071111 Fracking

Export Natural Gas to Weaken Putin?


The drive to weaken Vladimir Putin though natural gas exports is meeting a green backlash.

Environmentalists and their congressional allies scoffed Thursday at a mounting campaign on the Hill to hasten U.S. gas exports, saying there’s no reason to think gas shipments would weaken Russia’s leverage over Europe’s energy supply. But exporting American shale gas could drive up prices for consumers and manufacturers at home,   Read more.

no-fracking MD -bloomberg 304

Los Angeles Says NO to Fracking


Los Angeles is the largest city in the U.S. to place a moratorium on fracking.

City council unanimously voted Friday afternoon to send a moratorium motion to the city attorney’s office to be written as a zoning ordinance. It will then return to council for a final vote.

People in W. Virginia Stock Up on Water

Journalists Demand Truth in WVA Emergency


The recent drinking-water contamination incident represents a major crisis for 300,000 people living in the Charleston, W.Va. area, but it’s also a wake-up call to people across the United States who rely on their public servants to ensure their health and safety. The lack of openness during this crisis by government officials and agencies has aggravated an alarming situation and left many people doubting the competence and credibility of the people in whom their welfare is entrusted.

The Society of Environmental Journalist said, “During crises like these, it is the job of the news media to seek reliable answers for the public and hold government agencies accountable. It is a time when the government agencies responsible for health and safety need to be active, open,transparent, and available to answer public and news media questions.” Read the entire letter.

Polluted water

Yes, EPA Did The Right Thing


December 24th 2014, Washington, D.C. & Parker County, TX – Today the EPA Inspector General found EPA Region 6 was justified in legally intervening to protect Parker County residents’ drinking water from drilling impacts. At Senator James Inhofe’s request, the Inspector General investigated to determine if Region 6’s intervention against Range Resources was due to political influence by the Obama administration.

Read more here.

Say no to barging brine


This week the U.S. Coast Guard announced a 30 day comment period on their decision to allow millions of gallons of fracking fluid to be barged up and down the Ohio River. Texas based Green Hunter Water, plans to ship million of gallons of toxic, radioactive drilling waste by barge on the Ohio River for disposal in Ohio class II injection wells. Green Hunter has secured three locations along a 150 mile stretch of the river where they will receive the waste from the oil and gas industry.

The Coast Guard has even given this toxic, radioactive waste which industry likes to call “brine” a new name, it is now referred to as “shale gas extraction waste water” (SGEWW). According to the “Proposed Policy Letter: Carriage of Conditionally Permitted Shale Gas Extraction Waste Water In Bulk”

(page 2 of 25)


a. SGEWW, also known as “frack water,” is a by-product of drilling for natural gas using unconventional hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) technology, which involves the injection of water, sand, and chemical additives. The sand remains in the well but a substantial portion of the

injected fluid re-surfaces after the drilling and must be handled as SGEWW. At present, this SGEWW is either stored at the drilling site or transported by rail or truck to remote storage or reprocessing centers. There is commercial interest in transporting SGEWW from northern Appalachia via inland waterways to storage or reprocessing centers and final disposal sites in Ohio, Texas, and Louisiana.

b. Pursuant to 46 CFR 153.900(a) and (c), under certain circumstances a bulk liquid hazardous material may be transported by a tank vessel if it is a “listed cargo” (listed in any of several specified tables in Coast Guard regulations). For the reasons detailed in paragraph 7.c, SGEWW is not a “listed cargo” and therefore may not be transported by a tank vessel, 46 CFR 153.900(c), unless its Certificate of Inspection has been endorsed or the vessel has been issued a letter pursuant to 46 CFR 153.900(d).

c. SGEWW cannot be treated as a “listed cargo” because the specific chemical composition of SGEWW varies from one consignment load to another and may contain one or more hazardous materials as defined in 46 CFR 153.2, including radioactive isotopes such as radium-226 and radium-228 (Ra-226, Ra-228), which are known to be elevated in the Marcellus shale (United States Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5135).1 Variables affecting the chemical composition of SGEWW include the chemicals present in the initial drilling fluid, the geological properties of the specific site being drilled, and the age of the well. In addition, each load can be a mixture of SGEWW from different wells.

