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Gallows Run Watershed Association

 High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing


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In the News

  • New York State Department of Health:
    A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development

    The public health report on which NYS based its decision to ban the practice.
  • Study: Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction
  • Scientific America:  Groundwater Contamination May End the Gas-Fracking Boom”
  • Another concern arises over groundwater contamination from fracking accidents”

  • Understanding exposure from natural gas drilling puts current air standards to test : Reviews on Environmental Health
    Comment: While the industry runs glitzy commercials daily - praising the safety of natural gas, the evidence mounts that it's a very dirty technology that puts the residents -- men, women, and children -- at high risk of illness.

  • State lacks regulations on wells

  • Big News: Part of Pennsylvania fracking law stopped:
    Court strikes down controversial provision

About High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)


Torrey area - fracking debate: Nyahay vs. Ingraffea

Allowing municipalities to have oversight on where companies can drill helps protect communities, Yaeger said.  "It keeps Pennsylvania from becoming a free-for-all,"


Article I, Section 27

Natural Resources and the Public Estate

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the

preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values

of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources

are the common property of all the people, including

generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the

Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the

benefit of all the people.

  • The Elements of Fracking


    Yes, there may be good arguments for the need to make use of domestic fossil fuels - given the nature of our society, which depends on inexpensive sources of energy for economic growth.  We understand why leasing land to gas companies would be attractive to residents who own such land, particularly if they are struggling to pay expenses. But our shared natural resources, such as our ground water, air, rivers, and streams, are certainly critical to our needs and should be protected (we should not rob mother to pay Paul).   Water and air is not limited by property boundaries.

  • Regulation has become a dirty word in some political circles, but history shows that the industry cannot be trusted to take care of public resources. For-profit entities will often take shortcuts to maximize profits, particularly when it is not a community-based company - or it will make mistakes based on false assumptions about risks - such as how long a well casing will last.  

  • How safe is fracking?  There's an urgent need for a science-based assessment before additional fracking is allowed in our State.  We feel that this is a reasonable demand given that such policy is already in place in neighboring States, and given the science-based evidence for concerns about the safety of the process.

  • Further, there is much more to gas extraction than putting a drilling rig on your property.  It creates a noisy and dirty industrial environment with many opportunities for adverse events, which affects the entire community and potentially the quality of vital natural resources, such as sources of fresh drinking water for the entire State:

    Elements of Hydraulic Fracturing:

    • Water use (about 5,000,000 gallons per well)
      About 70 to 140 billion gallons of water are used
      to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States
      each year - that can't be put to safe use.

      Industry defenders say that 70% of the water is recycled, but have not informed us if they mean 70% of the waste water ... which could be 20% of the fresh water that is used (70% of 20%).

      Further the industry has not informed the public about how much is left in the wells and the waste water recycling process.  Does this introduces a new opportunity for harm from the accumulating concentrations of heavy medals and radioactive elements leeched from the Shale?  How radioactive is recycled frack water that is used for a third or tenth time?  How is it disposed?  What happens if there are spills?  How much is dumped in our rivers?

      According to "0 states require that the volume of fluid left underground after fracturing be recorded."

    • Toxic chemicals in frack water (at 1% of frack water is about 50,000 gallons per well)

    Chemical disclosure (proprietary parts? - verified by independent agency?)
    Acquired radiation and heavy metals from leeched shale

    • Truck transport of frack water (24 hours)

      As many as 4,800 to 21,600 large fresh-water tanker trucks hauling fresh water.
      (2 to 9 loads per day for 2,520 days of fracking) Source


    • Groundwater contamination - some documented (short and long-term risks not adequately studied)

    • Surface water and soil contamination (accidents and spills, many violations already reported)

    • Air quality (from drilling rigs, trucking, compressor stations)

    • Waste holding, transport, and disposal (inadequately regulated - virtually not regulated)

      Importantly, waste water acquires radioactive elements and heavy metals - leeched from the Shale.
      Much of this has been dumped into our rivers or inadequately processed in recycling plants before being dumped into rivers.

