Governor Corbett limits DEP inspectors' authority and power

Can gas companies be limited in Pennsylvania? A new piece by ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarden shows that the Corbett administration has just hamstrung inspectors for the Department of Environmental Protection.
Oil and gas inspectors policing Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania will no longer be able to issue violations to the drilling companies they regulate without first getting the approval of top officials...

The memos require that each of the hundreds of enforcement actions taken routinely against oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania each month now be approved by the department’s executive deputy secretary, John Hines. The memos are raising concerns that the state’s environmental inspectors can no longer act independently and that regulations could be overridden by the political whims of the state’s new governor, Tom Corbett.

“What this apparently is saying is that before any final action, the inspector must get approval by two political appointees: the secretary and the deputy secretary,” said John Hanger, who headed the DEP until January under former Gov. Ed Rendell and worked to strengthen the state’s oil and gas regulations. “It’s an extraordinary directive. It represents a break from how business has been done in the department within the Marcellus Shale and within the oil and gas program for probably 20 years.

There are already cries from community groups. Iris Mary Bloom, Director of Protecting Our Waters wrote in an email today to supporters, "Don't 'read it and weep,' get angry and organized." We will hear more from her on tomorrow's episode of Sustainability Now.

The blogosphere is starting to buzz. Susquehanna River Sentinel is already taking a cynical view, writing "Hmmmmm. Let's see: August 22, 2011 - "Under Governor Corbett's tough new enforcement policies, the number of reported violations related to gas-drilling activities has dropped significantly..." Yep, that is probably what they have in mind."

What do you have in mind? Is this reasonable practice or will it, as Hanger said, "cause the public to lose confidence entirely in the inspection process?"


The Republican Congress's War on Clean Air and Water

Today, we will be talking to Ed Perry of the National Wildlife Federation. A few weeks ago he hosted a protest outside Pennsylvania Congressman Glenn Thompson (R) because of Thompson's support of some legislation that will gut environmental regulations, inhibit the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases, and will expand polluting industries' governmental entanglement.

Ed has recently written the following:
The House Majority Wants to Gut Environmental Protections

On Feb. 25, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a continuing budget resolution to keep the government operating and cut spending. But most people didn’t notice that it also was intended to gut environmental agencies and regulations that have protected our air, water and land for more than 40 years.

The U.S. Senate wouldn’t go along, but a House majority was willing to trash decades of bipartisan support for our most basic clean water and clean air protections in a full retreat from the fundamental expectation that elected leaders should safeguard our health and natural resources.

Instead of adding earmarks to its first budget resolution, this Congress added “oilmarks.” An oilmark is a prohibition attached to a spending bill that handcuffs regulators, forcing them to look the other way as polluters endanger the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the lands and waters that nurture fish and wildlife.

Oilmarks are like earmarks in that they don’t get debated and scrutinized, so members feel safe in voting for them. Of 51 amendments added to the original House continuing resolution, 14 were oilmarks aimed at letting politics override science and commonsense public-health protections.

Among other things, the oilmarks would have:

  • Allowed 5,000 additional tons of hazardous air pollution and mercury emissions.
  • Blocked new health standards to reduce soot pollution, which is particularly harmful to the lungs of our children.
  • Blocked funding for climate change science and sensible regulations to start reducing carbon dioxide pollution from oil refineries and power plants.
  • Blocked science-based restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, Klamath Basin, San Francisco Bay Delta and Florida waters.
  • Blocked new rules and guidance to prevent hazardous coal ash from entering water supplies as happened in the 2008 Tennessee disaster.
  • Blocked new rules and guidance to protect stream valleys and wetlands from the dumping of waste from mountain top-removal mining and other sources.

The total budget savings for the 14 oilmarks would have been zero dollars. Not one dime would have been shaved from the deficit, which ostensibly was the purpose of this bill.

While adding all kinds of oilmarks to the spending bill, the House rejected the one amendment, offered by Rep. Markey, D-Mass., that would have eliminated billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to oil companies. Closing a royalty payment loophole for oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico could save taxpayers $53 billion in the coming years, but the amendment was defeated.

At least Congressmen Glenn Thompson and Bill Shuster were consistent. They voted for every one of these oilmarks and then voted against the only amendment that would have reduced the deficit; the one that would have cut taxpayer subsidies to the oil companies.

The sheer audacity and scope of the assault on environmental protection makes you wonder if these folks are out of touch with their constituents. Poll after poll shows Americans want Congress to protect air and water regulations and take action on climate change.

A national survey found that two thirds of Americans — including 54 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Independents — said the EPA should “reduce carbon pollution without delay.” One poll question revealed particularly strong support for clean air updates the EPA is putting forward: 66 percent of Americans — including 54 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Independents — favor stricter limits on the release of toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities.

Our representatives may say they don’t want a bunch of unelected bureaucrats setting carbon limits for the United States; they want Congress to do it. But what they really mean is that they don’t want any limits at all.

Last year, Congress had an opportunity to pass clean energy legislation to reduce carbon emissions and virtually every representative who voted for the oilmarks voted against the bill. They continue to vote against clean energy legislation, yet they have no alternatives.

Is this what Americans want this new Congress to do? Assault the agency that has effectively reduced air and water pollution and set environmental standards that make our country’s quality of life the envy of the world?


You know, not long ago our government reflected Americans’ strong environmental values. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were passed with bipartisan support in the 1970s, with Republican representatives and senators leading the way. And when Congress updated the Clean Air Act in 1990 to protect thousands of lives and curb acid rain, the House passed the legislation with an overwhelming vote of 401-25. Now it appears all of that has changed.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate refused to go along with the House oilmarks in last month’s temporary budget resolution. But with another resolution coming soon, let’s hope the Senate — with the help of Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey — stands firm again and continues to support the EPA and its efforts to protect our air, land and water.

- Ed Perry, PA Outreach Coordinator, National Wildlife Federation

Listen in today from 4-5 pm on The Lion.


Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Open Meeting

The first meeting of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission will be March 25 and the meetings will be open to the public. The meeting will be held in Room 105 Rachel Carson Building starting at 10:30.

The purpose of the commission, Corbett said, is “to oversee how we can build around this new industry and how we can make certain we do this while protecting our lands, our drinking water, our air – all the time growing our workforce.’’

Led by Lt. Governor Jim Cawley, the commission is to report to Gov. Corbett with its findings within 120 days of its first meeting.

The commission is to address the needs and impacts of natural gas development on local communities, as well as promote the efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effect development of Marcellus Shale and other natural gas resources.

