The new location – VFW Barto Post 6553 at 65 Run St. in Slovan, Washington County.
Immediately following the open house which starts at 6:30 pm- the hearing will start. The anticipated start time is at 7:30 p.m., members of the public may present up to five minutes of formal testimony for the public record. The testimony will be recorded by a court reporter and transcribed into a written document, and DEP will create a written response to all relevant testimony.
Those who wish to present oral testimony should contact DEP Community Relations Coordinator John Poister at 412-442-4203 or register that evening prior to the hearing. Only those who register can give testimony at the public hearing.
For anyone unable to attend the public hearing, written comment should be submitted by the close of business on May 11 to Alan Binder, PA DEP Bureau of Air Quality, Southwest Regional Office, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012
By JACOB SEIBEL TN Correspondent email@example.com
Unpermitted sewer lines that discharge untreated sewage, known as wildcat sewers, have officially delayed the nearly decade-long Act 537 project for West Penn Township and Walker Township.
With the plan supposed to be finished by the end of December before what supervisors hoped to be the start of the implementation process of fixing defective sewers in the township, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has called for further investigation into the wildcat sewers.
Although an investigation of the wildcats was unavoidable, West Penn Township Solicitor Gretchen Sterns and Township Engineer Ronald B. Madison, PE hoped that it could be done while the project was being worked on. They said there is no sense to delay the project to investigate a problem that they already know is there.
“I find that it is unbelievable, quite frankly,” Sterns said at last evening’s supervisor meeting, “that DEP showed great concern that there are areas where these wildcat sewers are where you literally have black water is coming out, causing a huge pollution concern, but their response is not to fix it. Their response is lets study it some more. I’m appalled, frankly, by that result.”
“Unfortunately, it’s more time and more expense,” Madison said.
The estimated cost for West Penn and Walker Township since the planning phase of Act 537 began in 2003 up this point has been $356,107.
A West Penn Township board of supervisors reorganization meeting will be Monday, Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. in the municipal building.
Breaking: PA Rep. Jesse White Challenges DEP Over Deceptive Marcellus Shale Water Testing Practices
by Iris Marie Bloom
November 2, 2012
An explosive press release issued yesterday by Pennsylvania State Representative Jesse White alleges formally, based on a deposition by a high-ranking PA DEP official, what many residents of “shale country” in Pennsylvania have been saying for years: that PA DEP water testing data is manipulated in order to avoid disclosing shale gas drilling water impacts to those affected.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the story 20 minutes ago, “Lawmaker Challenges PA DEP’s Reporting of Gas Well Water Safety.” Read Post-Gazette reporter Don Hopeys’ article here. [ http://pipeline.post-gazette.com/news/archives/24893-lawmaker-challenges-pa-dep-s-reporting-of-gas-well-water-safety ]
Due to the riveting importance of this call for investigation of PA DEP’s integrity, and due to the severe health impacts experienced by some of those whose water has been fouled by shale gas drilling processes in Pennsylvania, we are publishing Rep. Jesse White’s press release in full: [ http://pahouse.com/PR/046110112.asp ]
White calls on state, federal authorities for investigation of DEP over deceptive Marcellus Shale water-quality testing practices
Testimony by DEP lab chief reveals possibility of intentionally undisclosed public health risks from Marcellus Shale gas drilling
HARRISBURG, Nov. 1 – State Rep. Jesse White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington, today called for state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for alleged misconduct and fraud revealed by sworn testimony given by a high-ranking DEP official.
White said he received a letter and corresponding documents highlighting the sworn testimony of DEP Bureau of Laboratories Technical Director Taru Upadhyay, who was deposed in a lawsuit alleging nearby natural gas drilling operations contaminated drinking water supplies in Washington County, causing serious health issues. In the deposition, Upadhyay said that the DEP was clearly aware of water impacts from Marcellus Shale drilling, but no notices of violation were filed – a violation of the state’s Oil & Gas Act.
