Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

Archive for the ‘Fracking’ Category

We Are the Only Oil-and-Gas State Not Taxing Drilling

Posted by carldavidson on December 23, 2017

Strapped for cash, Pennsylvania may finally grant the governor a victory and enact a severance tax. But it’s an uphill battle.
Governing Magazine
DECEMBER 2017 – Hydraulic fracking has “brought back great-paying jobs,” says Steve Miskin, spokesman for Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson, File)

If your state is the only oil and gas producer in the nation that doesn’t have a severance tax, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on you to enact one. But given the amount of money involved, it’s easier to talk about creating such a tax than actually imposing it. In Pennsylvania, that talk has blossomed into a fight over more than just money; it now involves lobbying, environmental protection and the next campaign for governor.

Pennsylvania became the first place in the world to successfully drill for oil back in the 1850s. Over the past decade, however, natural gas has overtaken oil as the big game in the state. Pennsylvania is now the nation’s second-leading producer of natural gas, after Texas. Naturally, lawmakers are wary of tampering with the golden goose. “Right now, you have an industry that’s growing and not asking for state dollars, like others,” says Steve Miskin, a spokesman for state House Speaker Mike Turzai. “It has brought back great-paying jobs.”

The industry has spent more than $60 million on lobbying and campaign donations in the state over the past decade to ward off a severance tax on its profits. Industry officials like to point out that, even in the absence of a severance tax, Pennsylvania’s general business tax rates are often higher than those in other production states — notably Texas, which doesn’t tax corporate income. What’s more, Pennsylvania five years ago imposed an impact fee on drillers, which generated $173 million last year. “The comparison with other states shouldn’t stop and start just with the severance tax,” says Kevin Sunday, chief lobbyist with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “We have to look at the whole structure.”

But no one disputes that fiscally challenged Pennsylvania could use the money a severance tax would bring in — easily as much as $100 million a year. So quite a few legislators are determined to pass one. The state Senate actually approved a severance tax earlier this year.

It’s been a tough sell in the House, though, and not only because Turzai and other Republicans are largely opposed. State Rep. Greg Vitali, a Democrat who became the first legislator to propose a severance tax nearly a decade ago, came out against the Senate package, arguing it would also loosen state control of drilling permits and weaken environmental protection. “I find myself in the odd position during these budget negotiations to suddenly be opposing it,” he says. “The passage of a severance tax now is linked to some very bad provisions that in my view would cripple the Department of Environmental Protection’s ability to do its job.”

Meanwhile, the severance tax has become a sensitive campaign issue. A leaked tape captured Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner, a likely gubernatorial candidate next year, predicting that passage of the tax would guarantee a second term for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a leading severance tax advocate, because he’d have a big victory to tout.

The specter of handing Wolf a win has become the final and perhaps the biggest hurdle for the severance tax to overcome. “Both the Democrats and the Republicans,” Vitali says, “are viewing the severance tax through the lens of the gubernatorial election.”


Posted in elections, Fracking, GOP, Harrisburg, Tax Policy | Leave a Comment »

Beaver County NAACP Prepares Black Workers for Employment at Proposed Shell plant

Posted by carldavidson on March 11, 2016


Old Horsehead Zinc, site of new Shell ‘Cracker’

By Jared Stonesifer

Beaver County Times

March 10, 2016 – MIDLAND — The Beaver County chapter of the NAACP wants to make sure the local black population isn’t left out of a potential economic explosion that would occur if Shell Chemicals builds a multibillion-dollar ethane cracker plant along the Ohio River.

The chapter is holding an event next week designed to prepare the local population for that possibility. The meeting will inform residents on what skills and qualifications they would need to be hired at the potential plant, while it will also inform them about the possibility of an array of opportunities if the plant comes here.

Shell, which continues work to remediate the old Horsehead Corp. site in Potter Township, has not made a final investment decision on the plant. But that hasn’t stopped local leaders from preparing in the event it does come here.

“There could be an (economic) explosion coming, and we want to make sure African-Americans are part of that explosion,” said Willie Sallis, president of the Beaver County NAACP.

The meeting will be held 5 p.m. Thursday at the American Legion at 800 Midland Ave. in Midland.

It will include representatives from Community College of Beaver County, Shell, Job Training for Beaver County, CareerLink and potentially a local politician, according to the NAACP.

