Fracking

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new demonstration project in Sarver, about 30 miles outside Pittsburgh, is taking a decades-old problem and turning it into a possible solution for the natural gas industry. Winner Water Service has launched treatment facility that aims to clean up polluted water – and sell it to natural gas developers for use in fracking operations.

Health and breast cancer awareness advocates delivered 150,000 petitions to the Susan G. Komen offices in Pittsburgh Friday, urging the nonprofit to cut ties with the oil and gas industry.

Groups, including Breast Cancer Action, New Voices Pittsburgh and Food and Water Watch, are urging Komen to refuse a $100,000 check from oil and gas extraction company Baker Hughes, which, according to Forbes.com, saw a net income of roughly $1.6 billion over the last 12 months.

In 2011 the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended a registry to collect health data from people living nearing fracking operations. Three years later that registry has yet to be created, and a state Senate panel says such a database is an important step toward tracking and responding to public health complaints related to gas drilling.

State Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) says individual health studies are fine, but the state needs to develop data that covers all parts of the commonwealth.

Can Living Near a Fracking Site Cause Health Problems?

Sep 17, 2014
Ari Moore / Flickr

 A new study has found that residents in Western Pennsylvania living close to natural gas drilling sites were twice as likely to report health problems than those living farther away. We talk with the study's lead author Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, who says public health researchers surveyed nearly 500 adults and children in Washington County, southwest of Pittsburgh.

90.5 WESA

This week WESA and the Allegheny Front are airing a special series on hydraulic fracturing and state politics – specifically the money spent on lobbying.

We’ll speak with Allegheny Front reporter Reid Frazier and WESA Morning Edition Host Josh Raulerson whose investigation looks at the influence this money is having on Pennsylvania’s oversight of the natural gas boom.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“Energy independence.”

“Shale revolution.”

These were the buzzwords used Monday morning as officials gathered for a ceremony marking the start of natural gas drilling activity near Pittsburgh International Airport.

The mood was festive — complete with music, appetizers, goodie bags and air conditioned portable restrooms — as Gov. Tom Corbett and Consol Energy President and CEO Nick DeIuliis prepared to take the podium.

A letter from the group Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) outlines concerns over natural gas development near schools.

The letter, sent to the Department of Environmental Protection, states that “there is a growing body of peer-reviewed science that provides significant evidence of public health risks” to fracking.

The Mars Parent Group, a grassroots organization opposed to drilling under school property, is highlighting the letter, which they say backs up their request for a two-mile buffer zone around the schools.

Dozens of oil and gas companies across 12 states, including Pennsylvania, are using prohibited diesel fuels in hydraulic fracking, according to a report released Wednesday by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

Survey: Public Distrusts Gas Industry And Anti-Fracking Film, 'Gasland'

Jun 22, 2014
Linh Do via Flickr

A new study shows the public views both the natural gas industry and the anti-fracking film, "Gasland," as among the least trustworthy sources of information when it comes to hydraulic fracturing.

According to a paper published last month in Energy Research and Social Science, people are more likely to trust information from university professors, environmental groups, newspapers, and landowner groups.

Regulatory agencies ranked fifth in trustworthiness among the eight possible choices. They were followed by cooperative extensions and the natural gas industry.

Silence On Shale Drilling

Jun 20, 2014

Over the past six years, more than 6,000 Marcellus Shale wells have been constructed in Pennsylvania, making the Keystone State the fastest growing natural gas producer in America.

But the economic advantages of drilling are counterbalanced by health concerns.

Two retirees from the Pennsylvania Department of Health recently said its employees were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling. The two retirees, a community health nurse and a staffer in the Bureau of Epidemiology, say that staff at state health centers and district offices were instructed not to return calls from residents who expressed concerns about natural gas development.

Katie Colaneri of StateImpact Pennsylvania has been covering the story. She believes that the Department of Health’s policy came from higher up.

Tod J Xelowski / Public Herald

Public Herald founders Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic are setting off on a summer tour to call attention to hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.