Of more critical concern to Pennsylvania residents, according to White, was that the deposition revealed that the DEP developed a specialized computer-code system to manipulate the test results for residents whose water was tested by the DEP over concerns of adverse effects from gas drilling operations.
According to the transcripts, which have been filed as exhibits in a related lawsuit in Washington County Court of Common Pleas (Haney et al. v. Range Resources et al., Case No. 2012-3534), the DEP lab would conduct water tests using an EPA-approved standard, but the DEP employee who requested the testing would use a specially designed ‘Suite Code’ which limits the information coming back from the DEP lab to the DEP field office, and ultimately to the property owner.
The code in question, Suite Code 942, was used to test for water contamination associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities, yet specifically screens out results for substances known to be hazardous and associated with Marcellus Shale drilling. Similar codes, Suite Code 943 and 946, are also used by the DEP in similar circumstances; both of these codes omit the presence or levels of drilling-related compounds.
As a result, if Suite Code 942 is applied, the report generated for the homeowner by DEP only includes eight of the 24 metals actually tested for: Barium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Sodium and Strontium. The homeowner would not be given results for: Silver, Aluminum, Beryllium, Cadium, Cobalt, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, Silicon, Lithium, Molybdenum, Tin, Titanium, Vandium, Zinc and Boron.
“This is beyond outrageous. Anyone who relied on the DEP for the truth about whether their water has been impacted by drilling activities has apparently been intentionally deprived of critical health and safety information by their own government,” White said. “There is no excuse whatsoever to justify the DEP conducting the water tests and only releasing partial information to residents, especially when the information withheld could easily be the source of the problem. This goes beyond incompetence; this is unlawful and reprehensible activity by the DEP. If these allegations are true, there needs to be a thorough and objective investigation to determine if someone belongs in a jail cell.”
White continued: “I am not releasing this information to hurt Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania, but to help ensure the reality matches the rhetoric. The Marcellus boom was built on the assumption that the DEP was competent and capable of balancing the positive impacts of the industry with its job of keeping residents safe and secure, but we now know that simply isn’t the case. Like most of us, I want the Marcellus Shale industry to succeed by doing things the right way, so it is crucial to find out what exactly the DEP was up to. If the system is indeed rigged, we must do everything in our power to root out corruption and restore public confidence in our ability to have an honest conversation with one another about developing a responsible energy policy for Pennsylvania.”
Due to the strong possibility of unlawful conduct, White is calling on the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Environmental Protection Agency, state Attorney General Linda Kelly and any other appropriate law enforcement agency to pursue an investigation of the DEP to discover the scope and depth of this scheme to withhold important information from Pennsylvanians. White is also sending a letter to the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NJ-NELAP), to investigate whether the DEP’s conduct and practices violated the accreditation standards for the DEP laboratories. If accreditation standards were violated, White is requesting the DEP’s accreditation be stripped, rendering the agency unable to conduct and certify its own tests.
White said he is sending a letter to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer seeking a summary of how many constituents in his legislative district, which includes communities with high levels of Marcellus Shale drilling activity, had DEP tests done using Suite Codes 942, 943 or 946. White also intends to make a blanket request on behalf of his constituents that DEP release the full testing data directly to the individual property owners in question.
Any Pennsylvania resident who received water quality test results from the DEP should look for the number 942, 943 or 946 as a ‘Suite Code’ or ‘Standard Analysis’. White encouraged anyone with questions to contact his district office at 724-746-3677 for more information and noted that the property owner should be entitled to the complete testing results from DEP.
“This isn’t a technicality, and it isn’t something which can be ignored,” White said. “We are talking about people’s health, safety and welfare. The sworn testimony from inside the DEP about a scheme to withhold vital information about potential water contamination is truly alarming. An investigation is necessary to answer these serious allegations.”
The letter sent to Rep. White alerting him of these issues can be found at:http://www.scribd.com/doc/111821139
The deposition of TaruUpadhyay, technical director of PA DEP Laboratory can be found at:http://www.scribd.com/doc/111821978
Take Action: Speak Up
Beyond absorbing this important news, this is the time to write your letters to the editor and otherwise speak in public, including direct confrontation at public meetings, to demand an immediate halt on on high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. Residents and workers’ health is being hurt, yet the industry is keeping toxic secrets, with help from far too many friends in high places.