The list of individuals invited to join the commission includes:
-- Mike Krancer, acting Secretary of Environmental Protection, Harrisburg.
-- George Grieg, acting Secretary of Agriculture, Harrisburg.
-- C. Alan Walker, acting Secretary of Community and Economic Development, Harrisburg.
-- Barry Schoch, acting Secretary of Transportation, Harrisburg.
-- Patrick Henderson, the Governor’s Energy Executive, Harrisburg.
-- Robert Powelson, chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, Harrisburg.
-- Glenn Cannon, executive director of Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Harrisburg.
-- James W. Felmlee, president of the PA State Association of Boroughs, Harrisburg.
-- Clifford “Kip’’ Allen, president of the PA League of Cities and Municipalities, Harrisburg.
-- Gene Barr, vice president, Government & Public Affairs, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Harrisburg.
-- Terry R. Bossert, vice president, Government & Regulatory Affairs, Chief Oil & Gas, Harrisburg, and former Chief Counsel at DEP.
-- Jeff Wheeland, Lycoming County Commissioner, Williamsport.
-- Vincent J. Matteo, president Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, Williamsport.
-- Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences, Penn State University, Department of Geosciences, University Park.
-- Matthew J. Ehrhart, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Pennsylvania office, Harrisburg.
-- Ronald L. Ramsey, senior policy advisor, the Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Chapter, Harrisburg.
-- David Porges, chief executive officer, EQT, Pittsburgh.
-- Christopher J. Masciantonio, general manager, State Government Affairs, U.S. Steel, Pittsburgh.
-- Cynthia Carrow, vice president of Government & Community Relations, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pittsburgh.
-- David Sanko, executive director of the PA State Association of Township Supervisors, Enola.
-- Dave Spigelmyer, vice president, Government Relations, Chesapeake Energy, Canonsburg.
-- Randy Smith, U.S. Government Affairs Manager, Exxon Mobil, Fairfax, Va.
-- Ray Walker, chairman Marcellus Shale Coalition, Canonsburg.
-- Chris Helms, NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage, Houston, Texas.
-- Terry Pegula, Delray Beach, Fla. (founder of East Resources).
-- Jeff Kupfer, Chevron, Washington, D.C.
-- Gary Slagel, chairman, PA Independent Oil & Gas Association, Wexford.
-- Anthony S. Bartolomeo, chairman, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Philadelphia.
-- Nicholas S. Haden, vice president, Reserved Environmental Services, Mt. Pleasant.
Looks like we will have some follow-up to do with interviews.


PBS Need to Know: The Price of Gas

In all of our discussion of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region, and soon the Utica Shale region, we have not looked much at what is happening in other parts of the country. The PBS show, Need to Know, did a special last year on the effects to water and communities of hydraulic fracturing and gas development in the Wyoming shale plays. Watch it here:

What do you think of the argument that companies can use "intellectual property" as a reason to hide harmful chemical mixtures to which the public could be exposed?


Part IV: The Meeting and Next Steps

After the protest, 13 of us including my 3-year-old son, walked to the capitol. One of our members sat and handwrote her letter to Mr. Corbett. Others of us took some time to chat and look around.

Surely we looked out of place. In a building full of suited people, most of whose body language and speech is formalized into the interlocking interests of the corporate government, we were sore thumbs. I was wearning a tee-shirt over my bike jersey, tee-shirt protesting the collusion of big oil and state government. Others were just wearing casual work clothes. One of us, a young woman from West Chester, PA was in her finest protest regalia that showed her “counter-culture” devotion. We were looked at askance by more than one person. And you have to wonder if it hurt our message to look so plain. My father-in-law wondered this quite a bit. I think maybe but not in a way that I think worth compromising in that visit.

We are common people from the commonwealth – Carlisle, Harrisburg, West Chester, State College, Julian, and other places. All but one of us was white. One of us was in a motorized wheel chair. We ranged in age from early 20s to late 60s. None of us were wealthy as far as I know. Our educational attainment may have been the one thing that separated us from the average. But I also know from people who wrote to me thanking me that we were there in spirit for many others. Elderly, disabled, rural, urban, activist, and non-activist people told me that they were so glad that someone was doing this. These are common people. So being the common person means representing yourself honestly and playing a game of airs and pretend. I am a father and a cyclist. I am not a politician or a lobbyist for a corporatized or governmentally “legitimized” group. I am me. We are us.

Interestingly, I saw paintings of our cultural heritage and a kind of classical Promethean humanism where men convene for the good of men.

Natural gas and pollution were conspicuously absent. No acid mine drainage streams. No strip mining. No massive deforestation. Nothing in those images seemed, at least at one glance, to show us the collusion between polluting and despoiling industries at the expense of the people. Just the triumph of reasoned men.

We walked to Governor Corbett’s office, a beautifully ornate room with gorgeous wood furnishings. We requested a meeting with the governor but were told by his assistant tat he was not in. The office assistant was joined by the same Capitol police officer who earlier told me that he had received an email about me. We asked to meet with the Chief of Staff. He was also gone. They were at a Gallagher’s Milk plant. Eventually we were offered the services of a woman who makes the executive branch work smoothly. Interestingly, she is from Bradford County where the impacts of Marcellus drilling are off the hook. Eventually, she connected us with Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Andrew Ritter who works with DEP and DEP Secretary Krancer.

We spoke with Ritter for an hour. We discussed natural gas drilling’s effects on water, air, and the forests, community health, and corporate influence in state government. We urged Ritter for a moratorium, for state forests and parks to be free of drilling, and an immediate severance tax. One of our submitted letters expressed the way that nuclear power harmed her family and neighbors growing up. Others referred to coal and strip mining. We are a fossil fuel addicted people.

Though we came to no real agreement on anything we were able to make our positions clear. And one of our group, a woman from Harrisburg who works with Clean Water Action, read aloud and submitted a letter that said that under the Pennsylvania Constitution that Governor Corbett is impeachable. It looks as though, however small, some people in the state have the same idea with an online petition to impeach him.

Ultimately I think that my position at this meeting is best articulated in the letter I submitted to meet with Governor Corbett. It is as follows:

Dear Governor Corbett,

Thank you for working to serve Pennsylvania as our governor. I am writing to you to request a meeting with you on the afternoon of Wednesday March 9th, 2011 to bring some measure of better representation to the natural gas rush that’s gripped our state. I will be arriving at approximately 4 pm. Other people who have sent you letters requesting a meeting will be joining me. I, for one, will be riding my bicycle about 120 miles from my home in Pine Grove Mills to meet you.
You may wonder why I insist on meeting you on such short notice. Too many of us are not being heard. That includes people across the state who have already been negatively impacted, people who worry about our shared resources and especially the forests, and people who believe very strongly in a better quality of life.

Allow me to tell you a little bit of my story. When I was a boy, I played in Slab Cabin Run, a stream that flows down the Tussey Ridge south of State College. My friends and I loved that stream, clambering over rocks in our shorts from late spring to the fall. One day we built up the guts to go through the culvert that goes under Route 26 over the mountain to Greenwood Furnace and Whipple Dam State Parks and Shaver’s Creek. Beneath the hemlocks, we followed the stream up toward the headwaters just a few hundred feet from the Rothrock State Forest. We tramped around as adventurous boys do, throwing mossy rocks into Slab Cabin and picking up big sticks that were alternately the walking sticks of wizened old men or knightly swords.

On other occasions we played in a small spillway below someone’s backyard bridge. The other side of that little cascade housed a small brook trout area the homeowners built. Once, my friend Elliott and I found a snapping turtle on the sidewalk between our houses. With a combination of apprehension for our fingers and the self-assuredness of boyhood machismo, we picked it up, dropped it into a bucket and put it into that trout run.

Down West Chestnut Street, just below the headwaters, lies a yellow gate into some forest trails. When I was a kid we used to march up there to get to our favorite sledding runs. Dead Man’s Trail was our favorite with a tree right down the middle. When I was old enough to take long walks by myself and get around at night, I walked my dog in those woods. Today, that gate is 500 feet from my house.