Future meetings could be scheduled in other Beaver County locations in an attempt to galvanize as much of the population as possible.

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Posted in Fracking, Manufacturing, NAACP, unemployment | Leave a Comment »

Everything Goes Somewhere: Yet Another Argument for Green Energy

Posted by carldavidson on April 16, 2015

State records miss half the waste pumped into injection wells

By John Finnerty
CNHI Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG, April 16, 2015 — State environmental officials didn’t account for half the waste pumped into injection disposal wells last year, a comparison with federal data shows.

The state’s injection wells took 330,000 barrels of waste left over after natural gas drilling last year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s about six truckloads a day.

The state Department of Environmental Protection only accounted for 167,500 barrels, according to its records.

That means about three truckloads of waste per day are unaccounted for in the state’s tracking system.

The discrepancy “begs the question of whether Pennsylvania should let the industry expand,” said Nadia Steinzor, eastern program coordinator for Earthworks Action, an environmental watchdog.

Pressure is mounting for more disposal wells to serve the burgeoning gas drilling industry.

Steinzor’s group released a report earlier this month that criticized efforts of Pennsylvania and three other states — Ohio, West Virginia and New York — in managing waste generated by the industry.

Injection wells are a conventional way of disposing of liquid waste from fracking, the process in which drillers use pressurized water and chemicals to release underground reservoirs of gas.

Controversy stems from studies that have blamed injection wells for earthquakes. Neighbors of proposed well sites also raise fears about pollution to water supplies and problems related to truck traffic.

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Posted in Environment, Fracking | 1 Comment »

U.S. Geological Survey: Fracking Waste Is the Primary Cause of the Dramatic Rise in Earthquakes

Posted by carldavidson on February 24, 2015

By Jen Hayden
Beaver County Blue via DailyKOS

Feb 23, 2015 – The U.S. Geological Survey has backed-up what scientists have been suggesting for years–that deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes:

    Large areas of the United States that used to experience few or no earthquakes have, in recent years, experienced a remarkable increase in earthquake activity that has caused considerable public concern as well as damage to structures. This rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.

    Instead, the increased seismicity is due to fluid injection associated with new technologies that enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive reservoirs. These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S. 

    “The science of induced earthquakes is ready for application, and a main goal of our study was to motivate more cooperation among the stakeholders — including the energy resources industry, government agencies, the earth science community, and the public at large — for the common purpose of reducing the consequences of earthquakes induced by fluid injection,” said coauthor Dr. William Ellsworth, a USGS geophysicist.

Emphasis added. In the last five years alone, Oklahoma has detected a staggering 2500 earthquakes. Scientists involved in the study are calling for a dramatic increase in transparency and cooperation:

    “In addition to determining the hazard from induced earthquakes, there are other questions that need to be answered in the course of coping with fluid-induced seismicity,” said lead author of the study, USGS geophysicist Dr. Art McGarr. “In contrast to natural earthquake hazard, over which humans have no control, the hazard from induced seismicity can be reduced. Improved seismic networks and public access to fluid injection data will allow us to detect induced earthquake problems at an early stage, when seismic events are typically very small, so as to avoid larger and potentially more damaging earthquakes later on.”

Posted in Environment, Fracking, Marcellus Shale | 1 Comment »

‘Fracking’ Not So Danger-Free After All…Where Are Our Wind Turbines and Solar Arrays?

Posted by carldavidson on September 19, 2014

Fracking Fliud ‘impoundment’ in Washington, PA

Range Resources to pay $4M for violations at Western Pa. Impoundments

By Katie Colaneri

Beaver County Blue via

Sept 18, 2014 – Range Resources will pay a $4.15 million fine for violations at six wastewater impoundments in Washington County. It is the largest penalty the state has imposed on a shale gas driller, the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday.

The violations include leaks of flowback fluid – the liquid that comes back out of a well after hydraulic fracturing – into soil and groundwater. The DEP said drinking water supplies were not affected. Residents living near Range’s Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township dispute that claim and have filed suit against the company.

The Yeager impoundment is among the five the company has agreed to close as part of a consent agreement reached with the state. Range will also upgrade two others to meet what the DEP calls “next generation” standards.