Not to be forgotten in our outrage over PA public officials’ betrayal of public health: the big picture. Fracking accelerates climate change. Even as we post this, over 1.6 million people are without power from mega-storm Sandy; the death toll continues to rise. Extreme weather events are occurring, and will occur, more frequently and with greater severity due to climate change. Climate change is the greatest single threat to all of our health. Whether you drink water from a well that could be impacted — and you now know you are not protected by either our state or federal authorities — or whether you breathe air already impacted by the hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered truck trips, flowback waste emissions, compressor station emissions and pipeline leaks inherent in fracking; or whether you want our people to stop escalating the ravages of global warming, now is the time to speak up and demand change.
CALL FOR ABSTRACTS [ http://agsci.psu.edu/pawaterabstract ]
Pennsylvania Groundwater Symposium
May 8, 2013
Penn State University, University Park, PA
Abstract Deadline is December 3, 2012
Abstracts can be submitted at: http://agsci.psu.edu/pawaterabstract
In celebration of National Drinking Water Week, Penn State Extension’s Master Well Owner Network and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection along with numerous other sponsors invite you to submit abstracts for the 2013 Pennsylvania Groundwater Symposium at Penn State University in University Park, PA. The Symposium theme: Emerging Issues in a Changing Landscape will provide a forum for researchers, students, professionals and educators working in the groundwater field to exchange information and promote protection of groundwater resources throughout the state.
Abstracts will be accepted through December 3, 2012 for short presentations or posters on a wide variety of groundwater topics including:
• Groundwater processes
• Wellhead protection
• Water well studies
• Emerging contaminants
• Data availability
• Groundwater monitoring
• Aquifer studies
• Groundwater/surface water interactions
• Issues related to energy extraction
• Education and outreach
The conference planning committee will review all abstracts and notify authors of acceptance via email by December 14, 2012. The conference registration site and agenda will be available by February 1, 2013. Thanks to generous support from sponsors, we currently expect a nominal registration fee of approximately $25 to $30 for this symposium. We hope you can join us for this event showcasing Pennsylvania’s valuable groundwater resource!
Published: August 16, 2012
State environmental regulators told The Associated Press last year that they spend as little as 35 minutes reviewing each of thousands of permit applications for natural gas wells, even though the environment surrounding each well is unique to that site.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s reaction? That’s not fast enough.
After cutting the DEP budget by more than $20 million during his first 18 months in office, the governor issued an executive order July 24 that will pressure DEP personnel to quickly complete their reviews, regardless of conditions on the ground. It requires the DEP to set specific deadlines for DEP decisions and makes compliance with those deadlines part of the employees’ performance evaluation standards.
DEP’s appropriate mission, of course, is environmental protection rather than mere speed. The governor would have the agency treat all complete permit applications alike even though each location has unique environmental features.
Even under existing procedures, DEP staffers told the AP, evaluators did not spend extra time on applications to drill near fragile waterways that have specific state and federal protections.
The order is curious in several ways.
It rescinds an executive order issued in 1995 by Gov. Tom Ridge, under which the DEP refunded permit fees to applicants if the agency did not review applications within a set time period. Since then, the DEP has refunded a tiny portion of application fees.
According to the governor, he acted because the complaint “I have received over and over again is the time it takes for businesses, nonprofit organizations and governments to work through the permitting process.”
What one hears, of course, is a function of to whom one listens. Corbett listens very intently to the gas industry, especially since his insistence on vast tax breaks for a gas-based Shell petrochemical refinery in Beaver County that will require an array of environmental clearances. His hearing relative to the environmental impact of drilling has been far more selective. Corbett’s executive order would be more appropriate for an economic development agency, but that is not the legitimate mission of the DEP. The order is a back-door means to diminish environmental protection.