For the last 10 years or more I have spent thousands of hours in the state forests. As a mountain biker, hiker, and camper, the forest is my second home. Rothrock is just outside my door. I know it is not currently on the gas market. But just two ridges to the west lies the Moshannon State Forest where 90,000 acres of state forest has been leased to gas companies. To my north lies the Bald Eagle. I travel by bike in the Forbes, Gallitzin, Sproul, Michaux, Tidaghton, and Tioga State Forests. The forests are my second home and they are the source of much of my health. They bring us all health.

They breathe for us. They filter our water. They bring us beauty. They are the homes of the glorious and diverse creation of Nature. In our state, they embody the flourishing Creation of which we are a very special part.

Our intelligence and our organization have brought the most amazing changes to this planet. But in our intelligence and our power we have not always done what ought to have done. In a quest to do what we can we have too often been shortsighted, impatient, and lacked moral clarity. I won’t bother enumerating a huge list of human-made disasters here because we know too many of them. But from the people of Easter Island who deforested their island to the utter devastation downstream of the Tennessee Valley Authority, powerful people have too often done “business as usual” at the expense of other people’s health, the integrity of their communities, our shared water, our air, the habitat we share with other organisms, and the glorious wilderness we have agreed not to touch.

From the collapse of Easter Island or the ecosystems in Tennessee there is something disturbing at work. How do a boy and his friends appreciate beauty if it doesn’t exist near him? How do those kids learn to live better with the other creatures of the Creation if what exists is the roar of a compressor station and the clear-cutting of the trees for a road that will crush the soil? What is the smell of thousands of uninterrupted acres of woods? What does a ridge top trail look like with its patches of sandstone cracked over the course of millions of freeze-thaw cycles?
Can that boy’s health be worth another gas well? Another one hundred gas wells? Another several thousand as has been estimated will come soon?

Is it worth terrifying a family by introducing evaporating benzene into the air he breathes and poisoning? Is it worth his waking in the night screaming with a pounding headache because people he will never know are allowed to use other people he will never know to extract gas from a formation of rock buried tens of millions of years ago?

That boy lives all around the state right next to thousands of mountain gap streams. This problem is not just in my backyard. It is in our common backyard.

Is this the price of progress? The destruction of our common resources that bring us a common good in our great commonwealth? I find it hard to believe that this is the right thing to do. Is progress in Pennsylvania to make it into a third world nation, where there is no justice and the people are not only ignored but hurt by a collusion of big industry and government?

Like you, I am a father. When I think of my son, Sacha, waking up in the night repeatedly because of a toxic environment, I shudder and grow very angry. I have talked to and had correspondence with people all over the state who have stories about their neighbor’s health. The headaches. The smells. The trips to the doctor. It is only a matter of time until we start seeing the long-term health effects caused by prolonged exposure to heavy metals like cadmium, barium, strontium, radium, and gross alpha. As you know, the recent New York Times articles have provided a wake-up call that cannot be ignored. Following former DEP secretary John Hanger’s recent statements, I would certainly hope that you are going to summon additional DEP power to sample all drinking water across the state for these toxins. Of course, there are other chemicals like benzene that need to be tested for.
We have to stop accepting ugliness and destruction in the name of progress. This is not progress. I am calling on you to focus on our forests’ and our people’s abilities to sustain themselves and each other.

I have to say that there is something else that really bothers me and thousands and thousands of others around the state, certainly those who will join me on Wednesday the 9th. See, we don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate to your campaign. We don’t have nearly $3,000,000 to contribute to total campaigns over the last 10 years in the state. We can’t buy airtime. We can spend millions to lobby the legislature, to tangle up regulation and regulators, or run create glossy pamphlets that we can dispense at public symposia. We can’t put gag orders into leases. We aren’t poisoning people’s wells and buying them water from elsewhere and shipping it to them. We can’t pay the price for this. On any level.

I am riding my bike to see you because it represents a way of being in the forest that is so much better than the natural gas industry. It is better for me and my health. From bicycling on roads, fire roads, and trails, I can go into communities and forests in a light way with small impacts on Nature and happy impacts on people.

Well…sometimes people honk at us. But the vast majority of businesses appreciate us coming to buy some food and people like talking to us and we to them. It is also a way of finding that peace of mind in myself. It’s a beautiful thing. Hunters get it. Fishermen get it. Hikers and campers get it.

Pennsylvania’s forests bring us great wealth. Not only do people gain the monetary benefits of our forest tourism; they get peace of mind, clean air, fresh water, beautiful trails, wild game from turkey to black bear, and the joy and thrill of being out in wilderness. I am a big fan of happiness…not in the empty bubble gum and pink hearts way but the kind of happiness that comes from meaningful and joyful experiences with friends and family in great places. The state parks and state forests are those places.

We, the concerned, must be heard and represented. We insist that you meet with us now because we aren’t being heard and you are OUR governor. Tomorrow, at about 4 pm, I and my fellows will request that you do the following:
a) Impose a statewide moratorium on new gas drilling;
b) Reinstate DCNR’s ability to perform assessments as per last October’s announcement;
c) Reinstate DEP’s ability to carry out air quality assessments from drilling operations;
d) Provide for the immediate testing of all drinking water facilities around the state to test for all chemicals associated with natural gas drilling process; and
e) Impose a severance tax on existing operations with accrued funds going back into some combination of environmental restoration, infrastructure maintenance, and local municipal and/or educational funding.

This will, I’m sure, be a lively and spirited discussion that might just mark the beginning. See, we believe in conversation and in the power of meeting face to face with those whom we have elected no matter their political persuasion. But to have that conversation, we need to be heard.
We hope you will listen to that little boy.
With great hope,
Peter Dawson Buckland
I wonder what would happen the concerned people across the state joined together on this. If they joined with Clean Water Action, the Forest Coalition, the Responsible Drilling Alliance, Trout Unlimited, their local hiking, mountain biking, or watershed groups and took matters into the hands of the citizens. We are creatures of Nature who need to live more sustainably on this planet. That means flourishing more harmoniously with one another and with the watersheds, rivers, lakes, forests, farmlands, and wilds all around us. We have so much to lose and gain. The gain is our health and life. The loss is the perpetuation of Marcellus Personality Disorder and its associated problems.

I know that a coalition is forming right now that hopes to organize people more effectively and demand better for our health, our neighbors, our water, our air, and our forests. You can bet that there will be more of this kind of action even as we wait to hear from Governor Corbett. We fully expect that meeting to come.

What will you do?

The Rural Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling and Fracking

This video shows some pretty startling footage from Colorado. Citizens there have stories about well blowouts, contaminated water, plummeting property values, drug and crime problems from transient workers, and other negative impacts.

If you follow the blog talk and speak to people on the street in much of Pennsylvania, I think it's fair to say that many of these problems have transferred to this state.

Later in the series, there are some suggestions about what to do. What do you think should be done? How can you work to affect local politics, state politics, regulations and enforcement, and community organizing? Is it possible to slow this down or change its direction?


Part III: The Protest

The protest was organized by union and environmental organizations. 300-400 people rallied against Governor Corbett’s deep budget cuts and his refusal to put a severance tax on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Speeches ran the gamut from union organizers who are tired of working with people who are told to take less while the corporate fatcats get to take more profit home and share in none of the pollution. Their were public health workers whose patience had diminished after all of the talk of shared sacrifice while we give away the gas in the Marcellus Shale instead of taxing it. There was a teacher there who once again was being told he had to sacrifice more of his benefits than the CEOs at the gas companies or the staffers in the governor’s office. And there was a young man there who has home help because he almost drowned at the age of five. His care worker, probably already paid little, will probably take another cut.