“This landmark consent order establishes a new, higher benchmark for companies to meet when designing future impoundments, which is an environmental win for Pennsylvania,” said DEP secretary Chris Abruzzo in a press release.

The Texas-based company issued a nearly two-page statement outlining an “update” to its water management plans in Pennsylvania, including “thicker and better engineered liners” and real-time leak detection systems for two impoundments.

“While the company is deeply disappointed that these violations occurred, Range is excited to implement newly established best practices and technologies that have been jointly developed with the DEP over the last several months and years,” the statement reads.

Posted in Fracking, Marcellus Shale | 1 Comment »

Western PA: Fracking Study Finds New Gas Wells Leak More Than Old Ones

Posted by carldavidson on July 3, 2014


Beaver County Blue via Associated Press

WASHINGTON DC, July 3, 2014 — In Pennsylvania’s gas drilling boom, newer and unconventional wells leak far more often than older and traditional ones, according to a study of state inspection reports for 41,000 wells.

The results suggest that leaks of methane could be a problem for drilling across the nation, said study lead author Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, who heads an environmental activist group that helped pay for the study.

The research was criticized by the energy industry. Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle said it reflects Ingraffea’s "clear pattern of playing fast and loose with the facts."

The Marcellus shale formation of plentiful but previously hard-to-extract trapped natural gas stretches over Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.

The study was published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A team of four scientists analyzed more than 75,000 state inspections of gas wells done in Pennsylvania since 2000.

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Posted in Environment, Fracking, Marcellus Shale | 2 Comments »

Reasons to Dump Corbett, Strengthen Regulators and Tax Frackers—If You Needed Them

Posted by carldavidson on June 8, 2014

Central Pa. firm charged with improperly disposing drilling waste

Beaver County Blue via The Associated Press

June 6, 2014 – HARRISBURG — A north-central Pennsylvania waste cleanup firm and its owner improperly disposed of toxic natural gas drilling waste, the state attorney general’s office said in charges filed today.

Minuteman Environmental Services and Brian Bolus, who owns the Milton-based company, were charged in Union County with unlawful conduct, while Mr. Bolus was also facing conspiracy charges, prosecutors said.

Mr. Bolus, 43, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Witnesses told a grand jury that between 2010 and 2013, employees washed out trucks or equipment containing drilling wastewater, mud or cuttings onto the ground at company properties in Harrisburg and Milton. Prosecutors said they have evidence it drained into a small waterway by the Harrisburg property. They also said drilling waste was stored in leaking containers on company properties.

State environmental regulators said they had not issued permits for the activity.

“Brian Bolus and Minuteman blatantly exploited hard-working employees, dozens of businesses and the environment,” Attorney General Kathleen Kane said in a statement.

A 48-page grand jury presentment also recommended other charges against Mr. Bolus, two related firms and his mother, father, brother, sister and father’s fiancee stemming from other alleged conspiracies that do not involve environmental crimes.

In one alleged conspiracy, prosecutors accused Mr. Bolus and Minuteman of overbilling clients, including many of the major natural gas exploration companies that have flocked to Pennsylvania in the last five years to explore the Marcellus Shale, the nation’s largest-known natural gas formation. The alleged overbilling reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, in a separate alleged conspiracy, Bolus family members were essentially ghost employees at firms owned by Brian Bolus or his father, allowing them to submit a half-million dollars in fraudulent health insurance claims and drive up insurance premiums for company employees, prosecutors said.

All told, three companies owned by Brian Bolus and three companies owned by his father were charged, prosecutors said.

The investigation became public in May 2013, when the FBI and state Department of Environmental Protection searched Minuteman’s office in Milton.

Gov. Tom Corbett visited Minuteman in 2012 as part of an effort to drum up support for his state budget proposal, calling the company “an American success story.” The Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce named Minuteman its business of the year in 2012.

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Posted in Environment, Fracking | Leave a Comment »

Arrogance of Power: Frackers Gagging Susquehanna Citizen From Speaking Out

Posted by carldavidson on March 21, 2014

An Injunction Against the First Amendment

By Walter Brasch

Beaver County Blue via Moderate Voice

March 20, 2014 – Vera Scroggins of Susquehanna County, Pa., will be in court, Monday morning.