U.S. EPA yesterday ended the latest chapter in the turbulent drilling dispute in Dimock, Pa., finding that contaminant levels in its water show no health threat and no connection to hydraulic fracturing chemicals.
Because of that, the agency said, it will stop delivering water to four households in the small northeastern Pennsylvania community that was featured in the anti-drilling documentary “Gasland.”
“The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,” said Philadelphia-based EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin.
The action, however, does not change state officials’ case against Cabot Oil and Gas for contaminating water wells in the community with methane. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection still has not cleared Cabot to drill in areas of Dimock Township where it ordered wells shut down in 2009. That case focused on poor well construction, not problems with fracturing.
A Cabot spokesman said the company is “working closely with the state to restart our operations.”
EPA had looked for hazardous substances such as arsenic, barium or manganese (E&ENews PM, May 11). At five homes, EPA sampling found those substances, which are naturally occurring, at levels that “could present a health concern.” But all five of the homes have sufficient treatment systems, or will have them, to make the water quality acceptable coming out of the tap.
“The data released today once again confirms the EPA’s and DEP’s findings that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment,” a statement issued by the company said.
The statement said the company will “continue to cooperate with federal, state and local officials” and stressed the economic growth that drilling has brought to the area.
Industry praised EPA’s findings as “fact-based” and cast them as vindication of the safety of drilling.
“We are very pleased that EPA has arrived upon these fact-based findings and that we’re now able to close this chapter once and for all,” said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group.
What’s not closed is the action by Pennsylvania DEP, which shut down Cabot’s drilling in portions of Dimock Township in 2009. State officials said shoddy well construction on Cabot wells allowed methane gas to leak (or “migrate”) into the water wells of Dimock residents.
EPA testing has left many with the impression that the federal agency has exonerated and debunked all the allegations against Cabot in Dimock, said John Hanger, who headed Pennsylvania DEP during its Dimock investigation.
He says a drive by some environmental groups to shut down the industry in Pennsylvania has backfired. He said they pushed too far by trying to prove that hydraulic fracturing chemicals, not just methane, had contaminated the Dimock water.
“This is the problem with hyperbole, exaggeration and wild claims,” Hanger said. “There are real impacts from gas drilling, and we should focus on those, such as methane migration and methane leaks.”
DEP testing found “thermogenic” — as opposed to naturally occurring — gas at 18 properties. DEP fined the company and eventually negotiated a $4.1 million settlement in which all the affected homeowners got at least two times the value of their home and kept any mineral rights.
EPA tested for methane in its first round of sampling. Five wells had methane above the federal Office of Surface Mining’s screening level of 28 parts per million. Two of the homes were receiving alternate sources of drinking water from Cabot. EPA officials said all of the people affected were already aware that their water contained levels of methane.
“EPA’s investigation does not include an evaluation of the risk posed by elevated levels of methane — which continue to exist in some homes in Dimock — and which, at extreme levels and if unaddressed, can lead to explosions,” said Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Kate Sinding.
Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
EnergyWire: Thursday, July 26, 2012
Allen Stewart, P.C. attorneys celebrate $1.6 Million settlement for landowners harmed by oil and gas drilling.
DALLAS, Jun 25, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Attorneys with Allen Stewart, P.C. announced today that a group of Pennsylvania landowners represented by the Dallas-based law firm have settled their claims against oil and gas giant Chesapeake Energy Corporation for $1.6 million. The settlement was reached immediately after attorneys with Allen Stewart, P.C., who acted as lead trial counsel, presented the plaintiffs’ case to the arbitration panel and before Chesapeake Energy called any witnesses–a testament to the strength of the plaintiffs’ claims. The landowners were also represented by attorneys with Pennsylvania-based law firms O’Malley & Langan, P.C.; Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C.; and Florida based The Romano Law Firm.
The plaintiffs are three families who live on Paradise Road in the small town of Wyalusing in northern Pennsylvania. Gas extraction and drilling activities by Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy and affiliated companies contaminated the property and groundwater of these Bradford County residents with excess methane levels that required one family to evacuate their home for 2 weeks.
