple layers of casing string and cement all nested inside of each other. The outermost layer of cement is called surface casing. The regs expound in great detail about how exactly well casings are to be created.

What the regs do not address is failures of well casing integrity over time. Neither do they provide protocols for the identification and repair of compromised casings. Let’s comment about the shocking absence of such regulations by attaching our complaints to Section 560, which govern Operations Associated with High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing.

Here below are two subsections that lay out the regs for casing and cementing. (If you are truly interested in cement rules, there are eight other subsections to peruse.)

Section 560(c)(10)(ix,x)

(ix) after the cement is pumped, the owner or operator must wait on cement (WOC) until the cement achieves a calculated (e.g., performance chart) compressive strength of at least 500 pounds per square inch gage (psig), and a minimum WOC time of 8 hours before the casing is disturbed in any way, including installation of a blowout preventer or a rig skid. The owner or operator may request a waiver from the department from the required WOC time if the owner or operator has bench tested the actual cement batch and blend using mix water from the actual source for the job, and determined that 8 hours is not required to reach a compressive strength of 500 psig; and

(x) a copy of the cement job log for any cemented casing string in the well must be available to the department at the well site during drilling operations, and thereafter available to the department upon request. The owner or operator must provide such log to the department upon request at any time during the period up to and including five years after the well is permanently plugged and abandoned consistent with Part 555 of this Title. For multi-well pads, the five-year term specified in this paragraph shall begin after the last well subject to Part 552 of this Title is permanently plugged and abandoned pursuant to a plugging permit issued by the department.

 

In other words, there are rules to ensure that the newly poured cement sleeve, once it’s hardened, can withstand pressure before other hardware can be installed. And there are rules about how to keep a record of all the cementing work, but there are no requirements to monitor cement well casings over time to check for corrosion, stress cracks, or what the industry calls “microannuli.”

A microannulus is a small gap between the cement sheath and the steel pipe inside it. It can be caused by movement, temperature changes, and changing stresses in the wellbore.

Microannuli are a big deal. Industry studies have found that gas wells routinely develop leaks that allow gas and other vaporous contaminant to migrate from the shale into overlying water supplies. Sustained leakage through microannuli was the route. These can develop over time and after repeated exposures to the extreme pressures of fracking, so that even a flawless cement job can end up as a compromised well casing.

Data from in Pennsylvania show that about 6-7% of new wells drilled in each of the past three years have compromised structural integrity. Over time, these failures rates, as shown by the industry’s own studies, reach very high levels: fifty percent over 30 years.

This risk increases over time as the cement ages and shrinks. Moreover, repeated re-fracking of wells—which requires pressures exceeding 7,000 pounds per square inch and which induce small-scale seismic events—can sabotage the structural integrity of cement well casings further.

In addition to microannuli, cement well casings leak from the outside—when the surface casing shrinks back from the surrounding rock. No technological fix is possible, no matter how many layers of steel cement are laid down. Cement is simply not able to serve as an immortal barrier, forever preventing volatile toxicants contained within the shale bedrock from entering overlying groundwater resources. The title of this article posted on an industry website openly admits the problem: “Shale Gas Casing and Cementation Will Fail, but When?”

As a result of these failures in the integrity of cement, toxic chemicals and substances can be released into the environment—if not right away, then in generations to come.

This is a fundamental problem. Until there are proven ways to prevent well casing failures that last forever, the DEC should permit no fracking in New York State. To do otherwise is to lay time bombs under the earth.

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 5

When: View in Calendar » January 5, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 5th

Today is day 25 in the regs comment calendar. And tonight is Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In ancient times, celebrants went out on this night to wassail their apple trees—meaning to wish them good health and good blossoming in the year to come—all the while consuming an alcoholic cider of the same name. And they also appointed a Lord of Misrule to preside over the annual Feast of Fools.

All of which puts us in the right frame of mind for today’s topic: compulsory integration.

Also known as forced pooling, compulsory integration means that a landowner can’t refuse to participate in a fracking operation if most of the neighbors have already signed leases with a gas company. In essence, it’s a legally enforced surrender of subterranean property rights.

Compulsory integration is similar to eminent domain, which occurs when the government seizes private land for some public purpose, such as the construction of a highway or a school. However, in this case, a private company is doing the seizing and is using the property to make profits, while the government’s role is to supervise the transaction.

Typically, if you are forced to participate in a gas well, you can do so as either a partner in the well itself or as a royalty interest owner. Compulsory integration does not give the gas company right of access to the surface of your property (as does voluntarily signing a lease), but it does allow the gas company to tunnel sideways under your property with lateral wellbores, blow apart your bedrock, and inject the shards with toxic chemicals.

