Saturday, December 31, 2011


Yes, I say "from deep well injection" without hesitation. The company concerned with disposal of tens of millions of gallons of frack chemicals deep underground has now shut down the well. The last earthquake was on Christmas Eve. This is the 11th earthquake in 2011. True to say that horizontal  fracking (hydraulic fracturing of the shale) probably does not cause earthquakes in itself but the disposal of hundreds of millions of gallons of chemical-and-radiation-laced frack waste into deep wells DOES cause earthquakes. The same issues are occurring in Oklahoma, North Texas, Arkansas.. and even the UK (where Cuadrilla Resources actually ADMITTED that deep well injection of frack waste DID cause earthquakes). 

31st Dec 2011 

Northeast Ohio rocked by 11th earthquake linked to Youngstown injection wells

Barbara Forney’s Christmas tree was flattened on Saturday afternoon in her West Akron house.
“It was like someone pushed it down,” the 79-year-old woman said.

It had been standing by the fireplace in her living room until an earthquake tied to injection wells near Youngstown rumbled across Northeast Ohio.

The 4.0-magnitude quake was centered near Youngstown, reported the U.S. Geological Survey and the Ohio Earthquake Information Center.

The earthquake at 3:05 p.m. was felt as far away as Michigan, Ontario, Pennsylvania and New York, reported Michael C. Hansen, state geologist and coordinator of the Ohio Seismic Network, part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Geological Survey.

The quake was “a pretty good-sized one,” he said.

There were no initial reports of injuries or major damage, he said.

The quake was the 11th over the last eight months in Mahoning County, all within two miles of the injection wells, he said. Saturday’s quake was the largest yet.

A quake on Dec. 24 measured 2.4.

There is “little doubt” that the quake is linked to injection wells that the state and the owner agreed on Friday to shut down, Hansen said.

James Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, announced the closing of two injection wells in Youngstown Township owned by Northstar Disposal Services LLC and operated by D&L Energy Inc.

The order to close came despite the fact that the state has been unable to prove that the wells, which are 9,000 feet deep, are the cause of the earthquakes.

The wells were used to dispose of salty brine wastes from gas and oil drilling by pumping them under pressure into rock formations deep underground.

The wells are among 177 in Ohio. Drilling wastes from Ohio and Pennsylvania are being pumped in increasing volumes into the wells for permanent disposal.

Geologists have long suspected that injecting liquids into underground rock formations can trigger earthquakes along fault lines. The liquids allow rocks to flow more easily past each other.

Earthquakes have been linked to injection wells in Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas.

The Ohio closing order took effect at 5 p.m. Friday but there would still have been pressure inside the two wells that could have triggered the quake, Hansen said.

The latest quake appears to have been located about two- thirds of a mile from the injection wells and about 1.2 miles below ground, he said.

This quake shows all the similarities of the 10 previous Youngstown quakes in 2011, he said.

Ohio also worked with scientists from Columbia University who had installed four seismographs near the site.
The first two Youngstown earthquakes occurred on March 17 and measured 2.1 and 2.6.

The state became suspicious of the injection wells after the initial quakes, which are unusual events in the Youngstown area, he said.

Earthquakes smaller than 4.0 generally do little damage. A 4.0-magnitude quake would release 40 times the energy of a 2.7 magnitude quake.

Forney rode out the quake sitting on her couch.

She and friends were puzzled by what had happened. “We wanted to know: What is this?” she said. “What’s going on? We didn’t know. We just felt the trembling.”

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or


Ya know what, if I discovered I was being poisoned by Benzene, one of the most potent chemical carcinogens around, and arsenic, I think that I would be a little worried too! Those same frackers are already here in Nicholas County, WV and despite only minimal activity to date (you just wait until they've got their well pads up and running in and around Craigsville) I, and others, already possess evidence of their pollution that is already running down mountainsides above Richwood. 
Oh, and did you know that 186,000 acres of gas leases, just north-west of Summersville, adjacent to the town and US 19 have been consolidated by one company? Unregulated drainage of waste and chemicals from spills and frack-ponds will run right into Summersville Lake and of course the Lake will supply the 8 million gallons of fresh water per "frack" that this industry needs. This WILL BE West Virginia's next "Gasland". Is there ANYONE out there who cares?  What about the lives of the unborn? Many pollutants from this industry don't just cause cancer.. they also cause birth defects. Add that on to the effects of Radium 226! Number One.. if you still hold YOUR mineral rights, get informed before you sell them! 
Fracking and horizontal drilling of shales needs to be halted until the EPA finishes its studies in 2012. We do not need this gas right now anyway. The USA has a massive GLUT of natural gas which has forced the price down to around $3.00 per 1000 cf. BUT The industry is desperate to keep the investors happy so the aim is to export this resource as quickly as possible of course. 
India is paying around $18 per 1000 cf for example. THIS LINK is a good example of what happens when you start to export a resource.. yep.. you got it! Prices in the domestic market GO UP! 
"U.S. refineries exported a record amount of refined fuels (mainly gas/petrol and diesel) in 2011 to markets in South America, Central America and Europe. It was one reason why Americans spent a record amount on gasoline this year: SUPPLIES THAT MIGHT HAVE HELPED LOWER PRICES HAD BEEN SHIPPED ABROAD" Makes an entire mockery of the "DRILL BABY DRILL" crap that come from folks who simply don't know better.
Pennsylvania residents blame illness on natural gas extraction 

 Above: Land being excavated to hold waste water from a fracturing operation in Pennsylvania.

There is a lot of construction near Janet McIntyre's home in southwestern Pennsylvania. It's not new houses, but new industry: 10 gas wells, a compressor station and multiple drilling-waste ponds.

The state sits atop the nation’s largest deposit of natural gas known as the Marcellus Shale. What concerns McIntyre and her neighbors is an extraction process called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." It combines deep horizontal and vertical drilling with enormous amounts of water, chemicals and sand.

Water troubles

McIntyre never worried about her water before. When she looks out on the wooded rural landscape from her front porch she talks about her well water liked a cherished lost friend.  “We never ran out of water. We never had a problem with our water. It was cold coming out of the spigot just as if you went to a regular spring and got it. It was gorgeous water.”

Then one night McIntyre got sick. She had a bad headache and vomited. When her husband Fred went for a glass of water and turned on the spigot, it spewed out smelly foam.
“He hollers back, I think I know why we’re sick," she remembers. "There’s something wrong with our water.”

The McIntyres stopped drinking the well water.
Neighbor Kim McEvoy says her water turned black and she got sick too. “My fingernails were growing downward. My hair was falling out. I’d get dizzy.”

McEvoy and McIntyre complained to the gas company and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The gas company gave them bottled water.

'Unsafe levels'

Initial tests of McIntyre's well water showed unsafe levels of toluene, a volatile and toxic petrochemical that causes nausea and headaches. McEvoy's well water had arsenic. Now, months later, new company tests say the water is safe to drink, although trace chemicals are still present.

Bottled water deliveries end next month.
The two households get their water from private wells, like three million others who live in rural Pennsylvania. The state has no rules on the location, design, testing or treatment of private drinking-water wells. That means contamination could come from other sources like poor well construction or failing septic systems, or gas migrating naturally from adjacent rock or leaking from abandoned mines.
But McEvoy thinks the gas companies are responsible too.

Over the past year she and McIntyre have called on township officials, testified at local hearings, and joined in protests. They want the drilling stopped.

Fracking chemicals in water

Fracking is banned in and around the city of Pittsburgh, and it’s under a moratorium in the nearby states of New York and Maryland until health and environmental risks are assessed.
The battle continues on Capitol Hill. Ohio lawmaker Bob Gibbs, whose state stands to gain jobs and revenue from gas development, backs the industry. In a recent house hearing, Gibbs asked Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection director Michael Krancer about the state’s safety record.