The gas companies? Not enough.

A representative from Clean Water Action said something to the effect that the Corbett administration said it wants a “frictionless relationship” with the gas industry. “Well we’re going to bring them some friction.”

We spontaneously started chanting, “Friction! Friction!” And friction we brought.

We marched to the Marcellus Shale Coalition offices chanting away. “Hey hey! Ho ho! Gas drillers’ pockets are lined with gold!” Repeat. Into the offices we went, chanting and stomping and demanding justice. Inside, some of our compatriots found a bunch of wine, a pool table, some Knob Creek (at least they have good taste) and other vittles. What are they doing? Boozing it up with legislators? Don’t get me wrong. I am far from a teetotaler, but this is a bad sign. I’d love to see what legislators are going in and out of that place and see their conditions before and after. Let’s look at that “frictionless” relationship.

In an aside, I hope you have done is gone and looked at the two websites linked above. Clean Water Action. Marcellus Shale Coalition. Go back up. Look at their logos and artwork on their websites and compare them. That, my friends, is Big Brother at work. The blues and the greens. The comfort in that graphic design to lull the viewer into a sense of watery verdant bliss. Marketing is amazing isn't it?

The organizers delivered a bill of $117 million in back severance taxes that we the common people are owed by these gas monsters. Sadly, Tom Ridge and Katherine Klaber, the head honchos working to lubricate the halls of Harrisburg into frictionless caves for gas trucks to drive, were unavailable to take receive the bill. So we handed it off to someone who promised to meet with us again.

I think that sounds great. Actually, what I think should probably happen is that people like you, me, your neighbors, and everyone we know, should just start visiting the corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania of places like Range Resources, Anadarko, Chief, Chesapeake, Rex, and more. This is our commonwealth right? Not theirs. We should start doing tours of these facilities and documenting it all and taking it back to them for accountability. We should take it to our representatives and our senators and DEP and DCNR if it’s in the forest. If we want the bureaucracy to work for us, then We have to make it work.

Margaret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Well, never doubt that an organized group of committed rich people who have profited from polluting industries will change the world. They are thoughtful too. Very. They just seem to think that the invasion and rape of land and water is good. Negligence is a sign of progress.

And if you flip that Mead quotation over so that it says, “Never doubt that a large group of inattentive, non-committal consumers will let a group greedy gas drillers change the world. Indeed, it already has.” It has.

But I suspect that now that isn’t so true. People are coming alive to this and they have had it. And some of us were even more prepared to share it. We were going to the Capitol Building to demand our right to meet with Governor Corbett. And if not Governor Corbett, then someone in the executive branch. It was time to demand accountability.

To be continued…


Hydraulic fracturing and human rights

The following is a letter submitted by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic on human rights abuses created by hydraulic fracturing. As recent reports about produced water from hydraulic fracturing get more traction, we might see lawsuits appear. This provides a new view on the matter for many. The piece was originally posted at FrackTracker.


The Center for Constitutional Rights and Columbia Environmental Law Clinic submit this letter to provide background on hydraulic fracturing in the United States. The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is based in New York but works throughout the United States and internationally to promote and protect human rights. Supervised by clinical faculty, Columbia Environmental Law Clinic students represent local, regional and national environmental and community organizations working to solve critical environmental challenges facing the New York metropolitan region as well as other parts of the world. The Clinic is part of a team of lawyers from local, state and national organizations who bring their legal resources to address impacts of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a shale formation that cuts across New York and Pennsylvania. This joint letter with background and recommendations identifies substantial deficiencies in the U.S. Government’s regulation and monitoring hydraulic fracturing.

In the last several decades the United States has experienced political and economic pressure to decrease its dependence on foreign fossil fuels and increase domestic fossil fuel production. New technological developments have allowed the fossil fuel industry to extract natural gas from shale resources previously thought too expensive and difficult to tap. One such development, hydraulic fracturing, has been used in the industry for over 60 years and is now utilized in around 90 percent of the nation’s oil and gas wells.1 The process involves injecting water, chemicals and natural materials into the well to release trapped gases. Unfortunately, government regulators and industry leaders have historically ignored the substantial health and welfare costs associated with the process.2 Government regulators and industry leaders have historically ignored the substantial health and welfare costs associated with the process. Residents living in areas near fracturing sites have higher incidents of cancer and have reported that water itself is often discolored, pungent and contains bubbles because of the high levels of methane gas.3...

Read the rest here.

Part II: Along the Susquehanna River to Harrisburg

“I confess that I am angry at the manufacturers who make these things. There are days when I would be delighted if certain corporation executives could somehow be obliged to eat their products. I know of no good reason why these containers and all other forms of manufactured “waste”— solid, liquid, toxic, or whatever — should not be outlawed. There is no sense and no sanity in objecting to the desecration of the flag while tolerating and jusitifying and encouraging as a daily business the desecration of the country for which it stands.”

Wendell Berry, “Waste”

My trip took me through the town of Shamokin Dam by the mighty Susquehanna River. That dam testifies to other things we do for our energy “needs.”

It testifies to a belief that machines save us from the alleged drudgery of work.

It testifies to the abdication of our culture to keep itself skilled in the things that have enabled its survival for the thousands of years since the ice retreated and people domesticated animals from the dog to the sheep, learned how to irrigate land and rotate crops.

It exemplifies how people use machines to proliferate other machines at the expense of Nature.

When I looked at the dam on that blustery Wednesday riding under my own power into a full face of wind, I couldn’t just see the dam. In the energy calculus of Pennsylvania right now, our corporate government, what Wendell Berry has called “the economy’s government and the government’s economy,” are not seeing fit to disestablish the Shamokin Dam or any other dam and replacing them with other less ecologically damaging sources of energy. They certainly are not reducing our energy consumption. They are merely adding to it because of our so-called “needs.” Following the logic of a host of energy “experts” who no doubt profit from the despoliation of the Earth on which we rely, our “needs” will just escalate. Infinitely.

So when I saw the Shamokin Dam, I also saw the coal plant and the natural gas well, all of which pollute our water, scar the landscape, pollute the air whether through the release of carbon dioxide, methane, benzene, or the incredible din of the operation. Our “needs” seem to overshadow sanity and moral clarity.

According to those with Marcellus Personality Disorder (MPD), we are the freest people on Earth. And yet we are told we are the also the neediest. I fail to see how a people who need so much that they must destroy Nature’s ability to maintain or restore its carrying capacity are free. It sounds as though we are actually slaves to the energy magnates who tell us we are free. All around me I hear the voice of Big Brother and see his propaganda. The newspeak inverts the truth so that freedom is slavery, beauty is ugliness, progress is regress, and cleanliness is pollution. Wow. I love Big Brother.

Down, down, down along the Susquehanna I went. I stop for a whoopie pie, some water, and some hot chocolate mixed with coffee. The people at the little shop ask me where I am going. “The Capitol,’ I reply.

“Are you a teacher?” they ask. They know something about how angry teachers are in this state because of Corbett’s budget cuts to schools.

“I am,” I reply. I don’t explain that I teach at Penn State as a graduate assistant. It’s immaterial. “Isn’t it nuts that the governor is going to slash spending on schools and he refuses to tax the booming natural gas industry?”