Compulsory integration dates back to the days when large pools of free-flowing oil or gas were still being discovered. A single pool that extended below many different properties created a dilemma: if everyone erected a drill rig on their own property, the wells could end up too close together and create a fire hazard that would endanger everyone. But if only one well went in, it could drain a common pool that sat beneath the property of many, enriching one person while everyone else’s share of the fossil fuel flowed out their neighbor’s well. Compulsory integration was the legal solution: compel all the landowners who lived above a common pool of oil to share one well to drain the whole pool and then share the profits.

Applying compulsory integration to horizontal fracking, however, is something else altogether. The gas is not in a pool; it doesn’t flow on its own. Instead, it’s trapped as tiny bubbles inside of the bedrock itself. To force the gas to the surface, the rock has to be shattered. To do that, gas drillers have to build infrastructure—a mile-long lateral wellbore—and send it directly under everyone’s property, whether everyone wants a lateral well bore tunneling under their house—or drinking water well or barn—or not.

Compulsory integration for gas drilling was codified in New York State in 2005 with the passage of Bill S5553-B, which amended Title 9 of Article 23 of the Environmental Conservation Law. And it was a bill that was drafted by the gas industry. The law says that if a drilling company can obtain leases on at least 60 percent of the area within the spacing unit, it can force those who say no to leasing to join against their will. (A spacing unit is all the area to be drained by a single well. It’s typically 640 acres, which is a square mile. In order to receive a permit to drill from the DEC, the operator of the well has to demonstrate that it has made the necessary arrangements with all the property owners in that area.)

What do the regs have to say about compulsory integration? There is only one substantive mention, and that appears not in the regs itself but in a corollary document that summarizes the main themes of the 650 comments that were received a year ago on the first draft of the regs. The Assessment of Public Comments Summary notes that last year’s public comments did, in fact, include concerns about compulsory integration. It then goes on to assert that the topic is “beyond the scope of this proposed rulemaking” because it is prescribed by statute. So, our earlier comments on compulsory integration did not result in any amendments to the revised regs.

I believe there is value in raising the issue again—if only to comment on the DEC’s logic for dismissing us the first time. We’ll attach our thoughts to that section of the regs that governs spacing units.

Section 553.3 Well Spacing

(a) The department shall issue a permit to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well, if all applicable requirements are met and the proposed spacing unit conforms to statewide spacing provided in section 553.1 of this Part.

(b) For wells which meet statewide spacing requirements, issuance of a permit to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well shall establish the spacing unit for the permitted well.

 

Four questions to ponder as you compose your comment:

 

    • Is it okay that “an applicable requirement” for a drilling permit includes the forced conscription of up to 40 percent of upstate New York landowners into the gas extraction business?

 

    • Exactly why is the construction of a sideways tunnel beneath someone’s home not an act of trespassing?

 

    • Dumping sand, toxic chemicals, and polluted water on the surface of someone else’s property would be considered a violation of property rights. Why is it okay to deposit these things underneath?

 

  • Compulsory integration puts land under lease to the gas industry that would otherwise not be used to for fossil fuel extraction. In an age of climate change, how is this in the public interest? And what about the landowner who would like to conserve his or her gas for future generations?

 

 

Two excerpts:

 

    • “All mortgages prohibit hazardous activity and hazardous substances on the property. The involuntary integration of properties into hazardous industrial sites risks the foreclosures of thousands of mortgages and can only serve to further depress construction starts in an already unstable economy” (A Critical Review of the Compulsory Integration Requirement, Nov. 2011).

 

  • “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” (Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

 

 

And one Shakespearean quote:

“If this were play’d upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”

–Fabian, in Twelfth Night, a play in which everyone is fooled, normal life is turned upside down, and reality no longer makes sense. Except that it’s really funny and no one gets hurt.

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 4

When: View in Calendar » January 4, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 4th

Today is day 24 in the regs comment calendar. It’s also the Eleventh Day of Christmas. Alas, almost none of us are still out making merry, as in days of old when people actually knew how to throw a twelve-day party (to commemorate a line-up of saints). But, thanks to the lyrics of a catchy, medieval carol, we all know about the eleven pipers piping. And we ALL know ALL the lyrics because “Twelve Days of Christmas” is written as a “cumulative song,” which means new verses are piled atop the old ones, in a form of progressive addition, creating a repeating list of words and a repeating melodic phrase.

Cumulative songs lend themselves to memorization, which makes them useful as mnemonic devices. Many Jewish songs, in both Hebrew and Yiddish, are cumulative, including Echad Mi Yode’a, which is sung at Passover Seders.

Our focus today is cumulative impacts. This refers to the total harm to the environment that results from combinations of assaults and stressors over time. The concept of cumulative impacts acknowledges that adverse effects can add up until they surpass the limits of a system’s ability to withstand them. (Or, you might say, until the system can no longer forget them.)