    • Piping of gas product (under high pressure - leaks and explosions - documented)

    • Health effects (and worries - including from radioactive elements leeched from shale deposits)

    • Land use (access roads, well pads, pipelines, compressor stations - fragmenting woodlands and habitat)

    • Social (Noise, pitting neighbors who benefit from leases against residents who suffer only the side effects)

    • Economic

      Jobs? How many? For local persons?, real estate values?
      Where are the studies to show the net effects, long and short-term?

    Source of Elements of Hydraulic Fracturing: Hydraulic Fracturing 101

    A snip on water use alone:

    "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.

    ... The extraction of so much water for fracking has raised concerns about the ecological impacts to aquatic resources, as well as dewatering of drinking water aquifers."
    • Myths and Misleading Statements About Oil and Natural Gas Pipelines

      By Lois Epstein, P.E., Senior Engineer - Oil and Gas Industry Specialist
    • Fracking Contamination 'Will Get Worse': Alberta Expert
      Tighter regulations to protect groundwater needed, says U of Alberta geochemist. 

      "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?"


    More Background Articles

    • CHAPTER 33:


      § 3302. 

      Oil and gas operations regulated pursuant to Chapter 32.

      Except with respect to local ordinances adopted pursuant to the MPC and the act of October 4, 1978 (P.L.851, No.166), known as the Flood Plain Management Act, all local ordinances purporting to regulate oil and gas operations regulated by Chapter 32 (relating to development) are hereby superseded.

      No local ordinance adopted pursuant to the MPC or the Flood Plain Management Act shall contain provisions which impose conditions, requirements or limitations on the same features of oil and gas operations regulated by Chapter 32 or that accomplish the same purposes as set forth in Chapter 32.

      The Commonwealth, by this section, preempts and supersedes the regulation of oil and gas operations as provided in this chapter.

      ACT 13 the text of the bill

    Proponents and Authors
    • Bill Sponsor: Hon. Brian L. Ellis
      6 Chesapeake Street
      Suite 200
      Lyndora, PA 16045
      (724) 283-5852
      Fax: (724) 284-8253
    • Your governor:
      Corbett (717)787-2500
    Local Representatives supporting it - virtually all.  Full list is pending:
    • Hon. Paul I. Clymer
      311 North 7th Street
      Perkasie, PA 18944
      (215) 257-0279
      Fax: (215) 257-6350
    • Sen. Bob Mensch
      Senate Box 203024
      Harrisburg, PA 17120-3024
      Room: 459 Capitol Building
      (717) 787-3110
      FAX: (717) 787-8004


    Questions for your representatives?

    What are the environmental, health and social impacts of Fracking in the near and long term?

    Unanswered Questions and Concerns

    What are the environmental, health and social impacts of Fracking in the near and long term?


  • Fracking News and Evidence-Based Reports

    Independent tools to monitor shale gas wells:


    Government and Commission Reports

    • Susquehanna River Basin Commission:  Gas Well Drilling and Development Marcellus Shale

      The fracturing process uses an average of 2 to 9 million gallons of fresh water per well
    • Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Report 7/22/2011 


      "Hydraulic fracturing consists of a large volume of water, mixed with sand and some chemical additives, pumped at significant pressure through the well casing to stimulate gas flow. ..."
    • EPA Investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion
      (Large PDF file)

      "Alternative explanations were carefully considered to explain individual sets of data. However, when considered together with other lines of evidence, the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing."
    • EPA Groundwater Investigation - Pavillion Wyoming 
    • EPA report on Dimock:

      SNIP: "Elevated concentrations of methane can produce explosive environments. Additional combustible gases, including butanes, propane, ethane and ethene were also identified in many of the well sample results. Of the approximately 18 private wells in this data set, ten had maximum dissolved methane levels higher than 28,000 ug/L. Methane venting systems were offered to the 18 properties that are part of the Cabot/PADEP order. ATSDR and EPA do not have precise information at this time about which of the approximately 18 private wells for which sampling data are available have functioning methane venting systems at this time."
    • New Government Report Detailing Hydraulic Fracturing Products

    Science-based Reports

    Reports based on use of scientific methods and published in peer-reviewed journals

    Industry assurances of the safety of fracking seem to be based entirely on unproven theory. 