This time, she will have lawyers and hundreds of thousands of supporters throughout the country. Representing Scroggins to vacate an injunction limiting her travel will be lawyers from the ACLU and Public Citizen, and a private attorney.

The last time Scroggins appeared in the Common Pleas Court in October, she didn’t have lawyers. That’s because Judge Kenneth W. Seamans refused to grant her a continuance.

When she was served papers to appear in court, it was a Friday. On Monday, she faced four lawyers representing Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., one of the nation’s largest drillers. Seamans told the 63-year-old grandmother and retired nurse’s aide that to grant a continuance would inconvenience three of Cabot’s lawyers who came from Pittsburgh, more than 250 miles away. He also told her she might have to pay travel and other costs for the lawyers if she was successful in getting a continuance.

And so, Cabot presented its case against Scroggins.

The lawyers claimed she blocked access roads to Cabot drilling operations. They claimed she continually trespassed on their property. They claimed she was a danger to the workers.

Scroggins agreed that she used public roads to get to Cabot properties. For five years, Scroggins has led tours of private citizens and government officials to show them what fracking is, and to explain what it is doing to the health and environment.

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Posted in Civil Liberties, Environment, Fracking, Marcellus Shale, Women | Leave a Comment »

Environmentalists Call for Ban on Fracking in Ohio After Earthquakes

Posted by carldavidson on March 19, 2014

Photo: Environmental groups are calling for a ban on fracking in Ohio after a series of small earthquakes erupted near an active fracking site last week.

By Mike Ludwig
Beaver County Blue via Truthout

March 18, 2014 – Ohio regulators ordered the Texas-based firm Hilcorp Energy to shut down its fracking operations in rural northeastern Ohio after five temblors ranging from 2.1 to 3.0 in magnitude were recorded March 10 and March 11 in the area. The US Geological Survey reported that the epicenter of the first and largest quake was directly below a landfill where Hilcorp was fracking. Local residents felt the quakes but did not report any serious damage.

Officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), which regulates oil and gas production in the state, said initial data indicated that the earthquakes were not related to drilling wastewater injection wells, which have been linked to small earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma and other states. If investigators link the quakes to Hilcorp’s production operations, it would be the first time that the fracking process has directly caused documented earthquakes in Ohio, if not the entire United States.

Fracking involves forcing millions of gallons of water and chemicals into underground wells to break up rock and release oil and natural gas. Wastewater that returns to the surface during the operation often is disposed of in underground injection wells. Ohio has become a popular destination for the waste, and more than 180 injection wells store waste across the state.

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Posted in Environment, Fracking, Marcellus Shale | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Josh Fox’s ‘Gasland’ Sequel Opens

Posted by carldavidson on April 23, 2013

A Return Tour Through a Land of Abandoned Homes and Broken Promises

By Alison Rose Levy

Beaver County Blue via Alternet

This article was published in partnership with [3].

April 22, 2013 – Gasland Part II, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, takes us deep into the heartland of America, a land overtaken by gas extraction via fracking. The iconic and recurring depictions of water-on-fire seen in the first Gasland, in the new film serve as postcards from a travelogue through a land of broken promises, abandoned homes, and extinguished rights.

The first Gasland, (which was released in 2010 and nominated for a 2011 Academy Award) became this country’s wake-up call about fracking, the first prod for millions to look beyond the industry-engineered PR facade. Banjo music played throughout the soundtrack revealed director Josh Fox’s chosen musical instrument. But Fox became a kind of Pied Piper for a growing grass roots movement that questioned the need for fracking. Challenging the inroads claimed by the multinational gas and oil industry, fractivism is a popular and youth-driven pushback that these powerful industries are neither accustomed nor equipped to deal with.

Gasland and Gasland Part II (and films like them) unmask the human debt incurred by an array of corporate Goliaths. It turns the lens on those joining the ranks of the Davids—ordinary citizens that awaken from the American dream to discover their way of life has been redefined by impersonal corporate entities, intent on constructing new superhighways towards profits‑—right over the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Gasland Part II continues Fox’s exploration by offering textured, in-depth profiles of half a dozen or so families in geographically diverse locations, from Australia, to Wyoming to Pennsylvania. Fox’s camera takes us into the homes of straight-talking folks who worked hard to secure their corner of the heartland.

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Posted in Environment, Fracking, Marcellus Shale | 1 Comment »

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