Krancer testified that fracking has never caused a groundwater contamination problem. “Fracking simply doesn’t do that. And there’s still not a documented case,” he said.

Gibbs got the same reply from experts in Ohio and Oklahoma.
But a new draft report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disputes those claims. Preliminary results of the three-year federal study in Pavillion, Wyoming, show chemicals associated with hydraulic fracturing gas wells in the area are turning up in the ground water.
The EPA findings add weight to the complaints of Pennsylvania landowners like Kim McEvoy and Janet McIntyre.

Closer look

Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Campaign director with the Pennsylvania Chapter of Clean Water Action, advises a closer look at the industry. He says in 2010 alone, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited gas drillers 1,200 times for operational violations.

Eyes now are focused on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Beyond its Wyoming report, the EPA is completing a more comprehensive study, requested by Congress in 2010, of the impact hydraulic fracturing might be having on local water supplies. Initial findings are due in 2012.
In the meantime, Janet McIntyre plans to continue her fight to halt the gas drilling. “I want my water back. I want my air back. They took it from me and I want it back.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


.. But, but I thought that it was clean and efficient and that, according to the industry, shale fracturing/horizontal drilling is a safe and non-polluting energy source, and it's only the environutzis who make a song and dance about nothing!  

Well, I say let the gas companies, and NOT the taxpayer, fund research into "pollution solutions"  for the gas drillers and, until those solutions are found, HALT the permitting process in every state.. after all, we already have a massive glut of natural gas through over-production.. but hydro-fracking and horizontal drilling is a Ponzi scheme, as I have pointed out to you before. If new well drilling stops, then the whole house of cards comes tumbling down and the banksters, the bond and stock holders will lose their investments BIG time!

"Fracking fluids are believed to contain benzene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, methanol, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene, xylene, boric acid, hydrochloric acid, isopropanol, and diesel fuel. Drillers are usually not required to disclose the chemicals they use.

The brine that returns to the surface has been found to contain these chemicals and others, including up to 16,000 picoCuries per liter of radium-226 (pdf). The discharge limit in effluent for Radium 226 is 60 pCi/L, and the EPA’s drinking water standard is 5 pCi/L."

The Department of Energy issued a request for proposals this week offering $35 million for projects that will address environmental impacts of shale-gas development, including contamination of drinking water with fracking chemicals, development of more benign chemicals, and disposal of contaminated wastewater.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory also issued a second RFP offering $10 million to projects that will help small oil and gas producers extend the lifetime of existing fields—”a resource of relatively well-known quantity in a known location.”

The U.S. could transform itself from a fossil-fuel importer to a fossil-fuel exporter through the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of deep shale formations to release trapped natural gas, but these rapidly expanding operations have encountered swift opposition from neighbors and environmental groups concerned about the toxins released by such operations.

In hydraulic fracturing operations, drillers force water and a mixture of chemicals into wells to shatter the shale and free natural gas.

Fracking fluids are believed to contain benzene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, methanol, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene, xylene, boric acid, hydrochloric acid, isopropanol, and diesel fuel. Drillers are usually not required to disclose the chemicals they use.

The brine that returns to the surface has been found to contain these chemicals and others, including up to 16,000 picoCuries per liter of radium-226 (pdf). The discharge limit in effluent for Radium 226 is 60 pCi/L, and the EPA’s drinking water standard is 5 pCi/L.

The RFPs are available through the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America. The fracking proposals are due March 6 for implementation in October. The small producer proposals are due Feb. 17 for implementation in September.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011



I've been waiting for this to start, particularly in the areas of our country with deep mines such as West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. With the ongoing problems of poorly made or defective vertical well casings and the aquifer contamination issues, you can only imagine what could happen when a well casing that is under extremely high pressure and stress, particularly when a well that is being fracked, develops leaks in a worked coal seam.... 

Karlis Muehlenbachs, a geochemist at the University of Alberta, has stated that "The biggest problem is that half or more the wells drilled leak due to improper cement jobs or industry is not following best practices,"

"They'll frack each well up to 20 times. Each time the pressure will shudder and bang the pipes in the wellbore. The cement is hard and the steel is soft. If you do it all the time you are going to break bonds and cause leaks. It's a real major issue. "

Coal Mining Clashing With Gas Drilling

ALLEDONIA - Natural gas lease holders in some parts of Belmont and Monroe counties may not see any wells drilled for some time, as a dispute has formed between the area's gas drilling and mining companies.

Locally, many of the leases in the southern portion of Belmont County - especially those in York, Washington, Wayne, Goshen and Smith townships - and those in northern Monroe County lie in areas where Murray Energy Corp. has plans to mine for coal.

"Our coal ownership is superior to any oil and gas leases," said Robert Edward Murray, vice president for business development and external affairs for Murray Energy.

"We are indeed concerned about protecting our coal reserves and the jobs we provide from indiscriminate drilling for oil and gas."

Jeff Neu is the public and government affairs advisor for XTO Energy, which is a fully-owned subsidiary of global oil titan Exxon Mobil.

He declined to comment on Murray's statements. Chesapeake Energy spokesman Pete Kenworthy also did not wish to comment, nor did Hess Corp. spokeswoman Maripat Sexton.

Earlier this year, Hess took over leases previously signed with Marquette Exploration, while Chesapeake and XTO have been signing new leases throughout Belmont County for most of this year.

Thomas Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said Murray Energy has a right to protect coal shafts from drilling, but not the coal reserves.

Murray "is trying to block us from drilling where (the company) may decide to mine 20 years from now," said Stewart. "That's not the intent of the law. The law is set up to protect coal miners by preventing a gas rig from drilling into a mine shaft."

Stewart said Ohio law states that in coal-bearing townships, the coal interests can object to the location of a gas well if the well would endanger miner safety.

"This issue has been festering in Ohio for a long time," Stewart added. "It is a critical issue to the economic future of Belmont and Monroe counties."

Ohio's share of the Utica Shale may contain as many as 5.6 billion barrels of oil, said Terry Fleming, executive director of the Ohio Petroleum Council. Stewart believes the oil industry needs to show Ohio legislators and regulators with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources how much oil could mean for the state's future.

Murray "believes (its) mineral interests are superior," said Stewart. "The economic value of the Utica Shale has the potential to surpass the economic value of the coal industry to the state of Ohio many times over."

Noting his company is "spending thousands of hours in working with oil and gas interests in the state of Ohio," Murray said he wants the gas wells near his mining operations located in a manner so that there will be "no loss of oil and gas production."

Stewart said Ohio DNR officials are working to resolve the dispute between the coal and gas industries, but officials at the department could not be reached for comment.

"We do not view the coal industry as our enemy at all," Stewart emphasized. "They are our partners in ensuring the future of strong domestic energy production."

Monday, December 26, 2011


 "A local group called STand Up Now (STUN) takes issue with the horizontal fracturing wells and is holding regular community meetings about the developments. STUN says they initially reported the illegal (Bluescape) flare to the WVDEP"

God Bless the Fracktivists.. and of course  the endangered Indiana Bat :^)

An executive at Bluescape Resources (BRC) confirms that work is under way on a 52-mile pipeline that would transport gas from the Marcellus shale fields of Nicholas County to a connection point near Frametown in Braxton County.

“We have acquired all of the right of way, the permits and the interconnect agreement with the transmission company we plan to connect our pipeline with,” says Tom Grace, Bluescape’s executive vvice president. “We initiated the construction operations earlier this year.”

The pipeline will cost over $100 million and cross the Gauley and Elk rivers on its way to the company’s wells near Richwood, says Grace. He says no specific timeline for completion of the project is set.

“We are in the very early stages of proving the economic viability of this resource. It is a multi-year project, but if successful, this will open up an entire region of the state that before now has little economic development in terms of oil and gas,” he says.

