Dory Hippauf continues her excellent series on who “they” are. Taken together, this series provides reference that no serious activist can be without. It provides you the direction and background you need to “fight the fight” If you are new to this series start from the beginning: Part One; Part Two, Part Three.
“Based on my conversation with you it was clear that EPA is really at the very early stages of its learning curve with respect to Dimock and EPA’s understanding of the technical facts and DEP’s enforcement history with respect to Dimock is rudimentary.” – Michael Krancer, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) Secretary.
When talking about water contamination due to natural gas drilling, Cabot Oil & Gas and Dimock are in the forefront of controversy. In 2009, a spill of 8,000 gallons of “drilling fluids” occurred at a Cabot drill site.
“The spills, which occurred at a well site run by Cabot Oil and Gas, involve a compound manufactured by Halliburton that is described as a “potential carcinogen” and is used in the drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, according to state officials. The contaminants have seeped into a nearby creek, where a fish kill was reported by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The DEP also reported fish “swimming erratically.”
The incident is the latest in a series of environmental problems connected to Cabot’s drilling in the Dimock area. Last winter, drinking water in several area homes was found to contain metals and methane gas that state officials determined leaked underground from Cabot wells. And in the spring, the company was fined for several other spills, including an 800-gallon diesel spill from a truck that overturned.
ProPublica interviewed state officials several months ago about drilling problems in Dimock. “Cabot has definitely had their share of problems out there,” Craig Lobins, a regional oil and gas division director, said then. “Some of them is just being a little bit careless … or sloppy, or maybe a little bit of bad luck too.”
The melding of Cabot and Dimock in the minds of the public began in the winter of 2008 when drinking water wells at several homes were found to contain metals and methane gas. According to PA DEP officials, the contamination was from a “leakage” at a nearby Cabot gas well.
“In 2009, fifteen Dimock families with contaminated water filed a federal lawsuit against Cabot. The company has wracked up more than 130 drilling violations at its Dimock wells, but insists the methane migration in Dimock water wells is naturally occurring; pointing to tests taken after drilling had been halted in the area.
Under the Rendell Administration, DEP cracked down hard on Cabot. The agency fined the company $120,000 for the methane migration incidents, barred it from drilling within the Susquehanna County community, and ordered it to foot the bill for a water pipeline bringing fluid to Dimock residents. Cabot agreed to pay for temporary water supplies at the affected homes.”
It appeared the problem of clean and safe water for Dimock residents was solved with the DEP order for a water pipeline.
– Michael Krancer, PA DEP Secretary
In October 2010, a group called “Enough Already” was formed and comprised of Dimock citizens and businesses.
“the project represents a big-government solution that penalizes many taxpayers for the benefit of a few and threatens to drive away the gas companies that have brought them money or jobs.”
The PA DEP Secretary in 2010 was John Hanger. With the sudden appearance of “Enough Already”, Mr. Hanger saw evidence of Cabot’s influence. Both Cabot and Enough Already denied this.
Cabot brought in Dr. Robert W. Watson, an emeritus professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering at Penn State University, to prove its claim of pre-existing methane. Dr. Watson was handsomely paid $25,000 by Cabot to review materials, including well-completion records and present a conclusion that Cabot did not cause methane seepage into aquifers.
The DEP records showed photographic evidence of methane bubbling out of Cabot’s gas wells, documentation of excessive well pressures and isotopic analysis (chemical fingerprinting) linking the contamination in the water wells to Cabot’s gas wells.
Dr. Watson co-authored a July 2009 study ““An Emerging Giant: Prospects and Economic Impacts of Developing the Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Play”. The report was sponsored by the Marcellus Shale Committee.
The Marcellus Shale Committee was created in 2008. It is an industry front group consisting of Natural Gas corporations and trade associations. Its stated purpose is to promote “the responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale geological formation in Pennsylvania and the enhancement of the Commonwealth’s economy that can be realized by this clean-burning energy source.”
The Marcellus Shale Committee disappeared at some point in 2009, and seems to have reappeared as the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Cabot Oil & Gas was a member of the Marcellus Shale Committee and is now a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
The year 2010 was also a time for mid-term elections and the election of a new governor of Pennsylvania. Cabot donated $20,000 to Tom Corbett’s campaign. Currently, Cabot’s 2012 Pac has $88,000 on hand for the upcoming elections.
