Monday, July 19, 2010

The "Dick" Cheney Connection

There is plenty of information on the internet about all sorts of things connected to Dick Cheney.
Here are two that ought to make anyone think twice about hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking):

1.  Before he was Vice President "under" G.W.Bush, he was CEO of Halliburton, inventor of hydraulic fracturing and largest corporation, with many subsidiaries, in the business. Halliburton also provides the chemical cocktail that gets pumped into the ground beneath your water table.
Before Halliburton, Cheney was Representative from Wyoming-R, and then Secretary of Defense under G.H.W.Bush.
In other words, he worked both sides of the table, sometimes at the same time. He never saw the need to know the difference.

2. Thanks to Vice President Cheney, hydrofracking is exempt from the Energy Act of 2005 and the Clean Water Act. With this secret maneuvering, he assured Halliburton unfettered freedom from regulation.

Cheney was instrumental in forcing the war on Iraq.
Halliburton is on the hook for shoddy work at the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico.

I am not sure whether it is irony that Cheney's heart is not healthy, or a cosmic prediction. I personally never thought he had one at all.

PS Remember to apologize if he shoots you in the face.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Redefining "Toxic Assets"

SULLIVAN COUNTY — Wayne County, Pa. resident Michael Uretsky, a member of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance [said]... “There is still a land-paper game going on. Capture whatever you can.... Notice that I am not saying anything about extraction. The exploration companies make money by selling leases and by using them to commoditize public and private financing deals – not unlike the process that the banks followed with home mortgages.” 
Letter Rescinds Offers; Locals Say It's a 'Ploy', Dan Hust, Sullivan County Democrat, 9/19/09

SULLIVAN COUNTY — Natural gas drilling leases continue to be filed in the Sullivan County Clerk’s Office. Whether or not drilling will actually occur remains uncertain, as the leases simply permit, not mandate, gas companies to drill. Required permits still must be obtained from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which has yet to receive a single application in Sullivan County. Plus, the companies may sell the leases to other companies that would do the actual drilling (known as “flipping” the lease).
Who's Leasing Now?, Dan Hust, Sullivan County Democrat, 9/19/09

BROOM COUNTY — Things are just getting started here in the Marcellus play. As we all know, over the last couple years, landmen exploited uninformed landowners that had never heard of Marcellus Shale. Many owners signed leases for $50 or $100 an acre. Now, with more New Yorkers informed, landmen are taking advantage of The Great Recession and targeting the desperate. But just as soon as the ink dries, these shameless sharks are flipping the mineral rights to bigger corporations for massive profits...."
Broome County Gas Lease Deal is a Disaster: Threatens Parks, Individual
Freedoms, and Our Common Wealth
, SUNY-Binghamton, 7/16/10

Imaginary Hydraulic Fracture Well in Oxford, Chenango Co., NY

Let us imagine that drilling rig No. 43 in Susquehanna Co., PA, also pictured on the July 13 post, is going to be built somewhere else, say in Chenango County in Upstate NY.

I look at my maps and pick a hilltop: Bradley Hill in Oxford south of Norwich. The energy companies go for exposed shoulders, knobs, hilltops.

Once they decide to develop a town, or a whole county, for efficiency's sake the gas company carpet bombs it with sites. But we are only going to think about this one imaginary site today.

There is a pond nearby, other ponds in the vicinity, the Chenango River just west along Route 12. They like to be near water since it takes so much of it to develop a well.  

There is ready land. Enough people in the local towns have signed leases by now to assure the energy companies have complete access to the area, with lands set aside not only for the drilling but other sites near roads for parking dozens of frac tanks, trucks, chemicals, pipe and so on. They will also bury a dense network of transport pipelines to move natural gas out of the area and onto the national grid.

They will build pads the size of city blocks to support the rig and all the stuff that goes along with it. Just building this imaginary site will take weeks of clearing, leveling, laying a thick base of crushed rock for the pads and road.  Imagine on site a dozen frac tanks, a man-made heavily lined million-gallon holding pond for the used frac water, temporary housing for the fracking team. 

The heavy use of town roads will break the weaker ones apart. And who are these men wearing yellow and orange vests in double cab pickups with Texas and Pennsylvania plates cruising the roads?