The journalists co-directed the documentary Triple Divide which deals with fracking in Pennsylvania. They’re taking the film to communities throughout the country that are dealing with their own fracking issues. And they're using a vehicle that doesn't need gasoline.

The Allegheny Front Explores Water Contamination in a New Series

Jun 20, 2014
Matt Richmond / The Allegheny Front

This weekend the environmental radio program The Allegheny Front begins a series on water contamination caused by fracking in the Marcellus Shale region. Reporter Reid Frazier said the series will address a suite of issues that have come up with fracking and water. The first topic, airing Saturday morning focuses on the issue of radiation. 

“When the waste comes into the landfill, the waste does go through a radiation detector, a scintillating detector. These levels are certainly higher than you want at your local landfill." 

South Park Buildings Set To Be Demolished

Jun 2, 2014

South Park will be losing some long-standing but timeworn landmarks this summer.

At last week’s meeting of the South Park Council of Friends, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and District 6 Council Member John Palmiere announced plans to demolish five abandoned buildings in the park.

The Duck Pond House, McConkey House, McConkey Barn, Sedota House, and Schoonamaker Hall were built as part of South Park’s old fairgrounds; in the past, a county fair was held there every Labor Day weekend.

A Day In The Life Of A Water Bank

May 13, 2014
Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

For two years, a Presbyterian Church near hard-to-pronounce Connoquenessing Township, Pa., has been a bank — a water bank to be precise.

The church distributes water to 34 families whose wells went bad around the time hydraulic fracturing started in the region. The coincidence can’t be proven, but residents of the Woodlands, a poor rural community in the township, said they can tell by taste, smell, color and skin reaction that their water hasn’t been right.

Feds Consider Rules For Fracking Chemical Disclosure

May 11, 2014
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The federal government is considering whether it should require companies to disclose the chemicals involved in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it is seeking public comments, a pre-curser to the more formal rule-making process. However, there is no guarantee that the EPA will draft regulations.

In the meantime, here’s what the agency says it wants to hear from the public:

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In a heated meeting that lasted more than seven hours and included more than four hours of public comment, members of Allegheny County Council early Wednesday morning approved a lease agreement to drill for natural gas underneath Deer Lakes Park.

Allegheny County Council is set to vote Tuesday on whether to drill for natural gas underneath Deer Lakes Park.

The controversial resolution would allow Range Resources, in cooperation with Huntley & Huntley, to perform hydraulic fracturing under the park, provided that no drilling activities actually occur within the park.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said if the resolution passes, the county will receive around $7.7 million up front and an ongoing 18 percent royalty on the value of gas extracted.

With No Health Registry, PA Doesn’t Know The Impact Of Fracking On Health

Apr 30, 2014

After more than five years and about 6,000 wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale boom, public-health experts say the need to collect information near fracking operations in Pennsylvania is urgent.

A health registry could show trends of illnesses, collect data and potentially answer the question of whether fracking is safe — a debate currently characterized by emotional arguments with little reliable information.

How will anyone in the state know the possible health impacts of hydraulic fracturing unless information is collected?

One Etna resident thinks Allegheny County Councilman Nicholas Futules (D-Oakmont) should not be a part of the discussion about fracking under Deer Lakes Park.

Tim Ludwig, a Protect Our Parks member, has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission.

He wants the Commission to force Futules to recuse himself from discussing or voting on the proposed extraction of natural gas underneath the 1,180-acre park.

The fight over placing a nonconventional gas well about a half-mile from five Mars Area School District schools has moved out of the district’s boardroom and into the boardrooms of a pair of local townships.

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The land agent first came knocking on Vivian and Dean House’s door in July. They sat on the patio of the retired couple’s 85-acre farm in this Central Kentucky town and chatted.

The guy was friendly, the kind of guy Dean could talk to about fishing.