Tom Corbett won the election and began the transition to take office. Corbett received $1,634,096 from Natural Gas Corporations for his 2010 campaign.
The state’s infrastructure investment board, Pennvest, in November, 2010, approved an $11.8 million package of grants and loans to fund the Dimock waterline project, which was to have been constructed and maintained by Pennsylvania American Water Co. DEP planned to sue Cabot to recover the cost of the line.
Without consulting the Dimock families, John Hanger worked out a “deal” with Cabot to settle the issue before the Corbett administration would take office.. There would be NO waterline for Dimock.
“Mr. Hanger said it became clear the waterline would not be built after Republicans won control of both the governorship and the General Assembly during the November elections.
“Cabot’s opposition was the opposition of elected members of the General Assembly, whom we respect. Two sit on the Pennvest board and voted against the waterline,” he said, naming state Sen. Donald White, R-41, Indiana, and state Rep. Dick Hess, R-78, Bedford.
“It is quite likely that their views will in fact be in the majority come January at Pennvest,” he said”
- Banking & Insurance, Chair
- Community, Economic & Recreational Development
- Environmental Resources & Energy
- State Government
- Transportation, Vice Chair
- Committee Assignments
- Commerce, Chair
Senator White and Representative Hess voted for the recent Pennsylvania Natural Gas Impact bill which, among other things, removes local control/zoning over natural gas drilling.
The “settlement” worked out by Hanger and Cabot included:
- Dropping of plans to build a 12.5-mile waterline from Montrose to Dimock Twp.
- Cabot to pay the state’s environmental oversight agency $500,000 to help offset the cost of the department’s investigation into the stray gas.
- Each of the 19 families affected by the methane contamination in their water supplies will receive an amount equal to twice the value of their home, with a minimum payment of $50,000. NOTE: Value of Home is based on ASSESSED value, not market value. Assessed value is considerably lower than market value.
- Cabot to pay and install whole-house gas mitigation devices in each of the 19 affected homes – devices that were earlier rejected by many of the families as unwieldy and inadequate.
Nowhere in the settlement agreement did it state the contaminated water wells needed to be restored to a clean and safe state.
Eight of the original 19 families accepted the settlement, and some have joined the “Enough Already” group.
– Michael Krancer, PA DEP Secretary
In January, 2011, Tom Corbett officially became governor, and appointed Michael Krancer as PA DEP Secretary.
Prior to his appointment as PA DEP Secretary, Krancer was a judge on the Environmental Hearing Board. Krancer, as a judge on the state’s Environmental Hearing Board, which considers appeals on certain DEP decisions, had to rule on an appeal brought in 2001 by The United Mine Workers. The union was challenging an exemption approved by the DEP regarding methane testing at 84 Mining Co.’s mine in South Strabane. The union said the exemption was unsafe, despite DEP’s consent.
Don Carmelite, Krancer’s first law clerk at the board recalls: “The guy suited up in all the gear and got the training, and he walked around in a mine a mile below the surface, in thigh-high water. It was consistent with what he did to get it right”.
It’s interesting to note, Secretary Krancer has never visited Dimock. Invitations from residents to stop by and have a glass of water have been ignored. Krancer’s predecessor, Hanger, did make several trips to Dimock. We don’t know if he enjoyed a glass of water.
Krancer’s resume includes:
Vice Chairman, Pennvest. Current
Committee Member, Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.
§ Terry Bossert , Vice President Government Affairs, Chief Oil & Gas
§ Terry Engelder, Professor of Geoscience Penn State and Principal co-owner of Appalachia Fracture Systems Inc.
§ Nicolas Haden, Vice President, Reserved Environmental Services
§ Chris Helms, Executive Vice President and Group CEO, NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage
§ Jeff Kupfer, Senior Vice President, Atlas Energy Resources
§ Terry Pegula, former Chief Executive Officer, Royal Dutch Shell – East Resources Management, LLC
§ David Porges, Chief Executive Officer, EQT
§ Charles Ramsey, Pioneer Natural Resources
§ Gary Slagel, Director Government Affairs, CNX Gas Corp (Consol Energy)
§ Randy Smith, US Goverment Affairs Manager, Exxon Mobil
§ C. Alan Walker, Chief Executive Officer, Bradford Energy
§ Ray Walker, Jr., Senior Vice President Environment, Safety and Regulatory Compliance, Range Resources
Blank Rome, LLP Partner, Litigation Department 1992-1999
Dilworth Paxon LLP Partner, Litigation Department 1991-1992
Assistant General Counsel for Exelon Corp. June 2008 through October 2009
Former Governor Tom Ridge has been an independent director for the Exelon Corporation since 2005. Ridge served as Homeland Security Secretary under former President George W. Bush from 2001 – 2005.
