water is the new black?

Water is an issue that at the top of my mind these days. Surprising perhaps, as I’m in a place which seems to have a lot of it. Last year I actually set up a drip irrigation system for my tomatoes thinking it would save them from some of the blight issues that come from watering. Alas, our summer had more than enough rain, and we hardly used it at all.

But seriously, I am thinking about water issues a LOT these days. First, naturally, we have a well, and well, we also live in Marcellus Shale land, where drillers are coming at us from all sides. The threat to possible water contamination is real, people. So that’s scary.

But then I’m also thinking about California, where my in-laws live. They live in the central coast, a cute little town, and they are under serious restrictions. They were always metering and using grey water for the garden, but this winter, they’ve been reduced to using grey water in the house–to flush the toilets. They have been shlepping buckets up and down through the house, saving shower water for the toilet, dish water for the toilets, etc. It’s pretty grim. 3 months of overusing and your water could be cut off.

It’s just interesting when you go from the individual level to the industrial or governmental level. So for the in-laws, schlepping and saving, they got this great story. The local water district spilled 168,000 gallons of water in February. They didn’t know there was a leak in the tanks. As one resident points out, each individual is allotted 49 gallons a day, and the amount the water district has lost over the past 6 months equals 24 YEARS of individual permits.

Then there’s the weird case of New Mexico. Today I was reading a story about regulations being lifted for the copper industry. In New Mexico, don’t you know, 90% of all water comes from groundwater sources. That’s kind of scary stuff. Especially when you hear that the copper industry is now pretty much exempt from dealing with the regulations surrounding pollution of ground water, an amendment passed in 2013. That just doesn’t sound like good sense for a drought-plagued state like New Mexico?!

Especially when you also know that the dairy industry is the largest industry in the state. Huh, you say. Yep, that’s right. They got a lot of cows making milk in the desert out there. Makes sense to me? They have the largest herds of any state (average herd size is 2088–big cafo productions). That’s 7 billion pounds of milk! Can you believe that?

Of course, all milk means that these dairies  use (and pollute) a lot of groundwater. 60% of dairies in the state have polluted their nearby groundwater, and like the mining example, they haven’t been required to clean it up.

It just seems like we’re really helping ourselves get to the breaking point even faster than climate change could. It no makey sense to me. All I think I can do, is to try and buy local milk products and avoid those bigger chain brands that are no doubt getting their supply from the desert.


gas wells coming soon to a park near you!

uh oh. the news we’ve been wondering about…where could drilling happen near us?

The local free paper reports that there are two municipal locations near us that are zoned for drilling. One of them in our local park!!! This is sad news. Hopefully it will never to this, but not good to know that it could. Sigh. One thing the article did say was that the current zoning requires a 20 acre site for drilling. This would limit options near us I think. But the doode points out that zoning regulations can change at any time. And we don’t know if this applies for any site. And of course, people could gather multiple plots together to create a large enough site. I’m not sure what our actual township regulations are, I hope they’re as good as these.

In other Marcellus news around here. Another well fire! And the local paper made a web portal for marcellus news. The portal is pretty nice. Lots of articles, and interactive stuff. But, I wonder where their bias lies. One interesting article posted on it was locally written about how “green” the drillers are. They’re into recycling their water!!! Unfortunately, the same day, the New York Times came out with its article about how there’s radioactivity in them thar waters, and that the water “recycling” process is really not working. (They’re putting a lot of the water through sewer treatment–and these systems are not equipped to handle the toxins, and in particular the radioactive toxins.) So now we can look forward to diminishing public water quality and three eyed fish in the rivers. Not good!

