Groups Continue to Push for Transparency in Testing for Water Contamination from Fracking
Questions and concerns continue to surround Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) water testing and reporting policies related to suspected impacts from Marcellus Shale natural gas operations. These issues were originally revealed in the Kiskadden vs. PADEP deposition of Taru Upadhyay, technical director of DEP’s Bureau of Laboratories—and described widely in subsequent news stories regarding the use of suite codes, which result in only partial test results being sent to homeowners.
“Where gas development goes, problems follow. Yet the DEP seems more interested in protecting its own information than protecting the environment," says Nadia Steinzor, eastern program coordinator, Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "DEP should stop playing hide and seek and start giving the public better water and air tests, complete results and honest answers."
"We've worked with and supplied clean water to desperate and impacted people begging DEP for more and better information about their water. By not giving these people full information, PA DEP is violating communities' right to know, behaving with shocking arrogance, and endangering public health," said Iris Marie Bloom, director of Protecting Our Waters.
In November, 25 organizations sent a letter to Governor Tom Corbett and Secretary Michael Krancer criticizing the PA DEP’s water testing and notification policies as outdated, lacking transparency and inadequate to protect residents and drinking water from pollution caused by gas drilling. The groups called for immediate action to be taken to reform PA DEP’s procedures and to disclose all data collected through DEP water tests but only partially reported to households where the testing occurred.
Following Secretary Krancer’s reply to the letter, a meeting to discuss these issues was scheduled for Jan. 24 between representatives of the signatory organizations and the PA DEP’s Oil and Gas Division and Bureau of Laboratories. However, DEP abruptly cancelled the meeting.
"Our organizations were optimistic about the opportunity to finally get answers that we and the public are seeking regarding this important public health issue,” said Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus shale policy associate of Clean Water Action. “We are extremely disappointed with the cancellation, particularly because the meeting was arranged at their suggestion.”
“Residents who are in the dark about their well water quality need answers and as advocates, we are determined to find out what’s really going on. DEP’s offer to meet seemed to represent a willingness to begin to address these issues, now that is called into question,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
“It has been two and a half months since we sent our letter to the governor and it appears that we are no closer to getting answers to our questions,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth. “Pennsylvania has over 1,000,000 private water wells, more than any state except Michigan. How long do the millions of Pennsylvanians in the drilling region who rely on those wells have to wait for transparency from Secretary Krancer’s DEP?”
In light of PA DEP’s actions, the signatories scheduled to participate in the meeting sent a letter to Secretary Krancer, expressing dissatisfaction with PA DEP’s decision and outlining a list of pressing questions to which the public needs answers. Some the questions we hoped to have addressed during our meeting with PA DEP include:
- Why are landowners not routinely provided with the quality control/quality assurance measures used by DEP laboratories to process samples and a full report of the raw data and findings from DEP samples?
- When are the various Suite Codes applied (i.e., 942, 944, and 946, as well as any others related to oil and gas development)? Does DEP have an established protocol for which code to apply? How many were there where only partial results were shared with the homeowner?
- What is the DEP protocol for re-sampling and/or using third-party test data (such as gas operator sampling results) in investigations prompted by a request for determination of contamination of a private water supply by oil and gas activities?
- To what degree does DEP use emerging knowledge about contaminants associated with oil and gas operations to determine its testing parameters? For example, DEP’s list of “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing Process in Pennsylvania Prepared by the Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Oil and Gas Management” includes dozens of contaminants.
- What criteria in the test results would lead DEP to determine that water contamination was caused by natural gas drilling? Why would DEP state in letters to homeowners that “The sample results of samples taken by the Department did not show any evidence that your water was affected by oil and gas drilling activities,” even if results indicate elevated levels of such substances such as chloride, barium, strontium, methane, ethane, and propane?
“There is a rig 1,000 ft from my house that is readying to drill four horizontal wells. I used a TDS meter this morning to get a baseline normal reading because I am anxious about my drinking water,” said Rebecca Roter, coordinator of Cross County Citizens Clean Air Coalition. “I ask that Secretary Krancer exercise humanity by providing transparency in water testing protocol and reporting of data in cases of suspected drinking water contamination from shale extraction activities. I ask that he continue dialogue with us in good faith about PA DEP's water testing and reporting procedures for drinking water in PA's gasfields."
"Drinking water to support life is vital, not optional, and the sanctity thereof is being violated liberally,” said Julie Ann Edgar, organizer of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “All concerned organizations fully expect to see a significant increase in transparency and responsive cooperation on the part of PA DEP. PA DEP and Secretary Krancer's job includes stewardship of the commons in perpetuity, not "getting gas done" by withholding vital information from the public.”
“We believe access to clean drinking water should be a right, not a privilege, and we need answers from the DEP about why their water testing and reporting appears to be missing critical data for homeowners,” said Erika Staaf, clean water advocate with PennEnvironment. “We hope the DEP will change its mind meet with our organizations so we can find answers to these important questions for our members and residents across Pennsylvania.”
“Our organizations have a long history of interacting with PA DEP and PA DEP Secretaries from both Republican and Democratic administrations and we remain ready to meet immediately on this pressing issue,” said Melissa Troutman, Outreach Coordinator, Mountain Watershed Association. DEP representatives originally expressed their intention to the group to reschedule the meeting but after 10 days no new dates have been offered. The representatives of the signatories of the letter are open and eager to meet. The organizations also intend to follow up with members of the General Assembly and the Auditor General who have been investigating the problems with DEP water testing policies.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
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We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
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<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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