Saturday, June 18, 2011

Williams Production Appalachia comes to Columbia County: An Environmental Disaster, and not just for Surgarloaf Township

To the editor,

The PE headline, ‘Fracking comes to area” hardly captures what’s coming to Columbia County now that Williams Production Appalachia (WPA) has struck gas “gold.” Let’s not speculate about the pollution threatening our wells, streams, and the Susquehanna River, the millions of gallons of water required for fracturing which will drain our rivers and creeks, further concentrating its carcinogens, the destruction of our roads, the 24/7 noise, congestion, and safety hazards produced by drilling operations and truck traffic, or that neither the gas nor the profits are destined for Pennsylvania. Let’s examine the facts:

1. The Citizen’s Voice reports that WPA is “poised to become a major player.” In fact, WPA’s spokesperson Helen Humphreys is lying to Sugarloaf Township residents. She claims WPA is “still ‘trying to determine how much gas might be in the rock formation.’” False: “State Department of Environmental Protection records show Williams has recently been issued two gas well permits for Benton and one for Sugarloaf Township in Columbia County… ‘Our plan is to develop those properties, that is, drill on those properties," Williams spokesman Jeff Pounds said…’” WPA leased 45,000 acres, mostly in Pennsylvania, paying $501 million, and added 10,00 acres in Columbia County—paying only $2,800 an acre. WPA effectively owns the PA State Game Commission who, economically strapped, continues to lease more land to the corporation in Bradford and Lycoming County. WPA owns the Gulfstream, Northwest, and Transco Pipelines—none of which deliver to Pennsylvania, and two of which deliver out of the country—raising the price of natural gas in Pennsylvania.

2. The Buffalo News reports that since 2008, “Marcellus Shale drillers in Pennsylvania amass[ed] 1614 violations,” “1056 identified as most likely to harm the environment.” WPA ranks at #11 of the 26 top violators: 32 violations/seven wells. A comparatively small operation compared to Chesapeake Appalachia (149 violations/190 wells) or Cabot Oil and Gas (93 violations/73 wells), yet 32/7 makes WPA not only a major player, but a major environmental violator. WPA’s average violation per well is 4.6, #6 of 26—well behind Cabot. Chesapeake doesn’t even make the top 26. Moreover, WPA is listed among the 55% of all gas corporations in Pennsylvania failing to meet production-reporting deadlines in 2010. Specific violations include: “Site conditions present a potential for pollution to waters of the Commonwealth,” “Pit and tanks not constructed with sufficient capacity to contain pollutional substances,” “Failure to properly store, transport, process or dispose of a residual waste,” “Failure to notify DEP of pollution incident,” and that’s just Franklin Township.

3. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts BIG GAS from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. “[S]hale gas drillers don’t have to disclose what chemicals they use.” Nonetheless, “fracking has already been linked to drinking water contamination and property damage in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.” Of the 29 common fracking chemicals 13 are known carcinogens, 8 are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and 24 are hazardous air pollutants. Examples: methanol, formaldehyde, naphthalene, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene xylene, lead, hydrogen chloride, ethylene glycol, 2-butoxyethanol, and diesel which, according to the EPA “poses the greatest threat to underground sources of drinking water.”

Sugarloaf Township could become the next Dimmock whose aquifer is so polluted that “one woman's water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair,” not to mention the obliterated property values of folks who’d like to sell their homes and move. Trouble is, some residents have already sold out. Bigger trouble is that we’re all going to pay for the environmental tsunami that’s coming if we don’t stand up NOW.

Wendy Lynne Lee

598 words

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