Disclosure: Peter Buckland races for Freeze Thaw.
Expanding Sustainability: Rights, Global Economics, and Human Transformation
A Public Talk with Chilean Environmental Economist, Diplomat and
Spiritual Teacher Alfredo Sfeir-Younis
Tuesday, Oct. 26
Noon —1:30 PM
Brown Bag Lunch Talk (drinks and dessert provided)
Sponsored by Penn State’s Center for Sustainability & Global Studies Institute
"It is impossible to attain the aims of a sustainable civilization without agreeing on a bundle of rights, be it for this generation or future generations. Sustainable Development embodies a social contract which must unfold from a vision and a set of human values that prove essential to human transformation in our global reality.”
Learn more about our speaker at: http://www.policyinnovations.org/innovators/people/data/07539
After two hours of discussion on subjects from hazards to residential water wells - including the fact that many of them have contamination issues even without any gas drilling - to whether natural gas drilling lowers property values, the supervisors failed to make a motion to move forward on the ordinance, or even to hold a special meeting for further discussion.But the issue is much more complicated. Regulations across the board, from federal and state levels, might make this ordinance impossible and even unconstitutional. Citizens Voice further reports:
"They completely ignored the will of the people," Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition co-founder Dr. Thomas Jiunta said afterwards, noting that about 510 out of the township's approximately 1,200 residents had signed a petition in favor of the ordinance. "Basically, they (the supervisors) abdicated their responsibility."
This presents an enormous challenge to communities and their rights. Because they are subsumed within larger public bodies (counties, states, and the nation) they are subject to governmental laws, regulations, policies, and procedures that can overrun their local right to self-governance and self-determination. It may be that self-determination is not a right in these cases because, for example, "eminent domain" can be invoked by regulatory departments working with industries (pipelines, roads, or perhaps even gas wells themselves) have determined that it is in the interest of the largest body (state or federal levels) to put in the pipeline, road, or gas well. Local people's interests can lose.
Planning and zoning Solicitor Jack Haley said that in proposing that the rights of corporations be subordinated to those of individuals, proponents of the ordinance forget that Lehman Township itself is a state-chartered corporation.
Making the township and its people the top governing body could have unintendended consequences, Haley said. It could lead to secession not only from the state, but from the U.S., he said. Or it could be used to deny people their rights based on factors such as religion or ethnicity, or, by prohibiting pollution lead to a ban on cars.
Do you think that the ordinance should be passed?
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has had to deal with this issue and has taken action against the accused company, Cabot Oil and Gas. But Cabot is, apparently, not responding as responsibly as they should. DEP is stepping in to fix the water problem because Cabot will not.
Well, DEP's Secretary John Hanger has responded. Read below:
DEP Secretary Issues Open Letter to Citizens of Susquehanna County Community Impacted by Ongoing Gas Migration Issues
HARRISBURG -- Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today issued the following open letter to residents of Dimock, Susquehanna County:
To Whom It May Concern:
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced a permanent solution to the drinking water problems in Dimock caused by gas migration from Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation wells. DEP was forced to take action since Cabot continues to deny responsibility for the contamination, despite overwhelming evidence of its responsibility. Since that announcement was made, Cabot has launched a public relations campaign and much misinformation has been brought forth concerning who will be party to that solution and who will end up paying for it.
Cabot is responsible for the gas migration that has caused families to be without a permanent water supply for nearly 2 years and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will seek court orders to make Cabot pay for all costs. But we cannot wait for Cabot to fix the problems it caused and to do the right thing. In the interim, PENNVEST, an agency that finances water and sewer infrastructure projects, will be asked to provide funds to pay the estimated $11.8 million cost for Pennsylvania American Water Company to construct a new, 5.5-mile water main from its Lake Montrose treatment plant to provide water service to the residents of Dimock. Again, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will then aggressively seek to recover the cost of the project from Cabot.
No one in Dimock or Susquehanna County will pay for it and local taxes will not be increased as the result of it. Residents along Route 29 will have the option to tap into the line if they so choose. No one will be forced to hook up to the new public water supply. The new water line will also boost the value of homes and businesses near it.
This action is being taken based on overwhelming evidence that proves the Cabot wells are the source of the contamination. DEP has collected ample evidence tying methane found in private water supplies to Cabot’s wells. We have witnessed and chronicled bubbling gas and high pressure readings from a number of wells that prove poor well construction, and taken readings that show excessive gas levels that could only exist in wells that are leaking. Sophisticated testing has “fingerprinted” gas samples and matched the gas found in five homes to the gas leaking from the nearby Cabot wells. Additionally, the gas wells in many cases are less than a thousand feet from the homes where, by law, it is presumed gas drilling caused any pollution of water wells that may result.
