18, 2011 - Last Monday night, the Department of Energy (DOE)
came to "little" Washington, Pa to hear from Marcellus Shale
stakeholders. Their meeting was announced on very short notice,
less than one week ahead of time. This public hearing was part
of fulfilling their "charge" from President Obama and DOE
There have been
considerable questions about the make-up of the DOE panel, with
6 of the 7 members having ties to the oil and gas industry. One
group put it this way:
Administration Stacks Panel
With Big Oil and Gas
"The Obama administration panel named May
5 to study hydraulic fracturing, a natural
gas drilling technique that injects
thousands of gallons of chemical-laced water
into the ground, is dominated by oil and gas
Notably, the panel does not include
citizens from communities concerned about
the damage to health, water and private
property posed by the surge in natural gas
drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
“An industry insider like John Deutch is
completely unacceptable to lead this panel,”
Environmental Working Group Senior Counsel
Dusty Horwitt said. “It looks as if the
Obama Administration has already reached the
conclusion that fracking is safe.”
A study by Duke University researchers,
made public yesterday, found high
concentrations of methane in 68 wells near
shale-gas drilling and hydrofracking sites
in northeastern Pennsylvania and New York,
confirming property owners' suspicions that
gas extraction was leaking methane into
their drinking water.
The new administration panel appears to
be an effort to undercut the EPA’s study by
assigning an elitist group of industry
insiders to take a cursory look at fracking,”
Horwitt said. “The EPA is trying to conduct
a comprehensive study and to listen to the
people directly affected by drilling. It’s
hard to see how the Energy department-driven
panel can have any credibility."
Excerpts from an
EWG Press Release May 10, 2011
The day of the
meeting also got off to a rocky start. The formally announced sign-up
time was 6:30pm, but word soon circulated that early arrivals,
including passengers on a pro-gas organization's luxury bus from across the
state, were allowed to sign-in as early as 4:00pm. Photos of
both are included below:
Bus funded by a pro-drilling
(see email below)
from an email sent out
by the pro-drilling organization:
"Given the short notice and the
distance, we are prepared to
help make this happen. We can
offer the following incentives
Bus transportation (we'll try to
set something up with pickups in
maybe Binghamton, Scranton and
the Williamsport area and
provide the details when you let
us know of your interest).
hotel room for the night of June
4. Tickets for the
Pittsburgh Pirates game (they’re
playing the Mets that night)
5. Airfare (for older folks,
especially..and for heads of
you can do this, please let me
know by return e-mail ASAP and
we'll get back to you with the
details once we know how many
are willing to go."
Clock on the Wall shows sign-ups
were allowed well before 6:30pm
(with bused-in members in line)
Sign: "GAS GOT ME
With over 80% of the first 50 speakers
presenting pro-drilling viewpoints, the logical
suspicion was that industry was tipped-off about the
early sign-up time.
One eyewitness reports:
When I went in and signed up, it was 4:20pm.
I was the 24th person to sign up. Only 3 others
before me were anti-drilling. I asked the sign-up
girl, "is this right? The advertised time was
6:30pm. People getting here later won't have a
chance to speak." She said, "that's what the panel
told us to do."
newspaper editorial reported later:
"A DOE spokesman said the doors were
opened then to accommodate those who arrived early.
Among them were 11 passengers in a bus sponsored by
the pro-gas organization, Energy in Depth, traveling
from New York and northeast Pennsylvania. Their
website noted that all of them had signed in to
speak by 5:48 p.m."
Mind you, this is Washington County. In American history, it is
well known for the Whiskey Rebellion, when revenuers
dispatched from Washington DC were tarred and feathered prior to
their indignant return to the Nation's Capital. In modern day,
this is the Heart of Steelers Country, a group accustomed
to fighting for every bloody yard gained. In either case, it is
not a group to deceive or try to mess with.
"Late" sign-ups (..those who actually arrived ahead of the
announced sign-up time) were restricted access to the building.
I arrived around 5:30pm and was given a place toward the front
of the line by a friend who sacrificed his spot for me. Security
guards were allowing five people at a time to enter the building
for sign-up. I ended up being speaker number 80. With an
announced meeting cut-off of 9:00pm sharp, and a 2-minute time limit,
only 50 speakers would get a chance to speak. Therefore, the
make-up of the first 50 speakers became especially critical.
had the looks of a potential riot at several points in the
evening. The crowd
was angry, and rightfully so. After 6:15pm, the entire crowd was
finally granted access to the building lobby and the auditorium,
for the 7:00pm start. Once inside, the crowd was raucous, to say
the least (YouTube
Fortunately, members of the DOE committee had the wisdom to
extend the meeting long enough that everyone had a chance to
speak, which extended the meeting past 100 speakers and 11:00pm.
is the testimony I presented to the DOE committee.
to the committee:
Welcome to Washington County
and thank you for providing this hearing.
My concerns about Marcellus
Shale drilling are reflected in a 2˝-year timeline
of events here in Washington County.
Adding up only the major,
reported events, we have had 3 flowback fires, 2
wastewater pipeline spills and fish kills, and 1
frac pit overflow.
As serious as these have
been, my major concern is our residential tapwater
drawn from the Monongahela River. Trihalomethanes
have gone over-limit multiple times since late-2008
due to problems with the chlorination of high-TDS
1. That chemical markers be
required in all frac fluids, allowing water
contamination from drilling to be easily identified.
2. Better regulation and
tracking of drilling wastewater from cradle to
3. Strict regulations for
temporary pipelines carrying drilling wastewater.
4. Better markings on
wastewater tankers, to include Hazmat fire diamonds.
5. Better regulations for
wastewater pits and impoundments.
6. Better regulation of
water withdrawals, especially during dry weather.
7. The total prohibition of
wastewater dumping into rivers and streams.
8. Regulations prohibiting
the burial of production pits, and their plastic
liners, at drill sites.
9. Better regulations
covering aggregate emissions from multiple gas
10. End the
subsidies to Big oil and gas!