In 2006, Ridge became a partner in Ridge Policy Group, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., a bi-partisan, full-service government affairs and issue management group. From April, 2005 to July, 2006, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Ridge LLC.
Ridge Policy Group was listed as a lobbyist for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
August 2011: “Former Gov. Tom Ridge’s one-year contract to be the public face of the Marcellus Shale Coalition has ended. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says the deal, which paid Ridge and his Ridge Policy Group $900,000, expired at the end of July.
Essentially, Ridge lent his credibility to the group representing most major shale natural gas drillers in the state and their arguments for the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas.
– Michael Krancer, PA DEP Secretary
George Stark, Director of External Affairs, is Cabot’s spokesperson in Dimock, and has consistently maintained the water is safe.
“We still feel very comfortable that the water meets safe drinking water standards,” said Cabot spokesman George Stark. “We have a lot of data on well water there.”
October, 2011 – Cabot contacts the PA DEP and informs them that “it had met all these requirements, and asked for permission to stop delivering water to the Dimock families. Acting Deputy Secretary Scott Perry approved the request, and Cabot stopped providing water on December 1. In a letter to the Chambersburg Public Opinion, Secretary Mike Krancer defended the decision. “We were guided by a legal agreement dating to the previous administration,” he wrote. “The agreement…required Cabot to satisfy specific water provision obligations and meet certain requirements….Cabot satisfied those requirements, and the law, in turn, requires DEP to follow its obligations.”
DEP’s decision allowing Cabot to stop providing water to Dimock residents had nothing to do with whether or not methane levels have increased or decreased at the affected water wells. “The [Consent Order and Agreement] didn’t require DEP to deem the water safe before permitting Cabot to stop delivering water,” explained department spokeswoman Katy Gresh via email.
“Many of those chemicals found in the water are food-grade.” – Michael Krancer, PA DEP Secretary
Water deliveries by Cabot were stopped and 11 families now had no reliable water source. Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan offered to provide water to the families. All that would be needed is an agreement of mutual aid with the township of Dimock.
The offer of water from Binghamton would provide the families with a little breathing room while they review their options and make plans for a more steady water source.
Cabot and Enough Already members met with the Dimock Supervisors, in what has been characterized as a “secret” town meeting, a clear violation of Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Laws. Dimock Superviors denied there was any meeting or vote regarding Binghamton’s offer of water.
The Binghamton Mayor’s offer to send water in city-owned trucks directly to Dimock was contingent on the township signing a legal agreement with Binghamton. The mutual aid agreement would not obligate Dimock to pay for any costs. In fact, the cost of water and delivery would be the sole responsibility of the city of Binghamton.
“Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan said the township needed to sign the one-page “mutual aid” agreement to allow Binghamton to send water directly to Dimock and allow the city [Binghamton] to pick up the tab. Under the agreement, neither party would be liable for any mishaps in shipping the water”
Mayor Matt Ryan was told “You keep your nose in Binghamton. I’ll give you that place,” Mathew Neenan, Dimock Supervisor, said to Ryan, drawing 15 seconds of sustained applause. “We’ll worry about Dimock.”
Dimock Township supervisors voted ‘no’ to mutual aid, saying there are concerns about future liability. Carter Road residents say they were not surprised.
“The Township Supervisors are going to do whatever Cabot wants. They don’t care about us. They care about the almighty dollar,” says Ray Kemble, Dimock resident.
Riverkeeper, Josh Fox, Mark Ruffalo and local Pennsylvania groups concerned about gas drilling, joined together and organized a water delivery to the 11 Dimock families.
This effort was criticized by Energy-In-Depth(EID):
“Folks in Dimock have had enough. They are, in fact, declaring “Enough Is Enough” and starting to speak out against the ongoing effort aimed at maligning their community, aided and abetted by a fawning media inclined to believe anything that is said about natural gas producers as long as it happens to be negative.”