One final recent note about marcellus. We see that Range Resources posted lower earnings this quarter. They continue to up their advertising in the area. And it’s getting a bit much!! The latest ad involved a woman talking about the power of horses for disadvantaged children. By allowing drilling on her farm she has more money to run her programs for disadvantaged children!!! Are you serious??!!! Unfortunately yes. Stinky!!! That’s pretty stinky, range resources.

range resources targets farmers in SWPA on TV!
September 30, 2010, 3:55 pm
Filed under: marcellus, utilities | Tags: , , ,

Ah, so here it comes folks. We heard that a new marcellus drilling tax is coming to the legislature, no doubt the politicians are eager to get their hands on all that cash! It’ll be the highest tax in any state if it passes. Sigh. See here Post Gazette, or here, which talks about the Republican plan to convert the state’s vehicle fleet 16000 cars to clean burning natural gas. Hmm.

Anyhow, we were sitting around watching tv on the weekend, and there it was. Even though we were chitchatting something about the commercial caught my eye.

Alas youtube and google let me down and I couldn’t find it online to share with you all. It was a most interesting commercial! It caught my eye even before I saw the tag line. It showed a farmer, going on about how hard it is to be a farmer (yeah I’m with you man). How he had to take two jobs to keep the farm. Working 16 hours (right on bro!) Look at those poor cows, the dejected older man. Working so hard his whole life. Ok…???

And, punch line–so now it’s MY turn. My opportunity. Or something like that. Yep it’s his turn–just sign on the dotted line and here comes payday! Sign over the land, and get the gas paycheck. I see that Range Resources (who did the ad) has just built a big office in WV.

What was scary about the commercial was just how in line it is. We noticed on our drive way back when–that in fact, the area is quite poor. Lots of folks would easily jump at the chance for a big payday. Why wouldn’t they?

It was all rather depressing. You can watch a bunch of different ads on their website.

Here’s an interesting article about the issue from the business side of things. According to Forbes, Range Resources is King of Marcellus Shale. And there are a few farmers who are making a stink about their water issues, but meh, no biggie. The “paranoia” should die back.

And RR stands to gain– pretty much no matter what happens. They bought a lot of land at 1000.00 an acre (now it’s 14,000 an acre). Of the 500 trillion estimated available in the Shale deposits–or a 20 year supply for the US, Range has 3.1 trillion. And they can separate out those other products (ethane, propane, isobutane) and sell them at a premium! (My understanding is that those specialty items are not included in the farmer’s lease either–so more $ to the corp!

Final interesting point from article: They can still be profitable even if gas prices drop 50%. Our friend noted that this particular company is doing a lot of PR work out east of here. You know–building a big hockey complex for the local town, or buying the best in show hog for an outrageous of money at the county fair! I haven’t located media references for these endeavors, but it seems that they’re really doing their homework–and they realize they need to work a tad bit harder–people are suspicious!

fracking on cbs news
September 13, 2010, 7:12 pm
Filed under: marcellus, utilities | Tags: , , , , ,

That big gas explosion in California topped the news, but next up Katie did a nice story on Marcellus drilling protests! Didn’t make it sound too positive, drinking water issues pointed out, and they showed a clip from Gasland. She also pointed out that the chemicals are not disclosed but that there are moves being made to push companies to reveal them. They talked to the PA dep guy and he agreed that there had been some damage to drinking water but only due to surface water contamination. It’s a real big payday doncha know. Trillions of dollars of gas under there for the taking.
You can read more about the coverage here. There are videos to watch as well.

big surprise–a gas lease in our mailbox
August 14, 2010, 8:47 pm
Filed under: marcellus, utilities | Tags: , , , ,

We went away for a couple of days and came back to find no surprise–another huge pile of tomatoes, and BIG surprise, a lease sitting on our table. Wow, that’s a shocker. I have been interested in following the marcellus shale debates, but I just never figured it would come this close to our house! Yikes!!

Some guy named Philip noted on our personalized lease–between doode single man, and me, single woman (guess we need to update the real estate records?) and some gas company in Moon–please call to discuss.

And then he called and left a message. I’m afraid. What if our neighbors sign on? It seems kind of crazy that they would be trolling around in our neighborhood–our property isn’t really ideal to situate a gas well–all hilly and stuff. But what if one of our neighbors signs on? Sheesh- I’m always freaked out enough about our water safety!! The doode pointed out that now we can participate in a local study about the drilling and get our water tested for free! Ooooh. That’s a big relief. NOT!