The Dallas-based company currently has at least eight horizontal well permits in Nicholas County, approved by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. and Triana Engineering are also drilling wells to tap Marcellus shale gas in the county.

Three of Bluescape’s Nicholas County wells have flared illegally since the end of August, from a single flare stack. The DEP issued a notice of violation in late October to the company for not obtaining a permit. Law states that temporary flares can only burn for 30 days per year.

A response to the WVDEP’s notice of violation says that Bluescape has no choice but to burn the gas, since “to date no natural gas pipelines have been installed on or in the vicinity of the site.” The letter also states that two WVDEP officials told the company no permits were needed for the flare.

Grace says Bluescape’s plans for drilling further in Nicholas County are still unknown.

“We’ve drilled a handful and hope to test more next year. If things are positive, we will continue to drill next year in hopes of initiating commercial production in the coming years,” he says.

Bluescape has taken a risky position by initiating the pipeline before the economic viability of the Nicholas County shale fields is proven, says Grace.

“Building a pipeline for 52 miles across the state of West Virginia requires massive amounts of resources, both across construction and engineering and regulatory aspects. We felt it in our and the state’s best interests to initiate those operations sooner rather than later, at our risk, versus the alternative, which is to prove the economic viability and then wait for several years for the pipeline to be built,” he says.

“It is a risk, but we are confident that this project will work after we have sufficient data to prove the economic viability of well performance. ... Early returns are positive but inconclusive at this point.”

Grace says the drilling would create jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers, and have trickle-down effects in the local economy.

“Our drilling operations will lead to several hundreds of millions of dollars in investment over the next few years,” he says. “The secondary effects of that will be expanded economic growth in all sectors of the community. We will be providing an enormous tax base in addition to economic benefits of increased commerce and development in that area.”

The company is building the pipeline to meet the specifications required for transporting gas for multiple companies, says Grace.

A local group called STand Up Now (STUN) takes issue with the horizontal fracturing wells and is holding regular community meetings about the developments. STUN says they initially reported the illegal flare to the WVDEP.


ECCLES — A water separator tank exploded at a gas well location off Upper Sandlick Road near Eccles around 1 p.m. Christmas Day, according to the Trap Hill Volunteer Fire Department. Fire Chief Larry Reedy said there was a great deal of force behind the pressure explosion, sending bits of metal flying in all directions. A gas well tender was on site, but wasn’t injured. No other injuries were reported. Reedy said the blast was probably caused by a faulty valve, but the gas company will further investigate the source of the problem. The blast did not involve natural gas from the well. Reedy said the compressor station sustained extensive damage and a phone line on the main road was cut by the explosion. Callers reported the blast was heard as far away as Glen Jean in Fayette County and shook windows in homes in the Beckley and Bradley areas of Raleigh County.


Also from 15th December - the well is not a Marcellus well but a shallow gas site. However, I guess a valve is a valve is a valve.. and, like the above incident, sometimes they fail..


Three Cabot Gas workers were attending to a traditional natural gas well on the Samples Creek Mine property in eastern Kanawha County Thursday afternoon when a valve exploded.

Kanawha County Assistant Emergency Services Director C.W. Sigman says one worker was injured by shrapnel from the valve. He says the other two workers were uninjured but complaining of ringing ears.

Sigman says the initial explosion, which happened at around 3:15, was heard on Cabin Creek Road several miles away. He says there was no fireball or significant fire in connection with the incident. He says the gas well was quickly shut off.

Sigman says the crew was working on a water separator that separates the salt brine from the gas. They were working on a leaking valve when it exploded.

"A valve came apart and the shrapnel from that explosion hit a salt brine tank," Sigman said. "We lost some salt brine."

There were no burn injuries reported. The injured worker was taken by ambulance to CAMC General. He sustained minor injuries, officials said.

The Cabot Gas well is located on the backside of the Samples Mine property, which is owned by Patriot Coal.


Saturday, December 24, 2011


"They'll frack each well up to 20 times. Each time the pressure will shudder and bang the pipes in the wellbore. The cement is hard and the steel is soft. If you do it all the time you are going to break bonds and cause leaks. It's a real major issue. "
Industry spokesmen typically argue that if the drilling hole is properly cased with steel and cemented "the risk of any interaction between drinking water and fracturing fluid is significantly diminished."
But Muehlenbachs replies with another question: "Yes, but what happens if the job is not done right and how frequent are problems encountered?"


Friday, December 23, 2011


Great article sent by my friend John.  Yes, the fracking bubble may yet wreak comparable damage to the housing bubble on what’s left of the American economy.  But you cannot separate the economic bubble from its long-term and long-lasting effects on the environment.  Every well-pad that is drilled is a mini-mountain-top removal site.  Every pipeline begun is a slash and burn clearcut of forests.  Every "regulated" pollutant that goes into the air and water goes into every body and every part of the ecosystem in "allowable" limits that add up to multiple problems down the road and beyond those that are immediately apparent.

Fracking is deservedly called one of the half-dozen or so International Eco-Crimes.  It is nothing less than ecocide."Sitting on our backsides waiting for the space brothers or the Rapture to solve our problems is no more helpful than sitting on our backsides waiting for progress or the free market or  algal biodiesel farms to solve our problems. These two ends of the spectrum are twins—think of them as the Tweedledoom and Tweedledee of the imaginary Wonderland that dominates so much collective thinking these days—and getting past them, it seems to me, is an essential step on the way to less futile responses to a challenging future.

My vote goes with Tweedledoom, because people will continue to sit on their backsides in that boiling pot of water until, like the fabled frog, they boil to death without ever knowing what was going on.  It may not be apocalyptic, but just like "regulation" of deadly industrial practices, the end result is still the same. 

"...The shale gas bubble is the big economic story you haven’t heard about, though that will likely change in the near future. Behind all the hype about limitless shale gas are two simpler and noticeably less impressive realities. The first is that fracking technology applied to shale deposits can free up modest amounts of natural gas. The second and more important is that for the last half dozen years or so, at least, fracking technology applied to Wall Street has been able to free up immodest amounts of credit, providing the funding for an explosive growth in the natural gas drilling industry.

The intersection between those two facts has produced a classic bubble, with wildly inflated reserve estimates bringing a torrent of cheap credit to bear on an asset that can’t support the grandiose claims made for it. Because US mineral rights laws and Wall Street’s expectations both require firms that buy shale gas rights to produce right away, irrespective of the state of the market, natural gas is now selling for a price—wobbling around $3.50 per thousand cubic feet, last I checked—that covers much less than the cost of drilling and extraction. My readers will no doubt recall real estate speculators in the midst of the bubble feverishly buying rental properties even when the rent covered only a small fraction of the mortgage payments; the logic here is exactly the same....."


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Nick Griffin calls for halt to fracking:

Energy firm Cuadrilla Resources has announced plans to sink up to 800 wells in the Lancashire area – but Nick Griffin MEP has called for a ban on shale gas exploration amid environmental and safety concerns.
The company, whose exploration efforts near Blackpool had to be halted earlier in the year due to fears that they were causing tremors, says there are 200 trillion cubic feet of underground gas in the area.
Cuadrilla plans to sink as many as 400 wells over the next nine years and up to 800 over 16 years if gas extraction is successful.