The older woman behind the counter, probably in her mid- to late-sixties smiles and looks puzzled at the same time. “I don’t know anything about that. I don’t use natural gas. It’s funny how you don’t pay attention to stuff that doesn’t affect you.”

Exactly. And herein lies one of the great hills we must constantly climb and descend. A great swath of people out there cannot envision how their behaviors ripple out into the larger world. To use Wendell Berry again, people have great trouble seeing themselves within a large pattern. To use a mechanical metaphor we are one part in a system of interlocking parts that makes the machine function. I prefer a biological metaphor. We are cells in a superorganism. One cell’s function and functionality modifies the other parts of the system for better or worse. An unconscious human in the United States – one who does not see how their voting, their basic electricity or fuel consumption, their food purchasing or growing, or the number and kinds of widgets they have and use in and out of the house – is an ecologically dangerous entity. Buying, using, and selling the gadgetry of such a fossil fuel addicted economy perpetuates and extends that same economy. Because our state and national corporate governments’ prime directive is growth, the individual is steered toward ignorance about the consequences of fuel consumption whether that be climate change, mountain top removal, or methane migration and hydraulic fracturing.

How can a woman like this woman, polite and warm with a kind smile, selling me a whoopie pie, understand her and her community’s consumption on other places? I suppose one possibility would be through schooling where students would learn about the ecological consequences of actions. It could also be done through conscious and conscientious media. And when I say ecological consequences, I mean the broad set of effects on economies, society, and ecosystems scaled small to large. And here, of course, I am hung on the governor’s decision to slash school funding and to give away the gas rights to our state forests.

South I went. Gulls soared overhead. At one point I flew below a flock of a few hundred and watched them wheel from the east shore over the islands. Miles downriver, I see the ridges on the other side move into a bend in the river. This river is millions of years old and its winnowing way is surrounded by the wisdom of the mountains (picture at right). Trucks roar by, their wakes pulling me along. Highways really do not exist for bikes. Highways are barely for humans.

And then, out of the blue, I see my wife and son in our car. Just shy of crossing the river south of Halifax, they pull over and we smile (picture at right). It is a beautiful moment. In those moments I feel buoyed beyond measure. I feel believed in and supported. I can practically touch the devotion when she tells me she has a cheese sandwich for me to eat when I get to Harrisburg. My son, just three years old, gives me a big hug and kiss. After just a couple of minutes, I am warmed and go on. It is just less than 20 miles to the end of this ride.

At about noon, I can see the Capitol building ahead of me, miles down Route 22 into the city. I smiled a big smile and thought what a kind of nutty thing it is I am trying to do. There I was, one guy on a bicycle trying to do something right. But I was also aware of the fact, and continue to be aware of the fact, that I was not alone. When I started letting people know what I was going to do, a marvelous thing happened. First, of course, some people tried to get me to plan well and I am indebted to them for “talking me off the ledge” and doing this too rashly. Then, as the plan emerged and I decided to attend the rally with PennEnvironment and others from across the state to protest the budget cuts and the lack of a severance tax, people started sending me emails.

They wrote to me about their fears and their hopes. Both were hand in hand. There was a grandmother who wants justice for her, her children, and her grandchildren. There is a woman who gave birth to her children in her house in the midst of the beautiful forest and how the surrounding forest has been carved up for gas drilling and trucks and you can no longer hear peepers at night. Now it’s a hellish din of trucks and compressors. There is a woman bound to a wheelchair who wished she could go with me. People saying, “Give ‘em hell!” People are full of hope that someone will do something right. And so I wasn’t just one man on his way to a rally and a meeting. I was carrying those people’s stories to the capitol so that they could be seen in the face of a 34-year-old father who loves his place and the places that millions more love.

Ultimately, it seems this is about love. Love of family. Love of home. Love of place. Love of life and living with, on, and through the land. I am not a religious man, but somehow I like to believe that somewhere Aldo Leopold, one of America’s great naturalists, is smiling at me warmly.

At about 12:20 I roll to the east entrance of the capitol building. My father-in-law and two other Centre County residents have come. We are ready to protest for justice and ready to visit Mr. Corbett. Our letters are ready and our words are true.

I talk to one of the Capitol Police who tells me that he got an email about me that morning. I was surprised and not. I could be some total wingnut after all. He tells me that the governor isn’t in. Whether this is a way to divert me and my compatriots, I can’t know. It didn’t matter. We were going up anyway.

I changed into a t-shirt that reads “Don’t tread on me” with a boot print with the words “Big Oil” in it we are ready to go. I got it from a fellow gas activist that It was time to protest.

To be continued…


Part I: The ride

On the morning of Wednesday March 9th, I rode my bike about 110 to 120 miles from my house in Pine Grove Mills, Pennsylvania to our commonwealth’s capitol in Harrisburg. I think it’s fair to say that I was on something of a mission, a mission that could initiate a real conversation between our newly elected governor Tom Corbett and his constituents who have a lot of reasons to be concerned about the exponentially growing natural gas drilling industry in Pennsylvania. It is my firm and well-founded belief that this is the issue facing Pennsylvania in particular. This insanity about fossil fuels that undermines our health and wellbeing and a truly good relationship with nature grips our state. My ride and meeting would provide faces for the governor to deal with.

I believe in faces, in people, in our stories, and our conversations about them. And it has only just begun.

For the last couple of years, Mike and I have co-hosted Sustainability Now on Penn State’s student radio station, The Lion 90.7 fm. Mike and I were talking at a party and realized that we had something new in common, the desire to live more sustainably while also trying to understand what sustainability meant to people. The term, as lots of us know, is loose and easy to play with and we thought that we could explore it on some radio time. He already hosted a funk show. Why not take an hour a week, get some cool guests from the large pool of people we could get just in our local environs, and just throw it down?

So that’s what we did: sustainable agriculture and organic agriculture, the ethics of climate change; a green revolution without chemical fertilizers and pesticides; people who do the super-small local work of the Transition Towns to a scientist who was lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chapter. On almost every show, it’s come to energy and fossil fuel.

In Pennsylvania these days, you can’t think of fossil fuel without thinking of the natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. And so we’ve done some shows on it. We’ve had bloggers on. We’ve had reporters on. I attended a special summit held at Penn State University that alleged to bring all the stakeholders together on the issue but ended up as a corporate meet and greet with wannabe groups getting in the mix. I was one of maybe ten people there critical of Marcellus development. And so over the last couple of years, I’ve been getting more and more acquainted with the issue and getting more upset and distressed.

I called this insanity earlier. An addiction. It’s a kind of insanity that convinces people to sacrifice their and their neighbors’ water. A kind of mania that drives elected officials to sacrifice the common good of the common people in our commonwealth to the bidding of natural gas drilling corporations. It’s the kind of lunacy that leads people to believe that carving up the landscape and polluting everything in sight signals progress. It is a cultural disease.

It is an economic, social, and cultural disease I call Marcellus Personality Disorder or MPD. It is characterized by an unhealthy fixation on private monetary profit, delusions of energy independence, reduced pollution, that individuals are the unit of consideration, ecological sustainability, the acceptance of corporations as people, and negligence to humans, non-humans, watersheds, and ecosystems in the name of progress. The evidence of this is all around us in Pennsylvania, and now our governor, Tom Corbett, may have one of the worst cases of MPD in history. I cannot be sure of it because I haven’t gotten to speak to him yet but it is my strong hunch that the hundreds of thousands of dollars that natural gas corporations have given to him and the unfettered access of natural gas industry people get makes my diagnosis likely.