The site will become home to a 10 story rig that will drill 6000 feet into the ground and then fracture the shale using three million gallons of water mixed with a cocktail of multi-syllable compounds that, if it comes into contact with the water table, will poison it. It has happened, and there are no guarantees it won't happen here. There are a dozen things that can go wrong, and have.

Interestingly, for two years the county board of supervisors' committee on natural gas development has dealt with secondary issues such as brine to keep the road dust down, seismic testing, road capacity, driveway permits, and leasing county-owned lands. They wonder out loud why the primary energy company Norse Energy's people don't come to their meetings. 

Sadly, and unprofessionally, they haven't had any substantive discussion about the overriding question of whether this whole idea is even good for the people of the county and its towns in the long term, at least not publicly. 

I do wonder how they can make small decisions based on large unexplored assumptions? Shouldn't the answers to small questions arise out of a base of sound planning for now and the future? What about the quality of a life lived here? Are the farms to become hayfields without livestock? The towns left to people who cannot afford to leave?

Today Bradley Hill is tranquil, the view sublime and unbroken except for a phone tower. It's high summer in Upstate New York. Let's take a dip in the pond.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Today's News on Common Dreams: Review of Food and Water Watch Report on Hydraulic Fracturing

Posted on Common Dreams today, a review of the report Not so Fast, Natural Gas: Why Accelerating Risky Drilling Threatens America's Water  from Food and Water Watch:
Published on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by Food and Water Watch

Natural Gas No Quick Fix for U.S. Energy Woes

Food & Water Watch Report Points to Need for Better Federal Regulations; Activists in Delaware River Basin, Colorado and Virginia Fear Risks from Fracking

Not so Fast, Natural Gas: Why Accelerating Risky Drilling Threatens America's Water is available here:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chesapeake Energy Corp. in SW Susquehanna Co. PA

NOMAC Drilling Rig No. 43 in southwestern Susquehanna County PA

Be Still, Baby, Be Still

Modified Consent Order and Agreement Against Cabot - May 2010


In the Matter of:
Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation
Dimock and Springville, Townships
Susquehanna County 
Clean Streams Law, 
the Oil and Gas Act, 
and the Solid Waste Management Act

[in part]...
On November 4, 2009, the Department and Cabot entered into a Consent Order and Agreement ("2009 Agreement") in settlement of violations regarding: excessive pressure/improper or insufficient cementing (casings) on certain Cabot Wells; pollution of private water supplies within an area defined as follows: the area bounded on the South of 41 degrees 45 minutes latitude; East of -75 degrees 54 minutes 11 seconds longitude; North of 41 degrees 42 minutes 14 seconds latitude; and West of -75 degrees 50 minutes 48 seconds longitude in Dimock and Springville Townships, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania ("Affected Area"); discharge of natural gas into ground water in the Affected Area; discharge of industrial waste/and or residual waste onto the ground and/or into the waters of the Commonwealth; failure to submit well records; and failure to maintain a Driller's Log....

Cabot did not comply with all of its obligations under the 2009 Agreement....

The Department has determined that, based on the elevated concentration of dissolved methane gas in the Kemble [family's home] Water Supply, the close proximity of the Kemble Water Supply to the Cabot Wells, the close proximity of the Kemble Water Suppy to the Affected Water Supplies as identified in the 2009 Agreement, and other factors, Cabot is also responsible for the polution to the Kemble Water Supply....

As indicated in the 2009 Agreement and this Modification, the Department has identified the following 14 Cabot Wells as having insufficient/improper casing and/or cementing and/or overpressure, and are causing and/or have the potential to cause the unpermitted discharge of natural gas into the groundwater in the Affected Area:
Baker No.1; 
Ely No.4; 
Ely No. 5H; 
Ely No. 7H;
Teel No.5; 
Brooks No. IH; 
Gesford No.2; 
Gesford No.3; 
Gesford No.9; 
Hubbard No. 5H; 
Ratzell No. IH;
Ratzell No. 2H; 
Teel No.7; 
and the R Smith No.4 Wells
(collectively the "Defective Wells)....

In all cases, by November 1, 2010, Cabot shall have completed all of its obligations under the 2009 Agreement and this Modification in accordance with the schedules contained therein and shall have completely eliminated the unpermitted discharge of natural gas into the waters of the Commonwealth from the Defective Wells and/or any other well owned and/or operated by Cabot within the Affected Area....