The method of extraction, known as "fracking", could have serious safety implications. Shale gas is extracted by drilling down into the ground and then hydraulically fracturing the shale using high-pressure liquid to release the gas.
The process has proved controversial in the US because the drilling process involves chemicals, including carcinogenic compounds, which can pollute water supplies. Drilling companies claim that chemical additives make up less than one per cent of the liquid poured into the gas field. However, the quantities involved are so large that a typical well is likely to pump about 34,000 gallons of chemicals into the ground. One of the chemicals used is diesel, which contains toxic substances. Other chemicals used can include hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and arsenic.
There have been further claims that the gas itself can pollute drinking water, with footage of people able to set fire to the water coming out of their taps posted on YouTube.
The problems have prompted campaigners and independent political figures (including Nick Griffin MEP and Green MP Caroline Lucas) to call for a Britain-wide ban on shale gas extraction.
However, calls for a moratorium on fracking were ruled out earlier this year by a committee of MPs who claimed they had found no evidence it would pose a risk to water supplies from underground aquifers.
Nick Griffin MEP reiterated the call for a moratorium on any further exploitation of shale gas until the wider environmental concerns have been addressed. Fracking has already been banned in France, New York and New Jersey, as well as in Quebec and the Swiss canton of Fribourg. And in July, the government of New South Wales extended its moratorium on the use of fracking for extracting coal seam gas.


An American take on fracking is shown in this excellent video "FracKing Hell" which looks at fracking in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania.. of course, it's already erupting here in West Virginia.

This original investigative report by Earth Focus and UK's Ecologist Film Unit looks at the risks of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. From toxic chemicals in drinking water to unregulated interstate dumping of potentially radioactive waste that experts fear can contaminate water supplies in major population centers including New York City, are the health consequences worth the economic gains?

Marcellus Shale contains enough natural gas to supply all US gas needs for 14 years. But as gas drilling takes place, using a process called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," toxic chemicals and methane gas seep into drinking water. Now experts fear that there are unacceptable levels of radioactive Radium 226 in gas development waste.

Monday, December 19, 2011


At a Rotary Club dinner in Charleston, four speakers discussed the new legislation. On the "pro" side we had Doug Malcolm, an engineer and past president of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of West Virginia who spoke for the industry, as did Bob Hart, an engineer who worked for the gas and petroleum industries for many years, and who now represents West Virginia property holders who own mineral rights on their land.

On the "con" side, Don Garvin, lead lobbyist for the West Virginia Environmental Council and a longtime member of Trout Unlimited spoke along with Dave McMahon, a Charleston public interest lawyer, representing West Virginia property owners who do not own the mineral rights under their property. The value of their properties could be threatened by a Marcellus Shale drilling project near their homes.

I think we can conclude that the legal profession on both sides stand to make a killing in West Virginia's Gaslands..


Saturday, December 17, 2011


This is a must-read article; excellent reportage. Virtually every impact is discussed and the reading is pretty grim. Chesapeake's slick PR honeytrap woos people into giving up their mineral rights under a cover of lies and false promises.  By the time a land-owner realises what they have signed up to, it is simply too late.. the message is "buyer beware".
Above: Drill Pad in Wetzel County, WV

Rig Pull in Wetzel.. and a Trashed Road

By Avi Kramer December 2011

As a Fortune 500 company’s fracking activities in rural West Virginia leave a polluted and drastically altered landscape, locals are fighting back.

By late March the ground in Wetzel County, West Virginia, had thawed to a muddy mess. Ed Wade Jr., a short, burly man in his early forties, wore shin-high boots to navigate the ridge beyond a natural gas well pad, one of two dozen in the area. Skirting the angled ridge, Wade looked down into the ravine: the ridge had partly collapsed; dirt and boulders filled the valley below. For a few minutes, Wade just stared at it, his eyes narrowed. Then he took out a digital camera and started taking pictures.

Holding the camera out at arm’s length, he tilted it down toward the ravine. His long hair was pulled back in ponytail; he wore a gray sweatshirt with the word FRACK across the chest; the text was circled with a line through it. After getting photos of the valley, he hiked up a mud-covered embankment and took a few shots of the ridge itself, now dilapidated and sloping. The ridge had been flattened to prepare the area for drilling; Wade estimated that fifty feet had been sliced off. He had photos that documented how the land had looked before the drillers came. Now he was back to take after-photos of the worsening slip.

Wetzel is part of a rugged section of Appalachia just below the Mason-Dixon Line and, in the last few years, has become prime ground for natural gas exploration. Like much of West Virginia, Wetzel County sits above the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation that underlies a wide swath of the eastern U.S. The Shale holds trillions of dollars’ worth of natural gas.

Wade put his camera away and looked out toward the horizon, which was settling into dusk. In the distance were expansive, rectangular concrete well pads, crowded with tractor-trailers and two-tone trucks lined up like dominoes, built on clear-cut ridges. Near the pads were pastures and barns and the occasional trailer home. The rest of the landscape looked like a sepia photograph of rural Appalachia in late winter: brown, almost colorless, layered hills, and leafless trees.

The controversial technique of “fracking” has made it economically viable to recover natural gas from thousands of feet below this rugged landscape: a single hole in the Wetzel County earth can generate millions of dollars worth of gas. The bulk of that money goes in the gas company’s coffers. Smaller amounts are siphoned off in royalty payments to mineral-rights holders and severance taxes for the state. For Wetzel County businesses, the influx of gas industry workers has brought much-needed new clientele to local restaurants and motels. But, amidst this local economic boom, concerned citizens worry about their pristine country turning into an industrial zone (a concern I first heard about through my job with the Public Justice Foundation), about land and road degradation and air pollution, about their drinking water being contaminated, and about how the gas industry has split apart the community.

To bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to the earth’s surface, an army of trucks and machinery is needed. First, seismic testing locates the sought-after gas deposits. The pad site is then prepared—trees are cleared, the ground is leveled and a cement slab poured—to hold the derrick, trucks and other equipment. Then the well is drilled thousands of feet down. (The Shale runs about a mile below the earth’s surface.) Next, steel piping is run to the end of the well and reinforced on the outside with freshly poured concrete. Finally, the well is fracked—pumped at high pressure with water, sand, and chemicals—to fracture the underground rock and release the gas. As methane surfaces, it is mixed with flowback water, other gases, such as propane, and noxious chemicals like benzene. When it reaches the earth’s surface, the methane must be separated and dried, and the noxious gases vented off. Compressor tanks pressurize the usable gas and prepare it for transport. The wastewater and sludge left over after the gases have been separated must be handled and removed from the well site, or saved and re-injected into the well during subsequent fracks.
After Wellsburg, West Virginia banned fracking near the downtown, Chesapeake rescinded a promised thirty-thousand-dollar gift for band instruments at Wellsburg Middle School.
In the early 2000s, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the main gas company operating in Wetzel, was not the Fortune 500 company it is today. (Based in Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Energy had a net income of $1.7 billion in 2010. It is currently #263 on the Fortune 500 list.) But that began to change when the George W. Bush administration’s EPA loosened environmental regulations for the oil and gas industries, and the price of natural gas shot up. In 2009, the U.S. moved ahead of Russia as the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and now about a quarter of our nation’s electricity comes from that production. The Marcellus Shale houses just one of many vast gas deposits in the U.S.; there are others in the upper Midwest, in Texas and Oklahoma, and out west, in New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. While natural gas exploration and retrieval have exploded in recent years, the amount still untapped in the U.S. represents more energy than in all of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves, and gas companies are scrambling to get at it. The first time I met Wade, early one morning last winter, he handed me the front page of that day’s Intelligencer, the newspaper out of Wheeling, West Virginia: “COMPANY TO INVEST $50 BILLION IN W.VA.,” stated one headline. “That there’s Aubrey McClendon,” Wade said, pointing to a picture of a silver-haired man. “Chesapeake’s CEO.” McClendon and Chesapeake are buying up drilling leases around rural America, leading to large-scale fracking operations in small-scale places like Wetzel County.