On my ride to Harrisburg I saw lots of things that are important to us all and that mass MPD will compromise and certainly make difficult to enjoy. For example, just after sunrise I drank from Hickernell Spring in the Bald Eagle State Forest. It rests on the opposite side of Nittany Ridge from the little town of Woodward (famous for its X-Games park and camp). With Tom Corbett’s recent decision to revoke Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) from being able to do preliminary environmental impact assessments on potential drilling operations in state forests and state parks, we have lost what amounted to a moratorium in remaining un-leased state forests. That lubricates the way for gas drillers to lease land like the forests above the Hickernell Spring. For all of the talk of how “clean” natural gas is, it is anything but clean with water.

The new process combines to existing technologies to get at natural gas in the Marcellus Shale: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The Marcellus Shale is a layer of rock approximately one mile below the Earth’s surface. Drillers bore through thousands of feet of rock. Then, once into the shale play, they turn the drill horizontally so that the well is like an "L" thousands of feet deep and thousands of feet long. Then the well is cased in steel and cemented. Once cased, explosives are set off that put holes in the casing and fracture the shale so that the natural gas can be induced to flow back.

At this point the drillers can begin hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” A mixture of a few million gallons of water mixed with sand and an ultra-toxic cocktail of biocides and lubricants is injected into the well to get the gas out. The injection pressure can reach 15,000 psi. For comparison, the ocean’s pressure at its deepest point in the Mariana Trench is 15,750 psi. This is a seismic event. Of course, some of the “frack” water returns and is placed into a holding pit where it is exposed to open air. The sailinity of this water is five to ten times greater than seawater and comes back not only with the benzene and other carcinogens that went in with it, but it comes out with arsenic, cadmium, radium, uranium, and gross alpha. This is liquid cancer and it is being dumped at Pennsylvania’s wastewater treatment plants.

There have been thousands of ground water violations at wells around Pennsylvania. Cattle have been exposed to frack water. They died or were quarantined. Well pad workers get sick. I have a friend who drives a cab and he has stories now about these guys getting sick from their repeated exposure to materials and working conditions that will kill.

So when I look at Hickernell Spring, I don’t just see a spring anymore. I see people’s health from their water. I see something that is owed to them by civil society for their well-being. I see an elemental support system for the chain of life all around it. But to those MPD, it is either something that might have to be nixed for progress, an “accidental” conduit for poison, or something turned into a source for a profit stream in the production of natural gas. Without DCNR able to effectively safeguard this land, there are fewer options for protecting it.
This was probably the tenth time I have been to Hickernell Spring in the last 10 years. Usually I am there in late spring, during summer, or in the early fall with friendsa and we fill up our bottles for the final 40 miles home to State College. Often there are people there filling up jugs to take home. The water is cold and its sound coming from the pipe in the mountain. The whole experience brings joy to people. It is the simplest thing, but water is joy and life.

During the trip, school kids passed me in their buses. Corbett’s new budget proposes to slash school funding. Whatever the merits or demerits of our schooling system, it seems ludicrous that he would cut down schools to save money but will not tax the natural gas industry on its extraction. Pennsylvania is the only major gas state without a severance tax. Pennsylvania is a commonwealth. Where is the common wealth from natural gas? Surely, as alleged people under the recent Citizens United ruling, they can at least be expected to pay their fair share and help children go to school or help with environmental protection in other areas. It seems not.

To be continued…


Adam Garber from PennEnvironment on Corbett's Budget

Last week we spoke to Adam Garber from PennEnvironment on the air about the rally on Wednesday March 9th. Here, he speaks about why we need sane natural gas policy including the Department of Environmental Protection. With "tens of thousands" of Marcellus wells expected to come to our state, we are in a bit of a fix.

New Jersey puts moratorium on fracking

This just in.
New Jersey lawmakers took action on a package of bills aimed at halting the practice of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial process that produces natural gas by injecting large volumes of water into wells dug in Marcellus Shale formations.

In adopting a bill (A-3653) that would impose a moratorium in New Jersey on the practice, also known as "fracking," the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee stopped short of a total ban on the drilling technology that many environmentalists had sought. The committee also passed a resolution urging Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York (although it already has a moratorium in place) to halt the practice.

The move to stop fracking in New Jersey is more symbolic than substantive, since no drilling for natural gas is occurring here. But the legislative action is indicative of the increasingly contentious nature of the practice, the subject of several front-page articles in The New York Times. Foes say the practice could contaminate the Delaware River, the source of drinking water for 15 million people in the region.

Can Pennsylvania listen?

Natural Gas Drilling Might Cause Earthquakes

Earthquakes, even small ones, release more energy than nuclear weapons. And according to some preliminary studies and a lot of anecdotal evidence, high densities of deep-well injected waste water positively correlate with increased numbers of earthquakes. The Watershed Sentinel's Joyce Nelson recently examined a slew of data and recent reports that give people worried about Marcellus and Utica shale play developments something else to worry about. As if toxic water, bad air, deforestation, habitat fragmentation, compromised infrastructure, public health, noise, trucking and traffic problems, and home devaluation weren't bad enough. Now they might have to worry about earthquakes too?

We might wonder why anyone should be surprised that there are seismic effects from a seismic activity. The hydraulic fracturing process pumps fluid into the earth at up to 15,000 psi. For comparison, a crocodile's bite can be around 2,000 psi. The pressure in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of over 30,000 feet is about 15,750 psi.

Nelson cites studies that show a marked increase in earthquakes in the Barnett Shale play in Texas and "earthquake swarms" in the Fayettville Shale Play in Arkansas. In Texas, preliminary findings indicate a "possible correlation" between injection wells and earthquakes. In Arkansas, the quakes have become so frequent that they have alarmed residents. Nelson writes,
In late October, the website for Arkansans for Gas Drilling Accountability stated: "We now have a total of over one hundred earthquakes for October and we still have days to go. Just think. Fracking and injection wells cause earthquakes...earthquakes can damage cement casings...cement casings are the front line defence to protect our water from toxic fracking fluids."
Pennsylvania is a pretty seismically quiet state. But with the possibility of tens of thousands of wells being drilled and cased in coming years, is it worth possibly cracking them and the increased water toxicity that can come?

Read on here.


Is water a thing to sacrifice?

Earlier today I rode my bike to Harrisburg for a lot of reasons. I rode because I think that Governor Tom Corbett is selling the state forests out for a short-term profit, taking big money from gas companies, and selling out the people of this state. There is no severance tax on gas drilling and now the companies will have free reign in the forests. It's appalling. So I rode.

And when I rode, I saw beautiful things. Pines. The rolling Penns Valley and many of its farms. A spring where I've gotten water several times over the last 10 years on long rides. But it's in Bald Eagle State Forest and subject to Marcellus drilling. I like that water. You?

And that's the thing. How do you value water? That's how a lot of this argument and debate and the consideration of your land and someone else's land or their land and your health plays out. How do you value water? As a commodity?

If it is "just" a commodity then what do you value it against?

Is it a human right to have access to fresh and clean drinking water as Maude Barlowe has argued? If it is, then do corporations have to right to use water in non-commons ways?

The Marcellus development brings us a lot of problems not the least of which is water access and health.

More pictures and video will be up soon. And in them are some intense protests.