Local officials continue to be alarmed by the surge in drilling leases. It really is a free for all! According to the paper, drilling leases have been signed for 2600 properties in the county and they’ve increased from 30 in 2003 to 273 in 2008, to 1,153 in 2009. At the moment they’re saying that Allegheny County has only 7 of around 4000 Marcellus wells in PA.

hot button issue: marcellus shale drilling ban in pittsburgh
July 23, 2010, 9:35 am
Filed under: marcellus, pittsburgh, utilities | Tags: , , , ,

A hearing in south pittsburgh this week had 1200 people! Industry folks said that there were no problems with drilling, but audience members talked about personal experiences of water contamination and negative (death) impacts on farm animals. See article here.. Pittsburgh was one of four locations for EPA hearings (other locations were Fort Worth, Denver and Binghamton, NY). Clean Water Action reported 80 violations for illegal dumping of wastewater and another 115 for frack pit violations. Scary stuff!

FWIW, Pittsburgh has passed a moratorium on drilling for a year–similar to the one in place in New York. Sure wish the counties would jump in on this as well–I’m assuming the ban doesn’t impact the regional areas–where all the drilling is currently occurring. The EPA is going to conduct a 1.9 million dollar study on marcellus shale, which is cool. But industry folks have already been doing “studies” that say that 6 billion in tax revenue and 280,000 jobs will come our way. Hey guys, we see all the Texas plates around! We know who’s getting those jobs. And we’ll be left with the big bill.

Gasland–marcellus shale in PA
June 8, 2010, 8:36 pm
Filed under: marcellus, movies, pittsburgh, utilities

What does the happy couple get up to on a Saturday night? Doode and I went out to a screening of Gasland downtown. Marcellus shale is a hot topic in our area. Many people are being approached to sign leases for drilling on their land. It’s a lot of money. Our well guy said one friend of his got a check at signing for 800000?! It’s a lot of temptation. And when your neighbors are doing it, at some point it becomes a non-issue. You might remember our drive out to the east of the state, when we saw the signs of MAJOR drilling activity. In some really poor looking areas, lots of machinery coming in, rigs on the road, etc. It’s a really big deal.

But it’s also pretty scary….

There are major impacts to be thinking about, to the water table and to the air (I didn’t realize the air quality issues part). The process uses “Frac water” gigantic amounts of chemically infused water solution to fracture the shale to release the gas. It uses MILLIONS of gallons of water to drill a well. As one document notes, “If one well requires 2 million gallons of water for one fracking, that’s 366, 5,460 gallon tanker trucks hauling fresh water and 183, 5,460 gallon tanker trucks hauling waste.” This quote should alert you to the scary fact that they are only able to get 50% of this chemical concoction back out.

And this “produced water” gets put into holding ponds for evaporation. Or it gets shipped to sewage treatment plants where it is simply put into the system in small proportions–ie…it is not actually filtered out just sent out at “acceptable” levels. Sigh. The industry is not regulated enough–and Bush passed a law to exempt the drilling from Clean Water laws. There have been issues in our area–for example a big fish kill. Algae showed up and caused the problem,”Our biggest concern is how the conditions were created in Dunkard Creek that allowed that algae to thrive,” Mr. Sternberg said. “If we see a saltwater algae in a freshwater creek, we know there must be something very wrong.” Something wrong indeed. Here’s a short article that outlines some of the issues. And here‘s a good report that links to some scientific studies of the water issues. As one resident noted, “You have to evaluate which is more important, the money or the water,” said a Dimock resident who declined to be named because he doesn’t want to antagonize Cabot, which he says will pay him more than $600,000 this year for the wells on his property.”

The documentary, in addition to talking about the water quality issues, talks about air quality. The compressors that move the gas vent out toxic stuff too. They run day and night and release harmful toxins into the air.

For more on the topic….a useful blog with good links…marcelluseffect (new york based). Texas has had a longer experience with this kind of drilling. For info on their issues…the Star Telegram has a blog.