Upon signing this Modification, Cabot shall pay a civil penalty of $240,000.  This payment is in settlement of Cabot's failure to comply with all of its obligations under the 2009 Agreement as set forth in the Findings, above. The payment shall be made by corporate check or the like made payable to the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" and sent to the Department at the address set forth in... the 2009 Agreement....

Beginning May 15, 2010, and continuing on the 15th day of each month thereafter, Cabot shall pay $30,000 and shall pay $30,000 each month thereafter until the Department notifies Cabot in writing, that the Department has detenuined that Cabot has complied with all of its obligations under the 2009 Agreement and this Modification. Cabot shall pay these monthly penalties in addition to the payment of the $240,000 civil penalty....


Dan O. Dinges 
Chief Executive Officer

Kenneth S. Komoroski, Esq.
Attorney for Cabot


S. Craig Lobins
Regional Manager
Oil and Gas Management
Northwest Region

Donna L. Duffy
Regional Counsel

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cuyahoga River - 1969

Was it really 41 years ago? That was definitely a turning point. Lots of info on Google.

But We Thought You Were Our Friends

Utne Reader's jaw-dropping July-August 2010 article about the selling out of environmental groups Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, ad nauseam:

I hate it when that happens.

Specialized Services

Here are a couple of the specialist companies that Cabot hires to carry out specific parts of the fracturing process. Check out their web sites.

Roads, Trucks and Automobiles

Here are trucks. They are big. There are hundreds of them. They are carrying crusher run for the roads and pads. Also chemicals? Water? Pipe? Casings? Liners? Bulldozers? Shovels?  
All I know at this point is that they are destroying the local roads and make me nervous if I am trying to take a picture and they are bearing down on me.
This ain't no foolin' around.

Google Maps? Google Earth?

Here is an interesting bit of information:

When I search on Google Maps and close in for details about where I drove, I find that just to the west of Dimock Township the satellite detail is obscured for miles north, south and west by a screen, and the color is removed. 

These maps are provided to Google by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

As I retreat, real patches of puffy white clouds appear. What is going on up closer is not clouds.

Street View

These are views from the public road within a few miles of Dimock. There are many more wide white private roads heading across fields and behind hills, out of sight.
Some of the sites are for storage and truck parking and enclosed modules (containing what I don't yet know) frac tanks.
Lest you think this is occasional drilling, please believe me that this taking of lands is intense. The wells are evenly spaced every half mile or so.
That is a plume of black smoke behind the tall rig, coming from over the hill.
Double click on any of these for interesting details.

Here's the Irony


Double click these signs to get an idea about how much water will be used during the fracturing process. The roads are posted; we are on notice.

The Road Goes Here

Where to Start?

Hills and streams, prosperous farms, a mid-summer patchwork of corn, pasture, hay and bales, stands of hardwoods, and small towns with schools, churches and local businesses...this is what I see in northeastern Pennsylvania. 
In my own New York State just to the north, the pattern continues similarly outside the cities all the way to Lake Ontario, broken by the long, thin and exquisitely clear and beautiful Finger Lakes.
My drive to Dimock is important because ever since we returned from living in Missouri for just 16 months, hydraulic fracturing has come blasting into my consciousness.
Many of my friends are concerned and want a moratorium; others see it as inevitable and want to be sure landowners here in NY get the best possible lease deals.
I have learned that it is a highly complicated and disruptive process to extract natural gas from deep shale beds that run from here to West Virginia, and that the wells can and have leaked poisons into water tables, that there will be above-ground spills, and that vast quantities of water are used and then recovered as highly dangerous waste with no good way to store or decontaminate it.
That last part reminds me of nuclear power and the heart breaking struggles in which we took part decades ago when it became so crystal clear there was no way to safely dispose of the waste the half-life of which is eons long.
So, I want to see for myself.
This is what I find in northern Wyoming and southern Susquehana counties.
This is a newly constructed pad the size of a city block, ready for drilling.

Looks clean as a whistle? Grass seed, landscaping, berms, wide crushed limestone roads and these pads, ready to go.
Getting here I see four men in orange and yellow vests in a double cab pickup from Texas. I notice that the right hand lane of the road going north toward Springville has regular large, deep potholes that go from the center line to the shoulder, a disaster for a car to hit at any speed. 
I begin to see white crushed rock roads leading off through fields, close by standing and running water, ponds, lakes and streams.