Looking at cumulative impacts is important because many catastrophes can’t be predicted by considering the effects of individual stressors in isolation from each other. To use a time-honored example: you could spend a long time examining single pieces of straw and conclude that they pose no significant threat to the skeletal integrity of camels. If so, you might never anticipate that piling on a dozen bales will break the camel’s back. What matters is not the last straw but the cumulative impact of all of them plus the camel driver and his carry-on luggage. And a partridge in a pear tree.

The failure of the environmental impact statement—the sGEIS—to consider the cumulative impacts of drilling and fracking operations was the focus of many withering criticisms during the two different comment periods for that draft document. How do the regulations address cumulative impacts? They do not. At all.

Let’s attach our comments to Section 560.3, which addresses what information needs to be submitted for DEC review as part of an application to drill. Just skim this passage over quickly:

Section 560.3 Application Requirements, Procedures and Fees

(a) Application requirements. In addition to the requirements found in Part 552 of this Title, an application for a permit to drill, deepen, plug back or convert a well subject to this Part shall contain information specified on a department-approved form including:

(1) measured from the ground surface, the minimum depth to the top of the objective formation for the entire proposed length of the wellbore;

(2) the estimated maximum depth and elevation of bottom of potential fresh water, and the basis for such estimate (water well information, other well information, previous drilling on the well pad, published or private reports, or other department-approved source);

(3) the proposed total volume of water-based fluid, including a breakdown of individual volumes of fresh water and other water-based fluids, to be used in hydraulic fracturing and the basis for the estimate of proposed total volume of fluid;

(4) the proposed source or sources of fresh water and other water-based fluids and the status of approvals needed to withdraw any such water…

 

Section 560.3 goes on and on like this for many pages, but what should be apparent is that the DEC collects information from operators—and grants permits—on a one-well-at-a-time basis. These regs do not require operators to submit their entire drilling plan for review (which is the requirement in other states, including Colorado). This straw-by-straw approach means there is no regulatory structure for the cumulative industrialized impact of the thousands of wells that would be proliferating across the landscape each year for the next 30 years.

Death by a thousand cuts would be another name for the likely outcome.

Neither do the regs attempt to constrain the cumulative impact of drilling infrastructure: the maze of pipelines, access roads, condensers, compressor stations, chemical storage depots, waste pits, and frack sand processing facilities that will also spread out across a large, regional landscape. Without considering the entire gas extraction and delivery process over its entire lifespan, there is no way to ensure the integrity of New York’s ecosystems—or indeed prevent their wholesale collapse.

And because the regs offer no framework for controlling or even measuring the sum total of all the resulting air and water pollution, there is also no way to ensure that public health is protected.

So, there are two ways to go in your comment for today:

1) You could focus on the failure of the regs to address the cumulative impact of fracking on human health. You could ask the DEC, for example, how their staff has analyzed the impact of noise pollution from drilling plus high traffic density plus loss of green space for exercise and recreation. In this context, cumulative impacts refers to

“the exposures, public health or environmental effects from the combined emissions and discharges, in a geographic area, including environmental pollution from all sources, whether single or multi-media, routinely, accidentally, or otherwise released. Impacts will take into account sensitive populations and socio-economic factors.”

If you or members of your family have a personal history of cancer—as do I—you may consider choosing this tack. The best science indicates that cancer is the end result of multiple stressors adding together over time to alter the genetic signaling pathways within our cells. When it comes to cancer, the cumulative impact of many small straws is what breaks the camel’s back. And fracking, which introduces cancer risks from the start and into perpetuity, brings with it a lot of straws—from radium and radon to benzene and diesel exhaust.

2) Alternatively, you could elaborate on the failure of the regs to address the cumulative impact of fracking on New York’s environment. What will happen if pollination systems fall apart because of forest fragmentation? What will happen if the total sediment load from multiple well sites within a single watershed silts up a trout stream to the point where fish gills can no longer function? There is no indication from these regs that any meaningful effort has be made to prevent habitats from becoming so fragmented that species simply disappear.

Chillingly, the DEC predicted as much in the most recent version of the sGEIS:

“Significant adverse impacts to habitats, wildlife, and biodiversity from site disturbance associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the area underlain by the Marcellus Shale in New York will be unavoidable…”(page 7-77)

In making this admission, the DEC abdicates its core purpose: to conserve the environment upon which all of us—the swans a swimming and the maids a milking—depend. And that’s shameful.

DEC, do your job. If you can’t regulate fracking in a way that avoids “significant adverse impacts,” then stand up and say we can’t frack.