    Can you cite an industry study using scientific methods that proves the fracking process is safe?  Please contact us if you can.

    Environmental Impacts and Risks

    • How Many Tanker Trucks Does It Take To Supply Water To,
      And Remove Waste From, A Horizontally Drilled And Hydrofracked Wellsite?
      Let’s Do The Math!
    • Is New York’s Marcellus Shale Too Hot [radioactive] to Handle?

      The DEC has yet to address any of these questions. But New York's Health Department raised concerns about the amount of radioactive materials in the wastewater in a confidential letter to the DEC's oil and gas regulators in July.

      "Handling and disposal of this wastewater could be a public health concern," DOH officials said in the letter, which was obtained by ProPublica.
    • PBS Congressional Report Targets Fracking 
    • PBS video on Fracking
    • Media: EPA Finds Compound Used in Fracking in Wyoming Aquifer
    • NYTimes: EPA to Study Chemicals Used to Tap Natural Gas
    • Uranium in Groundwater? 'Fracking' Mobilizes Uranium in Marcellus Shale

      Steven writes: The important information is that uranium should be added to the list of compounds to be tested (by a PA DEP certified lab) in preparation before the gas drilling occurs. This would apply to wells and to streams. See my article in Upper Bucks Future 2009 issue pdf
    • NY Times: The Fracturing of Pennsylvania
      Snip: “Popular concerns about natural-gas drilling have centered on what chemicals companies are putting into the earth, not least because this list is a proprietary secret.
    • Environmental Sciences - Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing
    • Science media:  Natural Gas from Shale Contributes to Global Warming, Researchers Find
    • Media: Radiation in Fracking fluid is a New Concern
      Hopey and Malloy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    • Some Marcellus Shale drilling put on hold
    • Marcellus misstep: House GOP seems to want to protect natural gas drillers, not Pennsylvanians

      Monday, November 14, 2011, 6:05 AM By Patriot-News Editorial Board

      That’s the only way to describe House Bill 1950, the House Republicans’ attempt at a Marcellus Shale package.  GOP leaders say they are for “responsible drilling,” but they might as well let the drillers write their own laws.
    • Citing ACT 13:

      "(3) If the vendor, service provider or operator claims that the specific identity of a chemical or the concentration of a chemical, or both, are a trade secret or confidential proprietary information, the operator of the well must indicate that on the chemical disclosure registry form, and the vendor, service provider or operator shall submit a signed written statement that the record contains a trade secret or confidential proprietary information. If a chemical is a trade secret, the operator shall include in the chemical registry disclosure form the chemical family or similar description associated with the chemical.

      (What allows the company to withhold information based on the vendor or operator's claim that it's a trade secret.  

      QUESTIONS:  Isn't it the proprietary information that would be most useful for tracing who is responsible for contamination?  

      Why can't this information be disclosed to the DEP in help monitor for groundwater contamination?
    • Methane Found in Well Water Near Fracking Sites 
      Source: Environ Health Perspect. 2011 July 1; 119(7): a289.

      David C. Holzman writes on science, medicine, energy, economics, and cars from Lexington and Wellfleet, MA. His work has appeared in Smithsonian, The Atlantic Monthly, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

      "Just how likely are leaks? Based on a non-peer-reviewed survey of the five states that systematically report incidents at wells where fracking occurs and where complaints have spurred inspections, Ronald E. Bishop, a lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry at the State University of New York, Oneonta, estimates nearly 2% of such gas wells may end up contaminating groundwater with fracking fluids.3 Bishop says 50% of new natural gas wells recently inspected in Quebec leaked methane.4"

    • NY DEC Takes on Fracking 
      Source: Environ Health Perspect. 2011 December; 119(12): a513.

      Charles W. Schmidt, MS, an award-winning science writer from Portland, ME, has written for Discover Magazine, Science, and Nature Medicine.