(See: Energy-in-Depth (EID): The “GAS”roots, Connecting the Dots: The Marcellus Natural Gas Play Players – Part 3 )
Enough Already became Enough is Enough soon after, and EID staff began to make more frequent appearance in Dimock. Enough is Enough began a Facebook page in late January 2012, and Dimock Proud signs began to on lawns in town.
Initally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined the water to be safe (December 2, 2011).
“The EPA sent an email to Dimock residents informing them of the agency’s findings regarding the state of the town’s drinking water supply. “While we are continuing our review,” Community Involvement Coordinator Trish Taylor wrote, “To date, the data does not indicate that the well water [in Dimock] presents an immediate health threat to users.”
That finding supported claims by Cabot Oil and Gas, which has been sued by Dimock residents. A judge from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently ruled that Cabot had satisfied its requirements under the law to provide potable water to Dimock residents, and the company has announced plans to discontinue water deliveries.
EPA’s findings comport with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s previous statements regarding the effects – or lack thereof – of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. Earlier this year, Jackson told a US House committee that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
Scott Perry, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, echoed that position. “There has never been any evidence of fracking ever causing direct contamination of fresh groundwater in Pennsylvania or anywhere else,” Perry said in April, 211.
Shortly after, the EPA changed their minds:
“… an information sheet provided to residents during visits this week, the EPA wrote that it “has recently received additional Cabot data from residents that merit further investigation.” The EPA is now “concerned about” potential gaps in water sampling and test results, the number of water supplies potentially affected, if residents that need them have alternate sources of fresh drinking water, and if residents have any more data to share.”
“Cabot spokesman, George Stark, said the company will provide the EPA with all the data it has collected over several years.
“If there are data gaps, they exist due to lack of access, not lack of trying,” spokesman George Stark said. “Cabot is confident that the water meets federal drinking water standards, and is committed to installing state-of-the-art treatment systems and resolving this matter.”
“Victoria Switzer, one of the affected Dimock residents, was visited Thursday evening by EPA officials.
“Something in the water disturbed them,” she said. “They were very concerned about what they were seeing.”
“The industry group Energy in Depth, which touted the EPA’s preliminary finding of December, 2010, scolded the agency Friday for overstepping its regulatory authority in a matter over which the state has jurisdiction.
Oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania is primarily regulated by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Energy in Depth spokesman John Krohn said the EPA’s efforts this week are different than the earlier review he praised because “they’re now actively going through the process of gaining new information” and have indicated the possibility of taking water tests.
“That changes the dynamics,” he said.
Cabot denies responsibility for the presence of any chemicals found in the wells.
EPA said the sampling data it reviewed turned up hazardous levels of substances including:
o Arsenic, a cancer-causing element that may be present in elevated concentrations due to drilling;
o Barium, a silvery-white metal and a common constituent in drilling fluids that can damage the kidneys with extended exposure.
o DEHP, a chemical added to plastics to make them flexible, a probable human carcinogen; also used in drilling;
o Glycols, including ethylene glycol, an antifreeze commonly found in drilling fluids;
o Manganese, a naturally occurring substance that is sometimes used in drilling fluids and can damage the central nervous system if ingested.
Cabot rejected EPA’s characterization of the sampling data and insisted that Dimock’s drinking water meets federal standards.
“Cabot believes that the US EPA has a flawed interpretation of the data and has taken it out of context; this has resulted in an unwarranted investigation by US EPA regarding water quality. PA DEP has extensively investigated alleged groundwater concerns in the Dimock area and concluded, using sound science, that it was safe,” Cabot spokesman George Stark said in a statement.
The EPA targeted an additional 61 homes in Dimock for water testing. Cabot, EID and Krancer have since characterized this as interference of big government. This appears to be an effort to divert attention from the question of water contamination.
EID calls it a “Comedy of Errors”.
PA DEP Secretary Krancer’s letter to the EPA makes it clear he thinks the EPA has no idea what it’s talking about, when it comes to methane migration in Dimock. “Based on my conversations with you it was clear the EPA is really at the very early stages of its learning curve with respect to Dimock,” he writes, calling the federal agency’s grasp of the facts, and DEP’s enforcement actions, “rudimentary.”