My bike doesn't release frackwater

State education budgets cut as Marcellus "gas boom" pays nothing

This just in from the Centre Daily Times:

At the same time, Corbett also renewed his opposition to a tax on the state's booming natural gas industry, and said the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale formations below Pennsylvania could make it "the Texas of the natural gas boom. I'm determined that Pennsylvania not lose this moment."

The Education Department budget, which totals about $11 billion this year, has been buoyed this year by hundreds of millions in federal stimulus money that is not expected to be available next year and Corbett proposes about $1 billion less for 2011-12.

Corbett advocated reducing the appropriation for public schools by $550 million. He also proposes eliminating $259 million in special grants that subsidized programs such as all-day kindergarten, and $224 million in reimbursements to school district for students who transfer to charger schools.

He also advocated spending cuts of about $625 million - more than 50 percent - for the 14 state-owned universities in the State System of Higher Education, plus the "state-related" schools: Pitt, Temple, Penn State and Lincoln.

This is how Penn State Live reports it:
The budget cuts Penn State's appropriation by 52.4 percent, a devastating reduction of $182 million. This includes a 50 percent cut in Penn State's educational appropriation, a 50 percent cut in its Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension appropriations, the loss of all federal stimulus dollars, a reduction for the Pennsylvania College of Technology, and the total elimination of medical assistance funding for the Penn State Hershey Medical Center...

Cuts in higher education budgets are being proposed in many states, but never has a single institution's budget been slated for a reduction of more than 50 percent in a given year. The University would have a matter of only a few weeks to manage such a catastrophic cut.

"A reduction of this magnitude would necessitate massive budget cuts, layoffs and tuition increases, with a devastating effect on many students, employees and their families," said Al Horvath, senior vice president for Finance and Business. "While we have for many months been planning for a potential state funding cut, we could not have envisioned one so damaging to the future of the University and the Commonwealth."

We may all have to share in the sacrifice. Except...

But government is not meant to be the answer for jobs. The private sector is. The Marcellus Shale discovery, a natural resource deposit that rivals the ages of coal and oil, is a great example.

Limited government means not mistaking someone else’s property for your own. There has been much pressure to tax the gas being drawn from the Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus is a resource, a source of potential wealth, the foundation of a new economy. Not just something new to tax.

Pennsylvania can become a center not just of resources but a center of the industry that backs up those resources. For every pipe running a mile underground we should have jobs at distribution centers, at refineries, at shipping ports, and the offices and companies that run them.

These resources, by the way, belong to the people who own the mineral rights. Those people are getting their fair share by working out their own leases with the companies doing the drilling. That’s how it should be. That’s the American way. What Pennsylvanians will gain is the jobs, the spinoffs, and if we don’t scare these industries off with new taxes, the follow-up that comes along. You see underneath the Marcellus Shale is another bonanza. It’s called the Utica Shale. And where Marcellus promises 50 years of energy the Utica promises riches going into the next century. Let’s make Pennsylvania the hub of this boom. Just as the oil companies decided to headquarter in one of a dozen states with oil ... let’s make Pennsylvania the Texas of the natural gas boom. I’m determined that Pennsylvania not lose this moment. We have the chance to get it right the first time, the chance to grow our way out of hard days.

This is why we are going to Harrisburg.

The Rick Smith Show: "I want some accountability."

Last night, SN's co-host Peter Buckland was on The Rick Smith Show to talk about his ride to Harrisburg for sane natural gas policy. The show brings Rick's "Teamster-member outlook to the air" in a pretty red state.

Asked why he's riding to Harrisburg, Peter said,
I believe that we are not being represented well by our governor and sometimes not terribly well by our legislature. It seems to me that...the natural gas industry has more or less been able to buy its representation, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to Tom Corbett's campaign alone and about $3 million to Pennsylvania campaigns in the last ten years...I want some accountability.
You can listen to the MP3 here. Peter's interview is about half-way through the show.

“The Corbett administration's actions for the gas industry are out of control."

Young father to ride bike to Harrisburg to try to arrange meeting
with the Governor

“The Corbett administration's actions for the gas industry are out of

Pine Grove Mills, PA. On Wednesday, March 9, Peter Buckland will
ride his bike 110 miles from his home in Pine Grove Mills [Centre
County] to Harrisburg to arrange a meeting with the Governor.

Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Departure: from Pine Grove Mills [Centre County]

Destination: the Governor’s office, Harrisburg

Arrival time: Approximately 1:00 p.m.

Who: Peter Buckland – [peter.evolves@gmail.com]

Peter is a PhD candidate in the PSU College of Education and the
father of a 3 year old son. He plans to arrive in Harrisburg by
about 1 p.m., in time to participate in a protest being organized by
Penn Environment, that will be held at the Capitol Forum.

Immediately afterward he will go to the Governor’s office to
personally deliver his written request for a meeting. Peter says,
“I will do this in person, with some insistence, instead of through
the faceless email system or fax system. My point is to put another
real face to this. Unlike the gas industry, we don't have hundreds of
thousands of dollars to buy access to the governor but he HAS to talk
with us, he is OUR governor."

Up to this point Buckland has attended a few environmental protests,
but is now compelled to activism on a higher level, saying “The
Corbett administration's actions for the gas industry are out of
control. Yanking the DCNR's ability to assess potential impacts on
state land and gutting the DEP's ability to monitor air quality from
drilling sites pushed me to this point.. For me this is very personal
because I spend hundreds of hours in Rothrock, Bald Eagle, Moshannon,
Sproul, and Tioga on my mountain bike, on hikes and camping.”

Buckland believes that the governor needs to reinstate the former
DCNR policy that would limit new drilling and that he must impose a
severance tax on the natural gas industry.

He adds, “It is also about the quality of our water and air and my
hopes and fears as a father. As a citizen of this commonwealth, the
commonwealth's government should help me and my fellow common people
to reach the common good. I will ride even if it rains or snows.”

Buckland invites those at the rally to join him afterward as he
delivers his meeting request to the Governor. Other concerned
citizens from around around the state have already agreed to join
him. He encourages others to submit their own meeting requests on

FrackTracker Summarizes Shale Gas Environmental Impacts

Last year we had Samantha Malone on SN to talk about FrackTracker's interactive geographic information systems approach to Marcellus development. John F. Stolz, Ph.D. Professor of Biological Sciences just put up a piece that briefly explains many of the environmental impacts caused by a single gas well.

Here is the bare bones on just water:
  • The amount needed for fracking (5 million gallons/frac)
  • Loss of well (aquifer) water through disruption or contamination
  • Gas migration causing methane contaminated water
  • The fate of the produced water (“treated” at POTWs)
  • Degradation of water quality in local streams and rivers
  • Degradation of drinking water quality (need to purchase bottled water)

There are also impacts to land usage, exposure to toxic chemicals (spills, aquifer contamination, traffic and road degradation, noise, air pollution, property devaluation, EMS and emergency procedures, and increases taxes to cover infrastructure damage, additional public services and security. Mike and I have wondered for some time what the long-term property damage will be.

How about an 85% loss of property value?


Questions of animal rights and sustainability

Veterinarian Colleges has posted a top 45 list of animal advocacy blogs. They note that the attention to animal rights movement has exploded in recent years. The internet has brought more people into the mix. Citing Charles Darwin, they write, “The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man." Check out the list.