      "New York is one of a handful of states (others include New Jersey, Maryland, and North Carolina) that have banned hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” pending further study and scientific review. A key element of New York’s review is the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), a 1,537-page document drafted by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).1"

      "DeSantis says fracking’s public health impacts were “fully considered” in the draft SGEIS. But a letter sent to New York governor Andrew Cuomo on October 5 and signed by more than 250 health and environmental professionals and groups claims otherwise.2 “The SGEIS contains no human health assessment at all,” says Sandra Steingraber, a distinguished scholar in environmental studies and sciences at Ithaca College. In the letter, signatories including Steingraber asked the DEC to conduct a supplemental analysis of baseline human health status in New York, a systematic identification and review of direct and indirect health effects of fracking, a cumulative health impacts analysis, and potential measures to eliminate those impacts."
    • MINING: EPA Tackles Fracking 
      Source: Environ Health Perspect. 2010 May; 118(5): A199.

      "Recent evidence suggests fracking may have contributed to groundwater contamination with methane in some instances and that proprietary chemicals used in the procedure could theoretically pose a public health threat. However, because groundwater supplies and natural gas deposits are often separated by thousands of feet of rock and earth, and groundwater can be contaminated by many sources, it is difficult to establish a definitive connection between contaminated drinking water and fracking."
    • New York State DEC. Revised Draft. Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program. Albany, NY:New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (7 Sep 2011). Available: 

      “The revised analysis of high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations in the revised dSGEIS concludes that the proposed high-volume hydraulic fracturing activity is not consistent with the preservation of these watersheds as an unfiltered drinking water supply. Even with all of the criteria and conditions identified in this dSGEIS, a risk remains that significant high-volume hydraulic fracturing activities in these areas could result in a degradation of drinking water supplies from accidents, surface spills, etc. Moreover, such large scale industrial activity in these areas, even without spills, could imperil EPA’s Filtration Avoidance Determinations and result in the affected municipalities incurring substantial costs to filter their drinking water supply.  Accordingly, this dSGEIS supports a finding that site disturbance relating to high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations not be permitted in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds or in a protective 4,000 foot buffer area around those watersheds.”
    • Video: Cornell Professor discusses natural gas development and impacts
    • Hydraulic Fracturing 101

      "Not only does the injection of these [fracturing] chemicals pose a short-term threat to ..."
      Source: Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Report

      Marcellus Shale development, including drilling, gas collection and processing, pose challenges with respect to air emissions. Generally, pollutants of concern include nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), particulate matter, hazardous air pollutants (HAP) such as benzene, and toluene, other volatile organic compounds (VOC) and particulate matter.

      Radionuclides such as radium, thorium, and radon from the wastewater treatment of fluids, malodors and methane are additional sources of air pollution.

      Methane, the major component of natural gas and a green-house gas pollutant, is released into the atmosphere as fugitive emissions through leaks from processing equipment and pneumatic devices. Fugitive emissions including dust from truck traffic and fugitive VOC emissions from leaking valves and pipes are also pollutants of concern.

      Volatile Organic Compounds which are also hazardous air pollutants e.g., benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylenes (BTEX) are emitted in low quantities. Formaldehyde is emitted from the compressor engines burning natural gas. Typically the engines are controlled by oxidizers to minimize organic emissions including formaldehyde. A small quantity of ethylene glycol is also emitted from gas dehydration operations at compressor stations.

      VOC and BTEX emissions may also be released from the condensate tanks which are typically controlled by vapor recovery units. However, very low concentrations of BTEX compounds have been detected during Marcellus Shale activities.  Generally, the emissions of NOx and VOCs during the drilling phase are largely from truck-mounted internal combustion engines, which are considered non-road engines.

