Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 5/16/12

Taxpayers Pay as Fracking Trucks Overwhelm Rural Cow Paths
When natural-gas drillers arrived in Wetzel County, West Virginia, resident Bill Hughes, a retired electrician, saw the benefits of producing a fuel that burns cleaner than coal. Then oversize trucks hauling drilling supplies began tearing up local roads, creating hazardous conditions.
“The bastards are just in too much of a hurry,” Hughes said, recalling an incident when a dump truck tried to pass him on one of the county’s narrow, two-lane roads that have suffered from the pounding of the trucks.
A surge in hydraulic fracturing to get gas and oil trapped in rock means drillers need to haul hundreds of truckloads of sand, water and equipment for a single well. Drilling that added jobs and tax revenue for many states also has increased traffic on roads too flimsy to handle the 80,000-pound (36,300 kilogram) trucks that serve well sites. The resulting road damage will cost tens of millions of dollars to fix and is catching officials from Pennsylvania to Texas off guard. Measures to ensure that roads are repaired don’t capture the full cost of damage, potentially leaving taxpayers with the bill, according to Lynne Irwin, director of Cornell University’s local roads program in Ithaca, New York.
On May 2, two Lancaster city wastewater officials showed up for a surprise inspection of Armstrong Environmental Services, an East Lampeter Township company that specializes in treating industrial waste.
The city had just found out that the company was treating waste from wells that drill for Marcellus Shale natural gas in Susquehanna County.
Such waste might contain radioactive rock and soil, brines, constituents of oil and cleaning chemicals that should not be in a sewage-treatment plant.
This week, Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city's public works director, said the city was "satisfied" that no Marcellus Shale waste from Armstrong was getting into the city's sewage system.
But in March, the company had been fined $35,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for sending pollutants into the city's sewage system for more than five years in violation of its permit
A proposed study of people in northern Pennsylvania could help resolve a national debate about whether the natural gas boom is making people sick.
The study would look at detailed health histories on hundreds of thousands of people who live near the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation in which energy companies have already drilled about 5,000 natural gas wells.
If the study goes forward, it would be the first large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment of the health effects of gas production.
Natural-gas drillers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale reduced the rate of blowouts, spills and water contamination by half since 2008, according to a study based on state-agency actions.
State regulators issued environmental violations at 27 percent of the wells drilled in the first eight months of 2011, 54 percent below the full-year rate in 2008, according to the study today from New York’s University at Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute, which opened last month. Stronger regulations, tougher enforcement and improved industry practices helped trim the violations, researchers found.
After being upbraided by Pennsylvania’s top environmental official because their governor has put the brakes on natural-gas drilling in the region, Delaware residents can say with uncharacteristic pride that their state has gone to the dogs.
All it took was a few ill-chosen words from Michael Krancer, Gov. Corbett’s secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, who griped in early May about the First State’s well-founded reluctance to lift the moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River watershed, which is home to 15 million people.

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