They called 911 but never alerted the residents – They evacuated 22 families as the oil spilled out but won’t tell us the risks – the train derailment is being cleaned up but people are still sick — the seven inch well stack exploded into the air like a missile – Where are the Protections?
In Montrose Borough, PA a woman was concerned and curious about a loud noise coming from a fracking site not too far from her home. Vera Scroggins decided to take a ride and find out what was happening. She described this journey in her letter to the editor.
“I was in a friend’s living room on March 19th in Montrose Borough, Pa., Susquehanna County, at about 5 p.m., and heard a loud noise going on for eventually over an hour and it sounded almost like a gas flare but later found out it was an ESD release, an emergency shutdown, of pipelines as part of safety measures and routine maintenance.
I followed the sound to Sterling Rd., South Montrose, about 2 miles away or more and it was loudest there. People, like myself, were driving around trying to find out what this was. This was a new experience for me. I have found out that gases were released for over an hour and we, the community are being exposed to this by Williams Gas.”
It is amazing how this story is the same as the story from families living around chemical plants, pipelines, incinerators, dumpsites and so many more dangerous places. Government and corporate profiteers get away with releasing chemicals accidentally or on purpose and don’t have to notify people at risk.
As a result there is no way for innocent families to prepare themselves for the danger. Families often think about fire and have a fire alarm or explain to children in the event of a fire in the homes here is what you do. Schools across the country have fire drills so that students and staff are prepared in the event of a fire.
Yet in communities like Vera’s or most recently March 29th in Arkansas a pipeline rupture where tar sands sludge spilled 12,000 barrels of oil throughout the community causing the evacuation of at least 22 families. March 30th a fracking explosion shot a huge, long pipe into the air landing in the cab of a construction truck. Earlier in March in Paulsboro, NJ a train derailed and a toxic cloud covered the area people were confused about what to do but worse they were told the risk was low. Yet a 77 year old woman died after breathing those toxic chemicals from the train derailment.
Vera is right when she said in her letter, when she talked about the lack of notification and preparedness for such accidents. “No one in the community was notified except 911 about this. We need to know who to call when this happens and be told what it is to allay our fears and anxiety. And we need to know what the health impacts from gases being released from pipelines in this instance and any more that will happen in the future.”
In all of these situations we often talk about the issues in a bigger broader context but the past month has really demonstrated how local the issues are and that our focus needs to include large policies or regulatory change but also change that can address the many needs for safety notification and enforcement at the local frontline communities.
Vera and other just like her across the country want answers and help. It’s time to focus on these needs.
An Exxon-Mobil oil pipeline ruptured Friday afternoon in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, forcing the evacuation of 20 homes and shutting down sections of interstate highway. Read more.
“We know that our continued reliance on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, like natural gas, will not solve the climate crisis, even with the best controls in place,” said Deb Nardone, a Sierra Club campaign director, who called the new plan “akin to slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.” Read more.
A Cold Wednesday in March Demonstrated the reach CHEJ has and how much is really accomplished.
A Cold, Windy and Snowy Day Did Not Stop Us.
Wednesday March 6th a storm was brewing across the Midwest and Northeast. Despite the snow and travel warnings CHEJ’s leaders moved forward. Here is what happened on that cold, windy and snowy Wednesday in March.
A day in the life of CHEJ
As I juggle calls from activists across the state of Ohio working on fracking, deep well injection, air pollution, cancer clusters and more I’m freezing outside at and anti injection well rally at the state capital. Cold and tired watching e-mails cross my phone from CHEJ’s home office I realize how much CHEJ does in a day to move the country toward a safe, healthy and justice place for American families.
While I’m in Columbus, Ohio participating with my neighbors and friends to speak out about fracking waste disposal. Even with the nasty weather, over 125 people gather at the state house to ask legislators to stop accepting out-of-state fracking wastes. Ohio now has over 200 injection wells and last year accepted 581,559,594 gallons (that’s right over 581 million gallons) of fracking wastes.
My co-worker is working on greening the market place organized a shareholder action in Arizona around Disney’s use of poison plastic in toys and other children’s products. This morning a shareholder action was held in Phoenix, Arizona. Leaders handed out informational packets to Disney shareholders to ask them to stop using PVC the poison plastic in their toys. Many shareholders had no idea that toys were being made in a way that could harm young children.
Commemorating 35th Anniversary of Love Canal
In New York City
That same evening a celebration and fundraiser was held in New York City with our Executive Director Lois Gibbs. This was our first event of several, commemorations of Love Canal events 35 years ago were underway. Chevy and Jayni Chase joined us as our special guest along with 67 others who braved the weather to celebrate with us that evening. CHEJ surpassed our fundraising goal at the event and launched the Leadership Training Academy. Great time was had by all with great food, drinks, conversations with colleagues and a preview of the new documentary A Fierce Green Fire, The Battle for A Living Planet.
A coalition of environmental and community groups is asking the federal government to consider suspending Ohio’s authority to oversee deep injection of chemically-laced wastewater from oil and gas drilling.