      Natural gas compressor stations mainly emit pollutants such as NOx, VOCs, and COundefinedthe formaldehyde emissions are controlled by oxidation catalysts. Compressor stations include compressor engines, gas dehydration units and condensate tanks. To date DEP has issued approximately 370 authorizations to use General Plan Approval and General Operating Permit for Natural Gas, Coal Bed Methane or Gob Gas Production or Recovery Facilities (GP-5); compressor stations operating in the Commonwealth including the Marcellus Shale Region. Hazardous air pollutants including formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, mixed xylenes, n-hexane, benzene, toluene and ethyl benzene, may be emitted from certain sources at natural gas production facilities.

      Facilities which emit at least 10 tons per year of a single HAP or 25 tons per major sources of HAP emissions are considered “major” sources, which are subject to maximum achievable control technology requirements.

      The utilization of natural gas, particularly as a transportation fuel, contains the potential for significant air quality benefits as well. For example, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for vehicles emit significantly less CO, CO2, NOx, VOC, SO2 and Particulate Matter than conventional fuel sources and can assist in addressing air quality nonattainment obligations, especially in larger, urban locales.

  • Violations and Accidents:

  • Impacting Bucks County?

    • Yes, ACT13 is relevant to residents of Bucks County.

      A DEP application to drill in Nockamixon is pending. An industry report provided expert opinion that the reservoirs of the "Newark basin hold great potential and should encourage further testing by drilling."
      … Another geologist stated: "what we may be looking at is one of the last significant, completely undeveloped reservoirs left in the world” … which runs through Bucks County.

      Industry source:
    • MSNBC: Environmentalists gather evidence in case of gas drilling pollution in Nockamixon

      Next week, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection is expected to approve or deny Turm Oil's permit to drill an exploratory well for natural gas in Nockamixon.

      "We're trying to move as quickly as we can," said Stone, of the water meter purchase and installation. "The wolf's at the door. There's no question about it."
    • More officials agree drilling law applies to Bucks
  • Social Impacts

    • Effects Of Fracking Laid Out: Pa. Farmers Speak During SP Meeting

      “We have seen our communities become divided,” said Carol French, whose family leased the mineral rights under its farmland to gas companies for five years. “People believe it’s a black-and-white issue. They’re not exploring the gray areas. That’s what we’re here to do.”
    • NY Times: Learning Too Late of Perils in Gas Well
    • Phillyburb: Nun takes on corporate world (fracking in PA)

      "Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has become a major concern for Sister Nora. She has spent time in western Pennsylvania where she said fracking has created social and environmental problems. 

      “It has fractured communities,” she said.
    • Effects Of Fracking Laid Out: Pa. Farmers Speak During SP Meeting

      “We have seen our communities become divided,” said Carol French, whose family leased the mineral rights under its farmland to gas companies for five years. “People believe it’s a black-and-white issue. They’re not exploring the gray areas. That’s what we’re here to do.”
    • About the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development,
      Governor Tom Corbett, C. Alan Walker, the Marcellus Shale,
      Polluted Drinking Water, and the Movie Gasland

    • Gas Drilling and ACT 13 Forum - Survey Results

    • Of the many hundred attendees, 77 completed the survey:




      ACT 13



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    Economic Impacts?

    • Media: Are economic benefits hyped?

      “Most of the jobs being created (in Pennsylvania) are of a temporary nature, and the majority are in trucking. These jobs are transient jobs, and that’s what people do not understand,” Knapp said. “The gas companies tend to overestimate how long the gas supply will last because they want you to get excited and sign a lease. But they can’t even assure you if the gas will ever be sold or whether it will stay in the country. They say, ‘We’re going to sell it to the highest bidder.’ It’s just business.”
    • Expert perspective: Economic Impact of Marcellus Gas Drilling: What have We Learned? What are the Limitations?" (April 2011, Cornell University)

      "We conclude that existing evidence about the Marcellus shale gas operations is inadequate to make predictions about the numbers of jobs that will be created, business expansion, or revenue generation with high levels of confidence.  … 

      Most alarmingly, in recent decades credible research evidence has grown showing that resource dependent communities can and often do end up worse off than they would have been without exploiting their extractive sector reserves.” WorkingPaperREvised4-4-2011.pdf

  • ACT 13

  • Information provided by the SIERRA CLUB

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