The animal rights movement and sustainability movements have some considerable overlap, primarily regarding farming and food production. Both concern themselves with the ethics of farm to table. Animal rights activists tend to focus on raising the quality of livestock animals' living conditions, often seen as being achievable through free-range pasturing and evolved feeding that most often reduce environmental impacts. The sustainability movement tends to invert that, seeing better farm-environmental relationships as the focus - often noting how much less fossil fuel can go into small-scale organic farming - and animal welfare being the secondary concern.

This is a win-win in most cases. On Sustainability Now we've seen these movements converge in several of our guests. Several are vegetarians for reasons on both sides of the animal well-being + reduced (and sometimes restorative) environmental impacts. We have had two guests, Johnathan Lynch and Christopher Uhl, use the term Ahimsa - "no harm" - as their definition of sustainability. Animal and human welfare come into play in such a definition. Our sustainable agriculture guests from Pennsylvania Certified Organic and Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture were well-versed in the benefits of treating animals well and using farming techniques that restore the land.

One of the more interesting blogs on the list is the Food Ethics Blog that covers "ethical issues that arise in growing, shipping, processing, selling, regulating, and eating food."

What is your relationship to animals? What do you eat? How was it raised? Even more strangely, how do you feed your pets?


Peter is biking to Frackburg...Harrisburg

Dear Listeners and Readers,

Next Wednesday, March 9th, I will be riding my bike to Harrisburg from my house in Pine Grove Mills to do my own small part to stand up to Corbett and the gas companies. It just seems like the right thing to do. As you know, we've had some strong voices on shale gas drilling on the show and they need to have some justice done for them.

I will be joining an existing event that PennEnvironment has organized (listen to today's cast and see attached image). It is a protest of Corbett's budget and its utter lack of accountability around natural gas in general and about the lack of a severance tax in particular. Several organizations active on the issue will be there. It is at 1:30 pm. I should note that what I am doing following the event (see below) is not intended to supercede that event in any way. Nor is what I plan to do after the event in any way sponsored by PennEnvironment or any organization. But it is a good place to meet other concerned citizens who might want to go with me one small step further.

The Corbett administration's actions for the gas industry are out of control. Two recent decisions pushed me to this point. The first was to yank DCNR's ability to assess potential impacts on state forest and park land and the second was gutting DEP's ability to monitor air quality from drilling sites. For me this is very personal because I love the forest. Every year I spend hundreds of hours in Rothrock, Bald Eagle, Moshannon, Tioga, Forbes, and Sproul on my mountain bike, on hikes, and camping. Many of you have your own stories with our state forests. Beautiful stories.

It is also about the quality of our water and air and my hopes and fears as a father. Who wants to wake up and have your child bleeding from their noses because of toxic chemicals in their water? Who wants their neighbors sick from gas in the water? Who wants to breathe evaporating benzene? Not me.

I am riding my bike there because because it is better for the forest, for the person, for water, for air, for noise, for the climate, and for all of us than gas trucks, well-pads, natural gas, and frack water are. I am riding my bike because it means something better and brings me in touch with life and living. As a citizen of this commonwealth, the commonwealth's government should help me and my fellow common people to reach the common good.

So I called the governor's office and asked to speak with Governor Corbett. The staffer with whom I spoke was polite and listened to my grievances about shale drilling. I told her about the perception (some might say...fact) that Governor Corbett is governing for gas industry profiteers instead of for Pennsylvanians, their communities, their water, and our commonwealth's forests. She told me that all requests to meet with the governor have to be submitted in writing. I could not talk to him on the phone or just arrange a meeting no matter my concerns. I understand. You can't let just any yahoo in.

Okay. It will be delivered in writing.

After the budget protest I plan to go to the governor's office and request a meeting with the governor. Because I seriously doubt that they will just let me in to see the him, even if 5, 20, or 200 people went in with me, I will bring a letter requesting a meeting and submit it to the office. I will do this in person, with some insistence, instead of through the faceless email system or fax system. It will also be something of a prepared statement though i don't know that I will be able to read it.

The point, I suppose, is to put another real face to this. I am tired of this. I am worried. I am afraid. I am seeing and hearing too many angry and unheard people. I am also very motivated and believe that we must demand a better way for us, for water, for the forests. Letters aren't working. Protests keep failing. I write to my representative, Scott Conklin, and I get very short replies back and no solid action. My state senator, Jake Corman, is doing the gas industry's bidding. As I told the staff worker today, "We don't have the hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy access to governors or future governors. He HAS to talk with us. He is OUR governor."

So, I have to do what I have to do. If you would like to join the rally and then join me afterward to deliver my request for a meeting (and perhaps your own as well?), as individuals, I would love you to do so. It would be an honor to be joined by good people who deserve better. I suggest you bring letters requesting meetings too. Even if we have to walk away at the end of the day in Limbo, waiting for replies to our requests, at least we will have tried and started something new. Perhaps it will become something more. Maybe I'll end up looking like a complete fool.

I don't know. I just know that something must be done differently.

It is a modest goal. Please join me if you can.

Please copy and forward this message to other concerned people. People can RSVP to me at:


With great hope,


p.s. I will ride in rain or snow also. The only way I won't is if it's icy. If you want to bike with me, that would be super awesome. I like company.


Protesting to get gas fairness

Some of our readers and listeners might be interested in attending this event in Harrisburg next Wednesday, March 9th at 1:30 pm. Sustainability Now's Peter Buckland will be there as both activist and journalist.

If you peruse most of the press out there - big media, local and independent papers, the citizen blogs - you will find overwhelming support for a severance tax on gas extracted from Marcellus Shale. Pennsylvania is the only state not collecting a severance tax.

As John Quigley, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said, “Quite frankly, the citizens of this state are being played for chumps.”

In a year with a looming budget crisis because of the economic downturn, wouldn't it make sense to garner revenue from a booming industry? Wouldn't it make sense to funnel that money from industry back to the commonwealth's common people for their common wealth? Wouldn't it make sense to use money from our own natural resources to help with environmental projects? Wouldn't it make sense to slow this stuff down? A Tea Party candidate for county commissioner in Bradford County wants to slow it down. This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue or a progressive vs. conservative issue. This is about sanity, health, and environmental integrity.

Apparently Governor Corbett does not agree. Common Cause has noted that the gas industry has thrown about $2.85 million into political campaigns in the last 10 years. They write, "Drillers have a clear favorite in the 2010 gubernatorial race—Republican Tom Corbett, recipient of $361,207, with 93% of these contributions coming since January 2008." That's a lot of influence. How can we have that much influence?

So Peter will be there asking questions, talking to concerned people, and hopefully getting to speak with some people with authority.

How many Marcellus wells are there in Pennsylvania?

And what will this map look like in two years? Five years? Where will the wells be?

Fracking is hitting the U.K.

The Ecologist has an interesting story up. Apparently, the United Kingdom is considering hydraulic fracturing to get at natural gas. People there are worried about water pollution.
[Mark] Miller (CEO of Cuadrilla Resources) told MPs it would be 'near-impossible' for any of the fracking liquid pumped underground to breach the well and contaminate any underground water aquifers. If there was any break in the well wall, he said, they could repair it within three to five days. Miller also said the company was testing the surrounding soils, streams and air to provide a baseline in case of any future claims about contamination from the site.
They might want to learn about Pennsylvania.

Hickory, Pennsylvania's problems with Natural Gas