Upon arriving in sparsely populated Wetzel in 2007, Chesapeake garnered support from the community by donating to schools and the fire and police departments, sponsoring public radio, and organizing gatherings like picnics and 9/11 anniversary events. The money was a welcome shot of energy for the depressed area. Residents of New Martinsville—the five-thousand-person county seat located about twenty miles from where the drilling and fracking take place—have, since Chesapeake’s arrival, seen local businesses thriving and schools and public services improved. These donations come with a caveat: the gas company expects a certain level of cooperation in return. After the town of Wellsburg, West Virginia, which is about fifty miles from New Martinsville, banned fracking in certain areas near the downtown, Chesapeake rescinded a promised thirty-thousand-dollar gift for band instruments at Wellsburg Middle School.

In addition to local sponsorships and bringing in welcomed patrons for businesses, Chesapeake also set up an advisory panel in New Martinsville and hired a communications firm to facilitate. Many community leaders, including the mayor, school superintendent, and police chief, participated in the monthly meetings, at which Chesapeake provided dinner catered by a local church. “Chesapeake made the meetings very pleasant,” one participant recalls. The panel was scheduled to run for two years, and at the final meeting, last March, all participants received a pen set as a parting gift. “The dialogue between the industry and the community improved a lot,” another panel member wrote to me in an e-mail. Other participants echoed this sentiment. Although some did feel the meetings ended prematurely and that there were still issues to work out, the mayor strikes a high note about what the natural gas industry has done for the area: “We were really struggling before this industry arrived,” Mayor Lucille Blum, a former high school teacher, says. Her quaint town, which sits along the Ohio River about one hundred miles southwest of Pittsburgh, is now bustling. Some restaurants have reported three times their usual business.

But outside New Martinsville it is a different story. The retrieval of Marcellus Shale gas over the past four years has fractured this tiny community along geographical and class lines. Residents of New Martinsville see that fracking is helping West Virginia’s weak economy. But, many who live outside of the county seat resent that the city is reaping the economic benefits of the industry but isn’t sharing any of the burdens. “New Martinsville’s full of city slickers lining their pockets” is how one resident of rural Wetzel described it. For Wade and others who live in the county’s hillier regions, fracking is destroying a way of life for which they are deeply prideful and protective. On a daily basis roads are clogged with diesel fume-spewing trucks; one woman calls the area a “third world industrial zone.” Farmers say methane has seeped into their well water; horses and sheep have inexplicably fallen sick and died. People complain of the smell of gas, headaches and stomach illness, and some no longer drink their tap water. But they are reluctant to speak up, fearing retaliation by the gas company. As one seventy-year-old resident says, “They try to buffalo the landowners.” A retired construction worker told me that Chesapeake has tried to force him off his own land twenty-five or thirty times. Mayor Blum recognizes all this: “I know it’s very hard for some folks up there,” she says.
The safety of Wetzel County roads is one of the biggest issues. A typical headline in the local newspaper reads, “ANOTHER NATURAL GAS DRILLING TRUCK ROLLS OVER EMBANKMENT.” Wade has photographed hundreds of accidents and road blockages caused by industry vehicles. Over the past four years of “documenting abuses,” as he calls it, he has filled a two-terabyte hard drive with thousands of photos and videos of fracking’s side effects on community life. His credo is “Never make an argument without documentation,” and he spends his days and nights traveling Wetzel’s hilly, rugged roads to the twenty-four well sites Chesapeake maintains locally. He closely follows Chesapeake activity on the Citizens’s Band radios that he installed in all of his vehicles. (In addition to an all-wheel-drive Subaru, he has two Ford Escorts, two pickup trucks, and a four-wheel ATV. His off-and-on work as a unionized boilermaker still pays pretty well.) He knows who is on the roads, where they’re going, and when they’re transporting heavy equipment or doing something else that might pose a danger to citizens. Wade’s house is also wired with CBs. (He estimates having spent six thousand dollars on radio equipment to monitor the industry.) Wherever he is, Wade is rarely out of earshot of CBs, the main means of communication in a region where cell phone service is spotty at best.
Teel knew there was nothing he could do, so he asked the man to make sure the road didn’t get too close to his wife’s vegetable garden. When Teel came home the next day he found the entire area bulldozed.
With jobs in aluminum and coal shrinking, many local workers were hoping the new industry would be hiring. But most gas industry workers come to Wetzel from out of state, and the county’s unemployment, at almost 12 percent, remains the highest in the state. (West Virginia has an overall unemployment rate of 7.9 percent.) These days, many lawn signs around Wetzel display a now-ubiquitous message: “DEMAND LOCAL JOBS FOR LOCAL WORKERS.” Chesapeake, meanwhile, offers its own take: “We’ve had great success in hiring a capable local work force,” one of its spokespeople, Stacey Brodak, told the Intelligencer last year. (For this article, Brodak and other representatives from Chesapeake did not return any of my calls or e-mails requesting interviews.)
“They’re good with PR,” one local man explained. “Commercials during Mountaineer football and basketball games, that kinda thing. But the operations side is different.”

“In what way?” I asked.
“Ruthlessness,” he said.
Dewey Teel, the retired construction worker who told me that Chesapeake had tried repeatedly to force him off his land, lives in a house that is now sandwiched between two well pads. A large man with cloudy eyes and big, scarred hands, Teel said that he and his wife bought their home here a few years ago to retire and live peacefully. But Chesapeake has made that difficult. Teel came home one evening last year to find a newly erected gate secured with a chain and padlock at the base of his driveway. Later, gas workers tried to keep Teel and his grandson Travis from cutting down firewood on their own property. Another time, a Chesapeake rep came to his house saying that they had to put in a new road to better access one of the well sites. Teel knew there was nothing he could do, so he asked the man to make sure the road didn’t get too close to his wife’s vegetable garden. But when Teel came home the next day he found the entire area bulldozed.
Even people who don’t live within walking distance of a well site have been profoundly impacted by the gas industry’s presence. Gas odors are constant and often sickening, people say, and with all the traffic and accidents, it’s a daily battle to get down the mountain to New Martinsville. Wade’s photographs evidence a variety of accidents on Wetzel’s narrow roads: dump trucks smashed through guard rails, semis tipped sideways and straddling roads, cranes toppled down into ravines, drill rigs fallen off the back of semis, pickups stuck in roadside ditches. Wetzel’s snowy winters pose further hazards: “Last winter I got a call from one of my girls,” Wade said. He has two teenage daughters who live with their mother. “This is during a blizzard. She tells me there’s a semi on the road with chains on all the tires. It’s a Flammable 3. That’s like a goddamn bomb waiting to go off. And it’s on these slippery roads with chains on the fuckin’ tires. And my girls are in a car right behind it.” We were at Wade’s house. Newspapers and files were stacked everywhere around his home office—on the desk, the floor and nearby chairs. Everything had to do with the natural gas industry.
He plans to use his extensive documentation as evidence in lawsuits against Chesapeake; some are already in the works.
Wade is guarded about his personal life, but he did tell me that he avoids leaving the rural areas of Wetzel County, where he was born. He doesn’t even like going the twenty miles down the mountain to New Martinsville. “Too busy,” he says. He lives alone in a spacious, single-story house set far back from a dirt road. The view from his back porch is of layered hills and plunging hollows. Inside, there are deer and elk heads high on the walls, and every room has a mounted space heater, where, during the cold months, blue flames flicker behind a grill. (Wade runs his home on natural gas, which he receives for free from wells on his property. These wells—much shallower than those that sink to the Marcellus’s depth—were dug decades ago by a different gas company in exchange for free gas for the property owner. All Marcellus gas, which is not user-friendly, is piped out of the county.)