Before Chesapeake Energy began drilling in 2009, the plaintiffs’ water showed no signs of pollution. By the summer of 2010, however, the plaintiffs experienced sudden changes in their ground water quality. At the same time, Chesapeake Energy’s wells located near the plaintiffs’ properties were leaking gas because the wells had been poorly cemented. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection investigated and determined that Chesapeake Energy’s gas wells were responsible for the methane in the plaintiffs’ water.
“These landowners signed oil and gas leases under assurances that gas drilling would never be close enough to affect their properties. These assurances proved false and Chesapeake’s inadequate design and maintenance of the gas wells allowed methane to pollute the plaintiffs’ underground water supply,” said Allen Stewart, who represents the landowners.
Allen Stewart, P.C. has been a leading force in obtaining justice for landowners harmed by poorly designed and maintained gas extraction wells. Landowners who know or suspect that their own water supply or property has been contaminated are encouraged to contact the attorneys at Allen Stewart, P.C. to learn more about their legal rights.
June 25, 2012, 10:43 a.m. EDT
SOURCE: Allen Stewart, P.C.
Hazleton Oil and Environmental Inc. is alleged to have dumped contaminated soil, stored hazardous waste and discharged antifreeze into sewer drains at their Banks Township location without a state permit, according to an affidavit of probable cause for a warrant authorizing searches at three properties.
Numerous other allegations are listed in paperwork that authorized agents from the state Attorney General’s Office to execute search warrants Tuesday at the firm’s locations at 300 Tamaqua St. (state Route 309) in Banks Township, 14 Fairview St. in Barnesville and 620 Quarry Road in Harleysville, Montgomery County.
The attorney general’s office initiated the criminal investigation based on information from DEP, the court papers state.
Agents seized 85 boxes of materials over the past four days including work orders, price lists, invoices, environmental records, hazardous materials files, recycled oil receipts, transfer files, state Department of Environmental Protection documents, halogen testing analyses, permits, customer files, annual operation reports and truck driver records, according to the court documents.
Also seized were maps, test kits, vials, sample bottles, computers, laptops, digital drives, hard drives, storage tapes, floppy disks and CDs, electronic storage assistants, zip disks and forensic examiner drives. They include devices that can store information dating to 2001, according to the warrant and affidavit.
The special agents from the Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigations, Environmental Crimes Section, filed the seized items with courts in Carbon, Schuylkill and Montgomery counties to build a case alleging violations of the Solid Waste Management Act and unlawful conduct, the court documents state.
Several former employees were interviewed by investigators, the documents state, while an eyewitness account of a special agent also revealed a number of alleged violations that took place in 2010 and 2011.
They include mixing oil samples with recycled oil, altering analytical reports by switching off-spec waste oil with on-spec waste oil, and mixing hazardous waste oil with less-contaminated waste oil and selling the blended oil as reprocessed waste oil, the court papers state.
Other alleged practices by Hazleton Oil and Environmental include mixing antifreeze and oil in the same compartment, dumping antifreeze down the drain and pumping untested waste oil into storage tanks at the Banks Township facility. Also, the company is alleged to have misrepresented oil to customers and billed customers for oil they did not receive.
In addition, the documents allege that oil with high levels of halogen and PCBs leaked out of a truck on-site.
The court papers also allege that the firm stored hazardous waste oil for periods longer than allowed, and mixed waste oil with reprocessed oil then sold it as reprocessed oil.
Also, quarterly waste water samples were altered by company officials at its tank farm in Barnesville, authorities allege.
Agents searched and seized evidence from the warehouse, storage building, storage tanks and lots in Banks Township. They looked at different forms of solid waste; samples of soil, water and other liquids, and soil samples of allegedly contaminated media, court papers state. The agents also looked at vehicles that transported oil, waste antifreeze, emulsions, and at several bottles and vials of samples on-site.
The court papers say Hazleton Oil and Environmental is in the business of hauling waste oil as well as media contaminated by waste oil. The company also reprocesses “off-spec” waste oil and sells it as fuel. Its business operations extend into several mid-Atlantic states including Pennsylvania.