He put the couple at ease and told them his company was interested in running a pipeline through their land. They were later offered more than $165,000 to sign easements.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday struck down portions of a law that stripped some of the powers municipalities have to decide where the natural gas industry can operate — portions that the industry had sought from Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers.

The justices ruled the 2012 law unconstitutionally restricted the power of municipalities, although the 4-to-2 majority disagreed as to why it was unconstitutional.

To Clear the Air, Some in Susquehanna County Leave the Fracking Debate Behind

Nov 26, 2013
Katie Colaneri / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Two years ago, Victoria Switzer and her neighbors had stopped speaking.

Switzer was one of the residents of Dimock who claimed natural gas drilling had ruined their water supplies. The small village in Susquehanna County became synonymous with flaming taps and jugs of muddy brown drinking water.

But the media blitz angered her neighbors, the Teels, who said it ignored the economic benefits of drilling.

The reporters, the activists and the industry haven’t gone away, but things have started to change.

More than two dozen researchers meet Monday at Duquesne University as part of a symposium on the latest findings regarding Marcellus Shale drilling.

Foundation-funded researchers from universities including Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke and Yale presented their independent research on topics such as air quality, human and animal health, effects on water treatment plants and local government response to shale gas development.

In Pittsburgh, Corbett Says Shale Opponents Are 'Economic Development Deniers'

Nov 14, 2013

At a shale gas conference in Pittsburgh Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett defended his policies promoting drilling in the state, and defended his own math, too.

Corbett, who is running for re-election, said drilling under his watch was responsible for a vast economic lift to the state. "More than 200,000 jobs have either been created, made more prosperous or made more secure" by the drilling boom brought on by fracking in Pennsylvania.

“That number of course seems to bother some out there," said Corbett.

Democrats retained control of Allegheny County Council in Tuesday's election, but they did lose one seat (District 3) and now have a 10-5 majority.

County Councilman Bob Macey (D-9) won another four-year term and is looking ahead to issues in the upcoming year, including fracking on county property and building a relationship with Pittsburgh's mayor-elect Bill Peduto.

Macey said the decision to drill for natural gas on Allegheny Airport property is a great chance to observe the benefits fracking could bring to the region.

Discussing Municipal Bans on Fracking

Sep 24, 2013
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

In 2010, Pittsburgh was the first municipality in the nation to institute a ban on hydraulic fracturing. Many others have followed suit, including the boroughs of Baldwin, West Homestead and Wilkinsburg, as well as State College, PA.

Now citizens in Youngstown, Ohio are looking at the structure of Pittsburgh’s fracking ban in shaping a their own ordinances. PublicSource reporter Natasha Khan recently wrote about the ongoing debates in Youngstown as it pertains to jobs and environmental concerns.

Opponents of the Youngstown ban say it’s unconstitutional for a municipality to regulate beyond state and federal law. Similar objections have also been raised in Pennsylvania.

Ferlo Calls for Fracking Moratorium in PA

Sep 18, 2013

When lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week they will be faced with a new proposal to put a moratorium on new permits for hydraulic fracturing. 

State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) announced that he is introducing legislation during a news conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1100 would also create a commission to analyze the agricultural, economic, environmental and social effects of Marcellus Shale drilling.

How Could OSHA’s New Silica Rules Impact The Natural Gas Industry?

Aug 29, 2013

Federal labor officials are proposing new rules to help prevent an old hazard of the trade: diseases caused by breathing in silica dust. Silicosis has long been a plight of workers in construction and manufacturing, but concerns have shifted in recent years to those who toil in the growing natural gas industry.

Sand is an important ingredient in most fracking fluid recipes. It’s mixed with chemicals and water and blasted deep underground where the tiny grains help keep cracks in the shale rock open for all that natural gas to come through.

Nothing has been decided yet, but Allegheny County Council is considering an offer to develop natural gas found under Deer Lakes Park.

A new group made up of several grass roots organizations is planning to urge the group to say “no.” Members of Protect Our Parks will deliver their message at Tuesday’s County Council meeting.

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