After years in trucking, Wade went into boilermaking and joined West Virginia’s union. He used to earn close to one hundred thousand dollars per year when he was working full-time (he still takes shifts here and there). Now, no one is paying him to work sixteen-hour days monitoring the gas industry. But he has no plans to let up. There are other Wetzel residents also keeping tabs on Chesapeake, and together they make up a fracking watchdog organization, the Wetzel County Action Group. It’s a shoestring operation: all dozen or so members volunteer, there’s no bank account or official nonprofit status or any regular source of funding, and the group’s bare-bones website is updated only about every six months. When I asked Wade how often the group meets, he frowned: “Not as often as I’d like.” But he is content working alone. Chesapeake rotates personnel and often operates twenty-four hours per day, so Wade is regularly up during the night. He plans to use his extensive documentation as evidence in lawsuits against Chesapeake; some are already in the works. He and the WCAG have negotiated for significant changes to how Chesapeake conducts business in Wetzel: There is now a staging area along Route 7, the main road into New Martinsville, at which every truck driver checks in before going out to a well site; all truckers must carry CBs and are required to update each other on their positions in order to minimize road accidents; and escort vehicles lead school buses at the beginning and end of every school day.

Even with these changes, though, Wade thinks it’s a miracle there haven’t been fatalities from the hundreds of accidents. I looked through photos of family after family carrying grocery bags and other belongings around a mess of machinery. On one of my trips to Wetzel I was driving a rented Ford Focus, a compact car. To pass Chesapeake trucks going the opposite direction I had to pull over as far as possible and come to a full stop. On many turns there are no guard rails, nothing to keep a vehicle from being forced off the road and down into a ravine. What’s more, the roads themselves are now in rough shape, rutted and potholed, from the hard driving of industry vehicles. And they are not only badly beaten up but are also littered with pipes and other drilling paraphernalia. A retired engineer named Bob Whipp is in charge of the repair work, which is being paid for by Chesapeake. Whipp attended the final community advisory panel meeting in New Martinsville to talk about road restoration. At the meeting, he said that he was working with a professional paving outfit to get the roads back in shape. But when I asked him for details he said that he “isn’t permitted to speak with the media.” “Not permitted by whom?” I asked. “Chesapeake,” he said.
Travis Teel told me that for a while he was working on Chesapeake cleanup crews, but after handling the wastewater and sludge he had sores all over his legs: “Burned the soles right off my boots.”
The relationship between Chesapeake and the community is touch-and-go, and, at times, hostile. The response from locals has not been solely Wade’s camera-and-CB strategy; people have reacted more aggressively as well. Hate crimes have been perpetrated against truckers traveling to well sites: they’ve hung dummies wearing Chesapeake t-shirts with nooses around their necks; placed sharp objects in the roads along routes the truckers often pass; displayed banners showing a stick figure being sodomized by a drill rig. One man took his chainsaw to an above-ground pipe used to bring water to the fracking site. But Chesapeake seems to pay the closest attention to Wade, often noting his presence over the CB, calling him out by his vehicle and sometimes by name. When I asked him about this, he shrugged. We were in the Subaru. He reached across me and opened the glove compartment to reveal a gun. “That’s why I got my permit,” he said, and snapped it shut. He now carries a gun whenever he goes out. A few of the other members of the WCAG do the same.
When two Halliburton subcontractors were stranded in a snow storm last winter, Wade drove home and came back with food and water. “Told ‘em to use the radio to call their families. These guys’re out here from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas. Just tryin’ to make a livin’ but ain’t never been to Wetzel and have no idea where they’re goin’ or how to drive in that kinda weather.” WCAG members told me about others they’ve helped: a young man who was sprayed in the face with toxic powdered lime and nearly blinded; the worker whose nylon suit melted to his skin after a condensate tank he was working on exploded.
The WCAG is also deeply concerned by fracking’s effects on Wetzel’s environment, especially its water and air quality. Wade carefully scrutinizes local streams for any evidence of contamination, and one of his WCAG colleagues, Bill Hughes, has been on the air beat for years. Indeed, air quality is a regular issue for folks in hilly Wetzel. When gases vent from compressor tanks, the smell is unmistakable and can be carried quite a distance by the wind. In the evenings, smog from all of the diesel trucks hangs on the horizon. The disposal of fracking wastewater presents another environmental hazard. Travis Teel, Dewey’s grandson, told me that for a while he was working on Chesapeake cleanup crews, but after handling the wastewater and sludge he had sores all over his legs. “Burned the soles right off my boots,” he recalled. He also said the gas odors were often overwhelming: “Not long ago I was out huntin’ over the hill from one well. We started to smell it bad. My buddy used to work on a rig, and he could tell it was frack gas. The headaches started and we had to get outta there quick.”

Four years ago, Marty and Lisa Whiteman’s sheep farm was the first place in Wetzel County that Chesapeake drilled. In the spring of 2007, a company representative came to Marty: “You’ll be able to just mow around it,” the man said. “The well head’ll be about the size of a kitchen table.” (When Chesapeake first arrived in Wetzel, the gas company approached a number of landowners, like the Whitemans and the Teels, on whose property they hoped to drill. According to many people who received company representatives at their front doors, there were often two representatives: one clean-shaven and dressed in a business suit, the other bearded and wearing Carhartt overalls, so they could appeal to either type of landowner.) Marty was offered fifteen thousand dollars—as long he signed a waiver agreeing to the company’s plans to drill. He signed it and took the check.

When Wade and I visited the Whitemans one Saturday morning last winter, their single-wide trailer was warm and smelled like frying bacon. They offered me a seat on the couch where a number of cats lounged. Marty Whiteman is short and heavyset with sharp, blue eyes, reddish hair, and a thick beard. He had on jeans and a camouflage sweatshirt over a good-sized paunch. After Marty saved enough money over twenty years of working as long-distance truck driver, he and Lisa bought land in Wetzel, where they’re both from. They wanted to raise sheep in the country. In the last four years, though, the agrarian life they wished for hasn’t been so pleasant: “We’ve been gassed out dozens of times,” Marty told me that morning.
“It’ll make you sick to your stomach,” Lisa added from the kitchen.
Marty Whiteman believes signing that waiver [on West Virginia’s Well Work Permit Application] was his biggest mistake. “I know I screwed up,” he said sadly, his eyes downcast.
Not long after Chesapeake began its work, Marty and Lisa were distressed by the loss of their pasture. Their land was overrun with trucks and drillers; the fracking activity was much more invasive than they were led to believe. Later, Chesapeake representatives again approached Marty. They said they were going to drill two more wells. Marty protested, but the company ignored him and went ahead with the work—without providing any further compensation. Indeed, Marty and Lisa, as surface owners, have little say in whether or not a well gets drilled; the gas company simply fills out the application, submits it to the Office of Oil and Gas in Charleston, the state capital, and goes to work. The applicant—besides providing fifteen days’ notice of the plans to exercise mineral rights on the property—is not beholden to the surface owner at all. The best the surface owner can hope for is a fifteen thousand dollar check, which Chesapeake dishes out, one time only and off the books, as a sort of olive branch.

On West Virginia’s Well Work Permit Application there is a section titled SURFACE OWNER WAIVER. Marty told me that he had had trouble understanding exactly what it said but didn’t worry about it because of the “mow around it” and “kitchen table” comments, and, of course, because of the fifteen thousand. So he signed it. At the top of the waiver, a line of bold text reads, NOTE: YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO FILE ANY COMMENT, immediately followed by WHERE TO FILE COMMENTS AND OBTAIN ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, and then the address and phone number of the Office of Oil and Gas at the Department of Environmental Protection in Charleston. These “comments” must be filed within fifteen days of the driller’s application being submitted, and they are the only medium through which a surface owner can raise concerns over the planned well or subsequent wells. Based on such “comments,” the Chief of the Office of Oil and Gas in Charleston might deny an operator’s permit, but there is no explanation of why it might behoove the surface owner to file comments in the first place—or what those comments might consist of. Marty Whiteman never thought about what “comments” he might file. He believes signing that waiver was his biggest mistake. “I know I screwed up,” he said sadly, his eyes downcast. He’s right: near the bottom of the waiver is a subsection called VOLUNTARY STATEMENT OF NO OBJECTION. It reads, “I have no objection to the applicant drilling another well within 50 feet of this well should a problem arise during the drilling of this well. I also have no objection to drilling within 200 linear feet of my water well or dwelling.”
“Now they’re gonna put another well head on the ridge there,” said Lisa. I looked out the window to where she was pointing. The ridge wasn’t more than a few hundred feet from the house.