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation

Sandra’s 30 Days of Fracking Regs: January 3

When: View in Calendar » January 3, 2013 (all-day)
Categories: Counties Interstate
Tags: 30 Days of Fracking Regs antifracking comment Sandra Steingraber

FRACKING REG ISSUE – JANUARY 3rd

Today is day 23 in the regs comment calendar. On this date in 1977, Apple Computer was incorporated. Thirty-six years later, we walk around with libraries in our pockets. iPod. iPhone. iPad. Killer apps. Content syncing.

In awe of information technology, let’s turn to Section 560.5(f) in the regs, which specifies how gas well operators are to keep records on the disposal of their waste.

Recall that there is a lot of it and it comes in four varieties:

 

    • broken rocks removed from the bore hole (drill cuttings);

 

    • chemical goop and clay used to lubricate the drill bit (drilling muds);

 

  • fracking fluid that spews up out of the hole immediately after a well is fracked (flowback fluid);
  • fracking fluid that continues to burble up from the hole after the well is attached to a pipeline and is producing gas (production fluid).

 

Recall also the federal exemptions. Chemicals used in fracking operations are allowed to remain trade secrets. In addition, fracking waste products are allowed to escape classification as hazardous waste even though, chemically speaking, they’re hazardous. (Drill cuttings are radioactive. Drilling muds are toxic. Fracking fluids are full of salts, heavy metals, solvents, and biocides.) Because of this second exemption, fracking waste can be treated like ordinary industrial waste.

And, finally, recall Section 560.7: the operator gets to decide how to dispose of the wastes. Since we’ve already commented on possible downside of letting the gas industry invent the plan for waste disposal, let’s now look at how the operator will document the execution of its plan:

Section 560.5(f) Testing, Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

A Drilling and Production Waste Tracking Form must be completed and such completed forms shall be retained for three years by the owner or operator, transporter and destination facility for any used drilling mud, flowback water, production brine and drill cuttings removed from the well site and must be made available to the department upon request during this period. For any such waste disposed instead of recycled or reused, the owner or operator must make the completed Drilling and Production Waste Tracking Form available to the public on the owner’s or operator’s publically available website within 30 days of receipt of the waste by the disposal facility. Upon department request, the owner or operator shall be responsible for obtaining and providing to the department a copy of any completed Drilling and Production Waste Tracking Form with the signatures of the transporter and destination facility for any such waste removed from a well site covered by a permit to drill issued to the owner or operator pursuant to Part 552 of this Title.

 

In other words, the owner or operator must post onto its website a tracking document for all the waste that leaves the site. The owner or operator has 30 days after the final deposition of waste to do so. That information must stay on the website for three years. The signatures of the transporter and receiver of the waste are not required unless the DEC asks for them.

Some questions to consider as you compose your comment:

By what definition is this tracking? Tracking is GPS and FedEx. Tracking is radio collars on mountain lions. The post office and the pizza delivery guy offer tracking. But once something has been buried in the ground for 30 days, we are no longer tracking it.

Why, in the age of iCloud, does uploading data to a website require a month? By point of comparison, the Pony Express required only 10 days to deliver a letter on horseback from Missouri to California. (And its riders were also required to renounce gambling, drinking, and use of profane language. Evidence-based reasons suggest the same is not true for employees of the gas industry.)

Why are the records allowed to disappear after three years? The consequence will be that the generations of New Yorkers who come after us—or we ourselves ten years hence—will have no knowledge of where all the fracking waste is buried.

This reg has no specific requirement for the disposal facilities. It does not specify what kind of vehicle can be used for transporting the waste. There are no recording requirements for how much waste is loaded into the vehicle. There are no recording requirements for how much waste is unloaded from the vehicle at its destination. Nor for the route that the vehicle will take along the way.

Why not? Is there a spreadsheet programming problem in the waste hauling industry?

And finally, can these regs prevent this crime in Greene County, PA from happening here in New York State?

Attorney general appeals sentence for wastewater dumping

Dec. 28, 2012—The state attorney general’s office filed an appeal with the state Superior Court this week, claiming Greene County Judge Farley Toothman’s probationary sentence given to Robert Allan Shipman was unreasonable and “did not fit the crime”…

Shipman, of New Freeport, was accused of illegally dumping drilling wastewater, sewage sludge and restaurant grease into area streams, a mine shaft and on various properties throughout the area between 2003 and 2009.

He also was accused of stealing more than $250,000 by overbilling companies that hired him to haul and dispose of wastewater by-products.

Shipman pleaded guilty in February to two counts each of theft, conspiracy, receiving stolen property and tampering with public records, 10 counts of unlawful conduct and eight counts of pollution of waters…

Visit the 30 Days of Fracking Regs page and submit a comment on this regulation