Please stand with the citizens of Ohio, Texas and Louisiana as they fight to protect their communities.

To review the proposal please go to Carriage of Conditionally Permitted Shale Gas Extraction Waste Water in Bulk.


Comments and related material must either be submitted to the online docket via on or before November 29, 2013 or reach the Docket Management Facility by that date.

Spinning Earth Green

I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet – Yikes


I feel the earth move under my feet
I feel the sky tumbling down
I feel my heart start to trembling
Whenever you’re around

Of course when Carole King released this song in 1971, she was referring to someone deeply in love and describing their feelings for that person. But across the country people could use this same song, the same lyrics in communities where there is hydrofracking occurring and waste being injected into deep wells.

Once again, the news has reported earthquakes, not in Virginia, Ohio, West Virginia, Arkansas or Texas this time in Oklahoma. In southern Oklahoma in Love County – yes Love County not Love Canal – wells that take waste from fracking have been shut down after a number of tremors and quakes. The Oklahoma injection wells began operations September 3rd and tremors began September 17th. The strongest was magnitude 3.4, and they have damaged chimneys, broken windows, and caused objects to fall in homes and businesses. Read more >


Radioactive Wastewater from Fracking Found in a Pennsylvania Stream


Originally Appears at

In the state of Pennsylvania, home to the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation, 74 facilities treat wastewater from the process of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”) for natural gas and release it into streams. There’s no national set of standards that guides this treatment process—the EPA notes that the Clean Water Act’s guidelines were developed before fracking even existed, and that many of the processing plants “are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater”—and scientists have conducted relatively little assessment of the wastewater to ensure it’s safe after being treated.

Recently, a group of Duke University scientists decided to do some testing. They contacted the owners of one treatment plant, the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility on Blacklick Creek in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, but, “when we tried to work with them, it was very difficult getting ahold of the right person,” says Avner Vengosh, an Earth scientist from Duke. “Eventually, we just went and tested water right from a public area downstream.”

Their analyses, made on water samples collected repeatedly over the course of two years, were even more concerning than we’d feared. As published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, they found high concentrations of the element radium, a highly radioactive substance. The concentrations were roughly 200 times higher than background levels. In addition,  amounts of chloride and bromide in the water were two to ten times greater than normal.

“Even if, today, you completely stopped disposal of the wastewater,” Vengosh says, there’s enough contamination built up that”you’d still end up with a place that the U.S. would consider a radioactive waste site.”

In recent years, the use of fracking to extract natural gas from shale formations has boomed in several areas, most notably Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, which has been called “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” The process involves injecting mix of water, sand and proprietary chemicals deep into rock at high pressure, causing the rock to fracture and allowing methane gas to seep upward for extraction.

Between 10 and 40 percent of the fluid injected during the fracking process resurfaces, presenting a treatment problem for processing plants. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Mikenorton

Much of the concern over fracking has related to the seepage of these chemicals or methane from drilling wells into groundwater or the fact that high-pressure injection can trigger earthquakes, but the wastewater recently tested presents a separate, largely overlooked problem.

Between 10 and 40 percent of fluid sent down during fracking resurfaces, carrying contaminants with it. Some of these contaminants may be present in the fracking water to begin with. But others are leached into the fracking water from groundwater trapped in the rock it fractures.

Radium, naturally present in the shales that house natural gas, falls into the latter category—as the shale is shattered to extract the gas, groundwater trapped within the shale, rich in concentrations of the radioactive element, is freed and infiltrates the fracking wastewater.

Other states require this wastewater to be pumped back down into underground deposit wells sandwiched between impermeable layers of rock, but because Pennsylvania has few of these cavities, it is the sole state that allows fracking wastewater to be processed by normal wastewater treatment plants and released into rivers.

These plants, many scientists note, are not designed to handle the radioactive elements present in the wastewater. Neither are they required to test their effluent for radioactive elements. As a result, many researchers have suspected that the barely-studied water they release into local streams retains significant levels of radioactivity.