On April 21, 2003, Broadus Bordeaux Enterprises, LLP, registered with the state corporation bureau listing its principal place of business as the Harleysville address and the company president as Sloane R. Six.
The court documents state that on Dec. 28, 2009, Broadus’ status as a limited liability partnership was terminated for failure to file an annual registration with the state corporation bureau for five consecutive years. However, by Feb. 28, 2011, the company was reinstated as an LLP after coming back in compliance with registration requirements.
The corporate address was changed to 300 Tamaqua St., Hazleton. Six was identified as CEO, Scott Clemens as vice president and Danny Clemens as operations manager on the corporate website.
A statement issued by the company earlier this week said it was cooperating with investigators and would comment further once it learns more about the focus of the investigation.
By Tom Ragan (Staff Writer)
Published: June 23, 2012
An investigation is under way at an oil recycling firm south of Hazleton where vehicles of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection were parked and an excavating machine was at work Wednesday afternoon.
At Hazleton Oil and Environmental on state Route 309 in Banks Township, workers congregated inside a fence around a tank farm where they set up two blue canopies as protection from the sun. Some workers donned hard hats, and at least one man wore a protective suit of shiny yellow.
The company issued a statement saying it was cooperating with investigators.
“Working with government inspectors and agents is not uncommon in the highly regulated business of used oil recycling,” the statement said.
Hazleton Oil will comment further after learning more about the focus of the investigation, the statement said.
DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connelly said in an email that search warrants were served at the company on Tuesday.
The search is part of an investigation by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, which is the lead agency, Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for the office, said in an email.
Last year, a DEP inspector visited the company to investigate a complaint that petroleum contaminated with waste was dumped outside fences.
The inspector found “an old pile of fill material with scrap metal and land clearing and grubbing waste mixed in,” but saw no illegal solid waste disposal nor smelled any petroleum, according to the inspection report of June 10, 2011, that is on file in the department’s regional offices in Wilkes-Barre.
In March 2011, the company received a notice saying that an storage tank hadn’t been inspected or an inspection report hadn’t been sent to the DEP.
Hazleton Oil and Environmental paid a civil penalty of $750 in for discharging stormwater after a permit expired, according to a consent decree of Oct. 1, 2010.
On July 20, 2005, a fire broke out inside a garage at Hazleton Oil and Environmental when a pilot light on a propane heater ignited vapors from floor cleaners and degreasers.
The fire spread to a roll-off container for debris contaminated with oil, to empty boxes and to boxes holding computers, a DEP inspector wrote a week later. Firefighters contained 6,000 gallons of water used to extinguish the fire inside the garage to prevent the possible spread of contamination.
After the fire, the company submitted a list of actions planned to prevent other fires and revised its fire prevention plan.
In February 2005, the DEP found total halogens in oil retained at the company exceeded permitted limits in one of 10 samples taken. In response, the company said a driver who failed to test contents of two drums before hauling them was fired. Also, the company stopped using a device referred to as a sniffer to test for halogens because the sniffer gave a false reading.
In 2004, the company also paid a civil penalty of $5,500 for accepting hazardous waste from a supplier in Harrisburg in violation of its permit.
The violation happened in May 2003 under previous owners.
Sloan R. Six and her husband, Scott Clemens, purchased the company in August 2003. The company started in 1961 as Hazleton Oil Salvage.
A remedial investigation conducted after the sale on behalf of the previous owner, Umbriac Enterprises, said benzene and other components of gasoline released from a gas station and bulk storage facility at the site in the 1980s entered soil and shallow groundwater. State law exempted Six and Clemens from responsibility for environmental damage that occurred before they purchased the property, the remedial investigation by Patriot Environmental Management of Douglassville, Berks County, said.
Hazleton Oil and Environmental has a mailing address of 300 Tamaqua St., Hazleton, and state records point out that the site is on the border of Carbon and Schuylkill counties.