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice and other groups planned to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to investigate and audit Ohio’s regulatory program of deep injection wells, operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The call follows February indictments of a northeast Ohio businessman and his employee charging they illegally dumped oil and gas wastes. The two pleaded not guilty Friday.
A series of earthquakes around Youngstown had prompted an effective moratorium on new injection wells in early 2012. The state resumed issuing injection permits in November after imposing new testing, reporting and tracking requirements.
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing will rally in Annapolis today to press lawmakers for a moratorium on the controversial drilling practice in the state. Read more.
Backed By Silver, Assembly Bill Would Delay Fracking Permits 1 Year. A bill quietly introduced today in the state Assembly would prevent state environmental regulators from issuing drilling permits for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions until a full review of the health impacts can be assessed. Read more.
THE LANDSMAN COMETH
This is a narrative of what happened to two Pennsylvanian dairy farmers told by Bob Scroggins of New Milford, PA. Their plights, as told separately by two women, are woven together as one, each filling in the blanks of the other for a complete picture. We’ll give them the singular name, Barbara. This is her story.
Barbara wasn’t getting any younger. Running the farm this year was more difficult than last year and next year would be harder still. She wanted to somehow retire but how? Then came that knock on the porch door. It was the landsman.
After some small talk, the landsman told me I was walking on money. A mile down was a deposit of natural gas. There is a new way to extract it, he explained, that was minimally invasive. Of course there would be some surface disruption but not much and it would be over quickly. Then the gas would flow and so would the money from royalties.
How much money? A lot of money over the 30-year life expectancy of the well, answered the landsman. It seemed like the answer to my prayers. I could not only retire but could possible become a “shaleionaire.”
The landsman was likable, forthright, and sincere. I trusted him. That was my first mistake. He handed me a two-page contract to sign with assurance that it was in my interest.
I glanced over the small print, then signed it. That was my second mistake. Paragraph 15, had I read it, would have given me pause for thought: “no promise on behalf of either party shall be binding unless agreed to in writing.” In other words, what the landsman said, no matter how misleading or false, had no legal standing.
Several months later I woke up to find 18 trucks idling on my land. Bulldozers leveled a drill pad, and a rig went up not far from my backdoor. I should have counted myself lucky. Paragraph 4 read: “no well may be drilled nearer than 200 feet to any dwelling house.” The rig was 500 feet away.
Then came the fleets of trucks carrying water, sand, chemicals, rig parts, heavy-duty construction equipment, diesel engines, fuel, pumps, exotic machinery. This was a 24/7 operation against which I was a helpless observer.
But paragraph 4 was warning enough: “Lessee shall have the right to construction . . . all facilities to discover, produce, store, treat and/or transport production.” And paragraph 8 gave them the right to “ingress and egress.”
In plain language, the gas company had the right to do whatever it wanted whenever it wanted.
My back pasture became an industrial zone.
Then it got worse.
I noticed that the water in the cow trough stopped freezing on cold nights. This affected the cows as well as the marketability of their milk. My tap water turned milky white, then became gelatinous, the faucets sputtered with methane. It was undrinkable.
The gas company agreed to provide water provided I sign a non-disclosure agreement. I didn’t sign. I wanted people to know what was going on.
My royalty check for the first month of production was $1,400. I calculated that based on the volume of gas extracted it should have been more. But that was because I didn’t read paragraph 3: “the amount realized from the sale of gas less all costs of post-production expenses.”
The landsman’s 30-year well production prediction turned out to be two years after which it twindled to 20 percent along with the royalties. My last check was for $70.
The market value of my farm fell 85 percent. My health suffers from the contaminated water I am forced to use for brief showers. The fumes, constant noise from traffic and flaring, and glaring floodlights at night all take their toll.
There is also the anxiety caused by the possibility of the gas company filing a mechanic’s lien. This is a claim on my property incurred by unpaid subcontractors to the gas company.
And if things get a little too sticky for the gas company, there’s paragraph 10: “the lessee shall have the right to surrender this lease after which all payments and liabilities cease.” But the lease denies me the right to opt-out. That, as I found out, is in paragraph 9.
New Milford, PA
THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH COMMISIONER DR. SHAW SAYS HE NEEDS MORE TIME TO COMPLETE HEALTH REVIEW FORCING THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION TO MISS KEY DEADLINE In an incredible victory for Mountainkeeper and activists across New York State – Dr. Shaw, the State Department of Health Commissioner sent a letter to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens stating:
“As we have been reviewing the scope of these studies, I have determined — and prudence dictates — that the DOH Public Health Review will require additional time to complete based on the complexity of the issues. My team and I will be in Pennsylvania and Washington in the coming days for first-hand briefings on these studies and their progress, which will assist in informing the New York review. I have also extended the term of the DOH outside expert researchers to continue to assist my review. I anticipate delivering the completed Public Health Review to you within a few weeks, along with my recommendations.”