This new work confirms that suspicion for at least one plant—which as about an hour east of Pittsburgh, and releases effluent into the watershed that supplies the city’s drinking water—and Vengosh believes that the findings would likely be similar for many of the other facilities in Pennsylvania. Especially concerning is the fact that, apart from in the water, the team found high levels of radioactivity accumulating on the sediments at the bottom of the stream over time. Radium has a half-life of 1600 years, so unless these sediments are removed, they’ll keep releasing radiation into the water for an extremely long period.

In addition, the high levels of bromide found in the wastewater is a concern, because even in slight quantities, the compound can trigger the formation of a toxic class of chemicals called halomethanes when it’s combined with chlorine. This is a problem because in rural areas, many residents treat well water by chlorinating it.

The study—which is part of a larger Duke project studying the effect of fracking on water—doesn’t show that fracking is inherently unsafe, but does show that without proper controls, the wastewater being dumped into the environment daily represents a very real danger for local residents.

Vengosh notes that there are better methods of treating fracking wastewater (he points to the plants operated by Eureka Resources as a model for adequately removing radioactivity), but these are more expensive to operate. But currently, without the push of federal regulations, companies looking to dispose of wastewater have no incentive to pay for this type of solution.


Marcellus Shale waste trips more radioactivity alarms than other products left at landfills Read more:


August 22, 2013 12:32 am

Last year, nearly 1,000 trucks hauling 15,769 tons of Marcellus Shale waste were stopped at Pennsylvania landfill gates after tripping radioactivity alarms.

The trucks were pulled to the side, wanded with hand-held detectors and some of the material was sent to laboratories for further evaluation. In the end, 622 tons were shipped to three out-of-state landfills specifically designed to dispose of hazardous and radioactive materials.

But most of the flagged waste was eventually allowed past the gates. It was safe enough to be buried along with other waste as long as it stays below the annual limit, the Department of Environmental Protection and landfill operators deemed.

The increase in radiation alarms going off at landfills has mirrored the growth in Marcellus Shale activity, and the DEP has launched a yearlong study of radioactive Marcellus waste to determine any risks involved in its transportation or disposal.

The agency’s bureau of waste management also has formed a working group and charged it with developing protocol for tracking rejected loads, for telling gas operators how to characterize the waste, for developing waste acceptance criteria for landfills, and for clarifying how well sites and waste treatment plants should handle residual waste.

So far, neither the DEP nor the landfill owners are alarmed.

To put it into perspective, the alarms flagged only 1 percent of all landfill-bound Marcellus waste last year, according to state figures. Shale gas operators reported sending just under 1 million tons of waste to Pennsylvania landfills in 2012. The majority of that was drill cuttings — chunks of earth pulled out of the well during the drilling process — but there was also flow-back water, frack sand and other fluids that were turned into sludge for disposal.

It’s these sludges that experts say are most likely contributing to elevated radiation counts.

The radioactive material in Marcellus waste is naturally occurring. It’s mostly radium, a product of uranium decay, and it has been underground for millions of years in the Marcellus formation. Dredging earth and gas out of the ground brings up the radioactive elements.

Since 2002, all Pennsylvania landfills have been outfitted with radiation detectors following concerns about medical waste ending up in the municipal waste stream. All trucks arriving at the facilities pass through a gate topped with a sensor that takes a reading inches away from the top of the truck.

According to the DEP, Marcellus sludge is three times more likely to trip alarms than solid shale waste. Last year, 224 loads of drill cuttings elicited alarms at landfills, while 773 loads of sludge did the same. So far this year, 211 loads of sludge and 124 loads of drill cuttings tripped alarms, the DEP said.

But the number of times an alarm is tripped doesn’t tell the whole story.

Landfill sensors are particularly sensitive and able to detect even small levels of radioactivity, said Erika Deyarmin, a spokeswoman for Waste Management Corp., which operates 17 commercial landfills in Pennsylvania.

Usually, if a load is really radioactive, it never makes it to a landfill because the oil and gas company or wastewater treatment plant that first scans that waste at their site knows it will be rejected, she said. In such cases, the company must come up with another disposal option.