In West Virginia, as in some other states, there’s a critical difference between owning land and owning the mineral rights to that land: as the name implies, “surface owners” own the surface of their land—not what’s below it. Mineral rights are different; they give the owner claim to what’s under the earth too, which includes, of course, natural gas. Mineral-rights holders are therefore entitled to royalties on gas wells’ yields, and, by law, are allowed to do ‘what’s fair and reasonable’ to extract materials from their piece of land—all without the surface owner’s permission. The owner of the mineral rights below Dewey Teel’s land, for instance, lives in Charleston. Some owners of Wetzel County mineral rights don’t even live in West Virginia—they’re in Pennsylvania or Ohio or even further afield. Mineral rights date back generations; they have been automatically passed down within families or when property changed hands. For decades only lawyers knew they even existed. Now, however, with royalty incomes from gas well yields reaching into the six and seven figures, mineral rights are no longer just an old legal term buried in ancient deeds.

It is rare for a Wetzel County resident to own both land and the mineral rights below it, but I did speak with one such person. (He requested that I not use his name in my story—and that I not be too specific about the whereabouts of his land—explaining that he wasn’t sure how Chesapeake would react and didn’t want to cause any trouble.) On a cold day last spring, I met him outside his house where he was feeding logs into an outdoor stove. He took off his gloves, and we shook hands. His house was somewhat in disrepair, but two new-ish looking trucks were parked in the driveway. Regarding his lease with Chesapeake, he lamented that he’d probably gotten less than he could have. True enough, mineral rights in Wetzel are now being leased for as much as one hundred times more per acre (five thousand dollars compared to his fifty), and royalties are about five percentage points higher (17 or 18 percent compared to his 12). At the time, though, he was worried that he’d miss out if he didn’t sign right away. I asked how much his royalty payments were, but he wouldn’t say. Mineral-rights leases last five years, and he has three more on his.

Earlier this year, I started following Chesapeake on Twitter. The first Chesapeake tweets I read claimed factual inaccuracies in Gasland, the scathing 2010 documentary about the natural gas industry. Others promoted contests to win tickets to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, a 46-inch HDTV, and Visa gift cards. Chesapeake is also in the habit of tweeting quotes, ending each with the hashtag “#CHKquotes.” Every morning, company employees are sent these quotes in an all-staff email. They vary from the Biblical to the literary to the thought-provoking: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21); “A true friend stabs you in the front” (Oscar Wilde); and “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so” (Douglas Adams).

In the kitchen of the Whitemans’ trailer, Lisa was done cooking. Wade, who had been up since before dawn visiting well sites and helping a neighbor put new siding on his barn, got one plate of pancakes, a second of potatoes, and bacon. He opened a can of Mountain Dew, spit his chewing tobacco into the trash, and sat down to eat. “I’ll make a fresh pot of coffee,” Marty said, opening a canister. “They say if you play by the rules and work hard you’ll be prosperous. That’s the American dream, right?” He looked out the window toward the ridge that Lisa suspects will be the site of the next well. “It’s all bullshit. I can hardly believe this is America.”

For a while, we ate our breakfasts in silence. Wade was the first to finish. He took a last swig of Mountain Dew and cleared his plates, saying he had to get back to his CB and camera, back out on the road.


Friday, December 16, 2011


Hats off to WVDEP.. looks like they've grown a pair :^) Coz we know that Gov Earl Ray Tomblin is in the back pocket of Chesapeake Energy. Just look at this pic of the site. It is an unbelievable mess!

Think about it.. up until now the horizontal drillers/hydraulic fracturers have drilled mostly flat or undulating country. West Virginia is a different kettle of fish. West Virginia consists of mainly "ridges and hollers".. virtually straight up and straight down. Combine that with the propensity for clear-cutting maybe 5 to 7 acres for a well pad.. having huge wastewater ponds literally hanging off the sides of mountains.. and WV's 45 to 60 inches per year rainfall.. you can see the massive potential for slippage, sedimetation and erosion that exists on and around well pads in our state. I believe that over-topping and collapse of waste water impoundments will become a regular occurrence. Thousands of huge trucks delivering millions of gallons of fluids to a single well for one "frack" on WV's hilly winding roads will massively accelerate road damage and cause erosion problems, as well as noise, fumes, inconvemience and of course danger for road users.. and it will be county and state taxpayers picking up THAT bill. The $10,000 first well permit fee will, basically, cover a couple hundred yards of secondary road resurfacing.. I believe that drilling these mountains will be an unmitigated environmental disaster in many ways and I'm sure we will be finding all about that in the years and months ahead.

GLEN EASTON - Citing an "imminent danger" to people, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection ordered Chesapeake Energy to stop operating at the Ray Baker well pad in southern Marshall County.

This is the same pad the DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers are requiring Chesapeake to repair because of slipping soil and "discharging pollutants into the adjacent stream."

"This seems to have been a problem site from the beginning. There have been a number of issues," said department spokeswoman Kathy Cosco regarding the site along Valley Run Road. "They have been ordered to cease operation on all wells at that pad until these issues are addressed."

Stacey Brodak, Chesapeake corporate development director, said the company stopped working on the wells earlier this year - prior to the department's Dec. 7 order - as workers sought to fix the pad.
"The complex design and extensive earth-moving work necessary to restore the Baker pad slips are expected to take several months or longer," said Brodak. "We continue to work diligently at the site to remove mud and debris from slips, and continue to work closely with the appropriate regulatory agencies involved."
Records show the DEP originally cited Chesapeake for "pollution of the waters of the state" at the Baker site in February. Additional citations for, among others, creating an "imminent danger," at the site came in October. These citations preceded those from earlier this month for similar problems.
"There are a number of issues with this whole pad," added Cosco. The department believes it will take Chesapeake a year to correct the problems before the company can resume drilling, she said.
"We recognize there are weather issues this time of year, but we are requiring them to give us weekly updates," she added.

Brodak previously said Chesapeake is working "around the clock to reinforce and restore the Ray Baker site in a safe and environmentally responsible manner."

In order to resume operations at the pad, the department is requiring Chesapeake to:

-- Properly secure all well heads and install protective cages around them.

-- Remove the sediment and debris from the road and unnamed stream.

-- Reclaim all affected areas to ensure a stable slope.

-- Install erosion and sediment control devices.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


The company claims to have been told that two DEP employees told them that no permitting for flaring was necessary.. hmmm.. either the company is lying or those two employees need to be disciplined for furnishing improper information.

The fine for illegal flaring is $10,000 per day PER WELL for each day of flaring over 30 days, up to a cap of $250,000. Bluescape are flaring THREE WELLS right now.. that's a possible fine of $750,000 I believe....
And it seems that "A group of concerned locals called STand Up Now (STUN) says it alerted officials to the situation." Well done those people! 


Report from the Register-Herald, 15th December 2011

An illegal gas well flare in Nicholas County has burned since the end of August, according to a violation notice issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Dallas-based Bluescape Resources Co. (BRC), owns the illegal flare stack and the three gas wells that flow to it, near Richwood.

With no pipeline to transport the natural gas flowing from the Marcellus shale formation, the company says it has no choice but to burn it. But doing so requires a permit, which the company doesn’t yet have.

Donald Campo, chief operating officer of BRC, wrote in a Nov. 8 reply to WVDEP’s violation notice that “two officials from the Office of Oil and Gas independently told BRC that the flare required no permits or approvals from DEP.”