The residents of Dimock have already paid a high price for Cabot’s unwillingness to accept responsibility and provide a satisfactory solution. Cabot will be the one paying the final bill. Perhaps next time Cabot will do the job right the first time and avoid expensive repairs.
John Hanger, Secretary
What do you think Cabot should have to do? What can this tell us about our energy uses? What price will we pay? Can we pay? Should we pay?
Whether the American shale gas experience can be a model for environmental best practices in other countries is debatable. Professor Terry Engelder of Pennsylvania State University told the Financial Times in an interview this June that industry-wide standards are difficult to enforce because fracking techniques will vary based on geological differences and local conditions surrounding the shale formations. He also said that developing best practices would require industry leaders to "experiment" and that a zero-tolerance policy toward environmental damage is unlikely to be achieved.What's happened already might indicate that the best practices aren't good enough. What do you think?
If environmental and health problems are considered inevitable side effects of shale gas drilling, municipalities may have a hard time embracing the resource. Amid the global hype, signs of resistance to shale gas development are emerging overseas. Hundreds of South Africans protested the exploitation of the country's Karoo shale reserves, citing concerns over water supply.
Will companies and governments learn to avoid past mistakes and take advantage of shale gas without collateral damage? Will public fear become more widespread and bring exploration and development efforts to a halt? On a global scale, questions remain as to whether shale gas can fulfill its potential as an energy miracle or if it will instead become another resource curse.
On October 10th - 12th, Penn State and the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission co-hosted the 2010 Marcellus Summit: Building a Sustainable Future. The event hoped to "identify the challenges, opportunities, and common goals among key stakeholders." Sustainability Now's Peter Buckland was able to go to a good portion of the event and talk to a lot of people, see a lot of the tables, hear a few keynote speakers, watch a few panel sessions, and ask some question. So what happened?
On today's show, we'll cover some of what happened. We'll provide an overview of the event, its sponsorship, and its attendees. We'll talk about a collaborative initiative in Louisiana's Corrizo-Wilcox Aquifer area that prevented some water problems and that Tom Murphy (Penn State Cooperative Extension and noted natural gas drilling advocate) vaunted as a "model" of cooperation for Pennsylvania (watch video here).
Two regulation panels gave the audience a sense of what federal and state regulation is right now for natural gas wells and pipelines. Most importantly, we will talk about a few of the keynote speakers and their presentations, in particular, John Felmy the Chief Economist for the American Petroleum Institute (videos here and here).
For a taste of our new YouTube site follow those video links and subscribe.
Listen today on The Lion 90.7 at 4 pm. Call in at 865-9577.
Some, like Sandra Steingraber think that fracking and the whole network associated with it, present the whole problem in one go. She has written an article at Orion Magazine that you might want to consider:
THE ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS can be viewed as a tree with two trunks. One trunk represents what we are doing to the planet through atmospheric accumulation of heat-trapping gasses. Follow this trunk along and you find droughts, floods, acidification of oceans, dissolving coral reefs, and species extinctions.
The other trunk represents what we are doing to ourselves and other animals through the chemical adulteration of the planet with inherently toxic synthetic pollutants. Follow this trunk along and you find asthma, infertility, cancer, and male fish in the Potomac River whose testicles have eggs inside them.
At the base of both these trunks is an economic dependency on fossil fuels, primarily coal (plant fossils) and petroleum (animal fossils). When we light them on fire, we threaten the global ecosystem. When we use them as feedstocks for making stuff, we create substances—pesticides, solvents, plastics—that can tinker with our subcellular machinery and the various signaling pathways that make it run.
But don't skip the end.
This year I’ve attended scientific conferences and community forums on fracking. I’ve heard a PhD geologist worry about the thousands of unmapped, abandoned wells scattered across New York from long-ago drilling operations. (What if pressurized fracking fluid, to be entombed in the shale beneath our aquifers, found an old borehole? Could it come squirting back up to the surface? Could it rise as vapor through hairline cracks?) I’ve heard a hazardous materials specialist describe to a crowd of people living in fracked communities how many parts per million of benzene will raise risks for leukemia and sperm abnormalities linked to birth deformities. I’ve heard a woman who lives by a fracking operation in Pennsylvania—whose pond bubbles with methane and whose kids have nosebleeds at night—ask how she could keep her children safe. She was asking me. And I had no answer. Thirty-seven percent of the land in the township where I live with my own kids is already leased to the frackers. There is no away.
Please read on.