The company recycles used oil, used anti-freeze, oily water, non-hazardous liquid sludge, oil filters and soil contaminated with petroleum, according to the annual report for 2010 that it submitted to the DEP.
Previously, the company helped the Hazleton Area School District and Hazleton General Hospital manage recycling programs. Hazleton Oil and Environmental also raised money and awareness about preventing breast cancer through public events and by painting one of its tanker trucks pink.
By KENT JACKSON (Staff Writer)
Published: June 21, 2012
The number of natural gas compressor stations planned for Northeastern Pennsylvania is multiplying as companies lay more pipelines to carry Marcellus Shale gas to customers.
The state has issued or is considering 29 air quality permits for separate stations in the northeast region, all of them in Susquehanna, Wyoming and Luzerne counties, according to a tally by the Department of Environmental Protection. Nearly two dozen of the permits are for stations planned within a 15-mile radius of the Susquehanna County seat in Montrose.
DEP has issued 383 of the permits statewide since October 2005, according to the agency’s tally. Not all of the permitted stations have been built and some may never materialize.
The permits cover facilities related to gas production, including compressor stations and dehydration units that strip liquid from the gas and speed it up for transport through interstate pipelines.
Each station emits a mix of pollutants – volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), formaldehyde and greenhouse gasses – in varying amounts that are limited by the type of permit governing the site.
Residents concerned about the proliferating stations’ impact on air quality have brought basic questions to public hearings in the region that are sometimes held as the state considers issuing permits: How many compressor stations will be built here? What is the combined impact of all these new pollution sources? When, if ever, can the state say stop?
The state considers the cumulative effect of the compressors using an existing network of monitoring stations that measure the ambient air quality, mostly in urban areas, Mark Wejkszner, DEP’s regional air quality program manager, told an audience at a hearing this spring in Susquehanna County. The closest monitors are in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, about 30 miles away.
Pollution levels above federal air quality standards measured at those stations would determine if the state issues fewer or stricter permits, he said, but “right now, we’re in compliance with all of them with a lot of leeway.”
Environmental groups have criticized the state in lawsuits, letters to federal regulators and in public comments on proposed permits and regulations arguing that DEP is not doing all it can under the law to limit the amount of pollution the oil and gas facilities are allowed to emit.
They say that the state’s current air quality monitoring network is inadequate to measure the impacts of gas drilling and infrastructure in rural areas far from the established monitors clustered in population centers and point out that it is too late now – years into the development of the gas-rich shale – to measure what the air was like before the wells, pipelines and compressors were built.
“DEP does not have a comprehensive monitoring program to monitor contaminants in the air throughout the shale play regions of the state,” PennFuture president George Jugovic Jr. said. “We’re not monitoring for VOCs in these rural areas. We’re not monitoring for toxics. Having already begun this development, baseline is not really a question anymore. Now the question is can we get monitoring to ensure there are no local or regional impacts as we move forward.”
Jugovic was the director of DEP’s southwest regional office prior to joining PennFuture last year. He testified at a state House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in February that his former regional office alone has permitted over 13,000 tons per year of NOx emissions from compressor stations. If each station emitted the maximum allowed by its permit, it would add up to about 10 percent of the NOx emissions from all sources of air pollution statewide.
Nitrogen oxides, which are commonly released in car exhaust and cigarette smoke and by burning fossil fuels, can contribute to respiratory problems and lung damage on their own as well as when they are combined with sunlight and volatile organic compounds to form smog.
Environmental groups also say the state is not using a tool frequently enough that would limit emissions by considering connected wells, pipelines and compressors owned by the same company and built near one another as one pollution source governed by one, stricter permit – a process called aggregation.
None of the oil and gas air pollution sources permitted in Northeastern Pennsylvania have been aggregated, a DEP spokeswoman said, but all of them have been evaluated to see if the aggregation rules apply.
“It’s like a cumulative impact assessment,” Jugovic said. “If you look at each pollution source individually, it never looks like a significant impact on the air or the water. But whenever you look at it more holistically, you start seeing a bigger potential impact, which may lead you to regulate it differently.”