The increase in radioactivity at landfills may be a product of how Marcellus waste treatment has changed over the last few years.

In 2011, radioactivity concerns centered around water. Back then, oil and gas companies were still taking their waste to municipal wastewater treatment plants and to commercial plants that were discharging into the state’s waters.

In the summer of 2011, the DEP collected and analyzed sediment from the PA Brine wastewater treatment plant in Indiana County and found levels of radium 226 in the discharge pipe that was 44 times the drinking water standard. Twenty meters downstream of the discharge point, levels were still 66 percent above the standard.

Similar results were found at several other facilities, as revealed in a settlement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the company earlier this year.

In April 2011, the PA Brine plant and all such plants in the state had been told not to accept Marcellus wastewater, but the radioactive elements found in PA Brine’s soil were remnants of prior discharges.

Kelvin Gregory, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who works on Marcellus water issues, said the peak of radioactivity in wastewater comes after the initial gush of flow-back water comes to the surface after fracking. Radium concentrations are highest in produced water, a term that describes the brine that continues to flow out of the well for long periods of time after that well starts producing gas.

In a survey of flow-back and produced water at 46 Marcellus sites, Mr. Gregory found radioactivity increases for two months on average, then he saw plateaus.

Whether the level stays at that high concentration forever or tapers off at some point isn’t yet clear, Mr. Gregory said. The wells haven’t been producing long enough to tell.

Examples of highly radioactive waste from the Marcellus are rare so far.

“The cases where we get a very hot load are very few and far between,” said John Poister, a spokesman for the DEP’s southwestern district.

But every once in awhile, it happens.

In April, a truckload from Rice Energy arrived at Max Environmental’s Yukon Landfill in Westmoreland County and set off the alarm. The waste was deemed too radioactive.

The company shopped it around to a few landfills, but no one would take it, Mr. Poister said. Eventually, the truck went back to the source while arrangements were made to transport the waste to a specialized disposal site in Idaho.

Why was Rice’s load so much hotter than others?

“That’s a question for the [DEP] study,” Mr. Poister said.

“We’ve taken quite a bit of drill cuttings at our Yukon facility this year, and only one truck triggered the radiation alarm,” said Carl Spadaro, environmental general manager of the Yukon landfill. “Other landfills have had alarms triggered quite a bit.”

Yukon accepts about 90,000 tons of waste annually and just last month amended its permit to be able to accept waste that trips radiation alarms.

“We didn’t do this to bring in a lot of [radioactive] waste,” Mr. Spadaro said. “We did this to level the playing field.”

Yukon competes with two other landfills within a 5-mile radius.

“The biggest concern is exposure of a landfill worker during unloading and somebody who’s handling material,” Mr. Spadaro said.

The exposure level allowed at Pennsylvania landfills is a quarter of the EPA’s public radiation dose limit of 100 millirem per year.

“This is equivalent to about two chest X-rays,” said Kevin Sunday, a former spokesman for the DEP.

‘Gasland’ Sequel Has More Fracking Horror Stories


At CHEJ this week, I have had the opportunity to speak on the phone with numerous grassroots anti-fracking groups in the Marcellus region, and to hear their stories and their struggles with the hydraulic-fracturing industry. Their stories are local, personal, but the issue at hand is large, powerful, and most of all, unjust. For me, having the chance to hear the voices of people whose lives have been turned upside down by the greedy drive for cheap, unsafe energy, really put the problem into perspective.

Josh Fox, producer of the anti-fracking documentary Gasland, uses a similar tactic to gain support for the cause. His first film portrayed the stories of many families and individuals whose lives had been upset by the fracking industry. These personal, heartbreaking stories reach us in a way that the larger-scale issue does not. Josh Fox knows how useful a touching story can be, and with the release of his second documentary, a sequel to Gasland, he will undoubtedly continue to reach the public by sharing these emotive stories of the afflicted families.

Read more >

Polluted water

A Mother’s Story About Fracking


This is a first hand description by Jodi from PA who was recently dosed with toxic chemical inside of her home that were released from a nearby well pad and gas line. She now has skin rashes on her face, neck and chest. She is nauseous and extremely tired.