“Enough is Enough has launched an online petition to ask EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to “reign in” the “rogue Regional Office” of the EPA doing the investigating, and to end their involvement in Dimock”
Dimock residents Jim Grimsley and Ann Van Lenten are part of the Enough is Enough group. Writing for the Energy in Depth website yesterday, they said:
We are tired of having our gas leases put on hold (since April, 2010) because of 11 families that will not accept remedies handed to them – for free. The ENOUGH IS ENOUGH campaign has included a petition asking the Department of Environmental Protection to lift the drilling ban imposed on Cabot. That petition was sent to the DEP on December 14th and we are hoping it will not fall on deaf ears. While going door-to-door, I met so many people who have lived here for generations and who were more than willing to tell me how it really was to grow up here, and how they feel about the misinformation being spread about their town. We are here to pass that information on to you.”
As previously mentioned, the EPA had targeted 61 additional homes for water testing. Before the EPA was able to contact these families, it is rumored that EID or Enough is Enough (EIE) beat the EPA to the doors. According to the rumor, EID or EIE told home owners they had the right to refuse a water test.
If the rumor is true, EID or EID were somewhat successful in discouraging about 20 families from accepting a water test.
– Michael Krancer, PA DEP Secretary
Although the reporting on what has been happening in Dimock has been good, the media has failed to ask a few important questions:
1. Why is Cabot fighting the EPA tests so hard? If the EPA tests come back and show the water is “safe”, as Cabot maintains, wouldn’t this put the issue to bed?
2. Is there something in the water that Cabot is afraid the EPA will find?
3. If the EPA does find “something”, what will it mean for Cabot or the entire Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania and elsewhere?
4. Why is Krancer protecting the Natural Gas Industry instead of the Environment? Does he have political ambitions beyond being PA DEP Secretary?
The Natural Gas Industry and its supporters had, in the past, attempted to portray reports of water contamination as being anomalies, yet these “anomalies” are appearing with more frequency. How many homes have had their water contaminated? We really don’t know. The PA DEP doesn’t track it, and many homeowners have been gagged through non-disclosure agreements with the Natural Gas Corporations and are unable to reveal they are receiving water deliveries.
Dimock is not the only community in Pennsylvania with “water problems”. As long as the current administration prefers to listen to the Natural Gas industry instead of the People of Pennsylvania, Dimock won’t be the last.
- Michael Krancer, PA DEP Secretary
Recent DEP News:
– Butler County, PA: SOS Butler County: Black Water + Purple Water = A Fracking Nightmare
…..Both families say that Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) has told them their water troubles are “just aesthetic,” and has assured them that the water is safe to drink. Requests for re-tests have gone unanswered, and Janet McIntyre said that one PA DEP regulator told her, “You should be grateful for the fracking because they’re injecting lots of water underground, raising the level of the aquifer.”
Note: If fracking water is raising the level of the aquifer, doesn’t this mean fracking water is getting into the aquifer? Just asking…….
– Report: Pennsylvania DEP undercounted number of gas-producing wells from Marcellus Shale
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection undercounted the number of wells producing gas from the Marcellus Shale, frustrating industry, environmental groups, and elected officials, according to a newspaper report.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that an analysis of DEP data found 495 more wells producing gas, or ready to produce gas, than the DEP has recorded as ever being drilled, and that 182 of those wells don’t even show up on the state’s Marcellus Shale permit list.
“There has been a frustration over the last six or seven months that DEP does not have information that is always beyond reproach,” said Drew Crompton, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati from 2000-2010 received $293,333 from Natural Gas corporations.
Clean Air Council: Pennsylvania DEP Has Dropped the Ball on Fracking Pollution and US EPA Should Step In
Clean Air Council Executive Director Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., said: “Pennsylvania is simply dropping the ball on a significant source of pollution in the state. Federal and state laws are very clear about requiring monitoring and any necessary remedial action at the site of major polluters. Frackers should not get a free pass in this state, particularly when their methane emissions are among the biggest contributors to climate change.
Our view is very simple: If Pennsylvania DEP is going to abandon its duties here, the US EPA should step in to protect the public and environment.”
We wonder which environment the DEP is really protecting. The environment on which all life depends – our air, our water and our land? Or is the DEP protecting the business environment?