BRC applied for an after-the-fact air quality permit on Nov. 16, but it has not yet been issued. The flare is 108 days old as of Wednesday, and a penalty of up to $10,000 per day could be issued by the WVDEP.

Officials at the WVDEP’s Division of Air Quality are in the midst of negotiations with the company.

DEP spokesman Tom Aluise says the agency would “rather not discuss specifics of the case because it is an ongoing enforcement issue,” and that more information will be available once the violation is finalized. Aluise says a timeline isn’t set and “depends on BRC and the negotiations.”

The company installed the wells without a means to move the gas, they say, to determine whether the wells “are economically viable.”

“If the wells, and others in the surrounding area of Nicholas County, are proven to have sufficient productivity to be economically viable, then BRC will work to install a natural gas pipeline to allow the production from these reserves to reach the commercial market,” wrote Campos.

He adds that “BRC cannot shut in the wells or the flare without suffering irreparable financial damage and harm.”

The temporary air quality permit application would allow for around-the-clock, continuous flaring of the wells’ 4,860 cubic feet per second output.

The gas coming from the wells is 97 percent methane, according to an analysis in the permit application, with ethane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, propane, butane, and sulfur composing the rest.

The permit application lists the maximum potential emissions per hour from the flare as 35,000 pounds of carbon dioxide; 300 pounds of methane; 110 pounds of carbon monoxide; 20 pounds of nitrogen oxide; and trace amounts of sulphur dioxide.

A group of concerned locals called STand Up Now (STUN) says it alerted officials to the situation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite several hours of debate, nearly 20 attempts to change the bill and unresolved criticism from environmentalists, new regulations for the West Virginia gas industry are on the edge of becoming law following legislative action Tuesday.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Marcellus shale bill -- the culmination of two years of legislative debate, industry lobbying and public outcry -- appears likely to pass the full Legislature today.
Tomblin's bill, with few changes, passed the Senate Tuesday 33-0.


The fact is that money is far more important than the truth; that’s why the gas lobbyists are spending millions in bribery money and advertising, relentlessly spewing there are no “documented” cases of groundwater contamination in more than 60 years of “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) when in fact well over a thousand cases have been reported.

The term ‘fracking’ has caused confusion from the start. The gas industry defines fracking to a single moment of the underground fracturing, a part of the process that has never been investigated, which allows the obvious contamination from the whole fracking process to be denied. Very clever wording which disguises the truth.
The old way of drilling was not much different than drilling for water; not too deep and injecting thousands of gallons of water to tap reservoirs of gas within.

This new method drills deep into the earth, fracturing the shale horizontally for miles to release the natural gas. There would not be any drilling into the Marcellus if not for the new horizontal drilling-hydraulic fracturing combo (“hydrofracking”).

You can’t get gas out of shale without it.

Hydrofracking intentionally chemically contaminates fresh drinking water, and the by-product of gas drilling is toxic.

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States each year; 70,000 gas wells are planned in New York state with other states following suit.

This is consumptive use of fresh water, never to be returned to our drinking water supply.

Before the use of hydrofracking, we rarely heard of gas drilling accidents. Now in Pennsylvania in just a few years of hydrofracking, there are numerous reports of illegal dumping of wastewater, methane migration, improper casings, spills, accidents involving industry trucks that are so unsuited to WV's narrow, steep and windy roads, together with well blow-outs, compressor fires and explosions, chemical tank and pipeline explosions and "Fraccidents" are now rising in West Virginia.


We need to develop alternative, sustainable fuels which will create jobs, provide for our energy security and protect our environment. All forms of energy create risk; however, once introduced, the harm from hydrofracking cannot be undone.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Will the oil and gas industry create 1 million new jobs for Americans, as its latest advertisement claims? The American Petroleum Institute and major oil and gas corporations are spending millions to convince Americans that with unrestricted access to natural resources, they can lift us from our economic slump in part by fracking our nation’s shale gas reserves. But Exposing the Oil and Gas Industry’s False Jobs Promise for Shale Gas Development, a new set of analyses released Nov. 15 by the national consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, finds that the oil and gas industry is exaggerating the capacity of shale gas development to generate jobs and economic opportunity for Americans, in one case exaggerating projected job creation by 900 percent.

“The oil and gas industry has tried to stand on three legs, claiming that shale gas is good for the environment, good for American energy security and good for the economy. The first two legs have already been kicked out, and our new analysis kicks out the third,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “They have no legs left to stand on.”

A 2011 report by the Public Policy Institute of New York State (PPINYS) claimed that by 2018, developing 500 new shale gas wells each year in five counties in New York would create 62,620 jobs. Food & Water Watch closely examined the PPINYS report and found it riddled with flaws. In fact, the economic forecasting model that PPINYS used actually only supported a claim of 6,656 jobs. PPINYS inflated the job-creation potential of shale gas development by almost 900 percent.

According to Food & Water Watch, even the corrected PPINYS jobs projection is overly optimistic because it fails to account for negative effects that shale gas development would have on other key parts of the economy, such as agriculture and tourism.

Exposing the Oil and Gas Industry’s False Jobs Promise for Shale Gas Development examines employment data, revealing that opening up five counties in the southern tier of New York to shale gas development can be expected to generate a net gain in employment of only about 2 jobs per well. This calculation, derived from data on actual employment, is in stark contrast with the forecast of 125 jobs per well in the PPINYS report. According to Food & Water Watch, an employment gain of just 2 jobs per shale gas well does not justify the inevitable costs to public health, public infrastructure and the environment that the industry would bring to New York.

Across the U.S., shale gas development has generated a barrage of costly consequences:
  • To date, more than 1,000 cases of drinking water contamination have been reported near shale gas development sites around the U.S.
  • In 2008, a fracking wastewater pit in Colorado leaked 1.6 million gallons of fluids, some of which contaminated the Colorado River.
  • In Wise County, Texas, properties with fracking wells have lost 75 percent of their value.
  • In 2009, Pennsylvania regulators ordered the Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to cease all fracking in Dimock, Pa., after three spills at one well within a week polluted a wetland and endangered fish in a local creek. The spills leaked 8,420 gallons of fluids that contained potential carcinogens. The state fined the company $240,000, and it cost more than $10 million to deliver potable water to the affected homes. A legal battle has now ensued over who should be responsible for providing Dimock residents with clean water.
  • Scientists have found that 25 percent of the hundreds of chemicals used in fracking can cause cancer, 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system and 40 to 50 percent can affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.
  • Fracking wells in Pennsylvania, a state with many active sites, are expected to create 19 million gallons of wastewater this year, yet many municipal treatment plants lack the capacity to treat fracking wastewater in part because it often contains radioactive elements.
Many of the flaws in the PPINYS report come from a series of studies led by Timothy Considine of the University of Wyoming. His series of studies have informed many evaluations of the economic potential of shale gas development by policymakers, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Shale Gas Subcommittee.
The industry’s jobs projections are used to make the case for deregulation, but the oil and gas companies’ recent record tells a different story. According to a report released in September by Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips, all involved in shale gas development, paid their executives a total of nearly $220 million and recorded $73 billion in profits in 2010. However, the Big 5 oil companies reduced their global workforce by a combined 4,400 employees that same year.

“While President Obama’s recent move to delay his decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline is a sign that his administration is attuned to public concern about the negative effects of tar sands, we hope he will not replace it with shale gas development,” said Hauter. “The oil and gas industry has exploited our economic woes to promote shale gas, yet actual employment data shows that it is not a cure-all for our nation’s economic challenges. The money to be made from shale gas development will mostly just benefit oil and gas executives.”
Exposing the Oil and Gas Industry’s False Jobs Promise for Shale Gas Development is available here.