A mom and dad trapped in a home they no longer feel safe in, comforting a child, feeling powerless to help. As a father of four, I can’t imagine that feeling.
Residents cried for help, and no one from government came. This should never have happened…. Regulators were supposed to prevent abuse by the big corporations and level the playing field. But they didn’t.
PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro, June 25, 2020
Comment from a PA resident who has been studying frac’ing and sending out news mailouts for years:
Just wish our AG was in office working on this 10 or 15 years ago!
Comment from a Cape Breton resident who fought to keep frac’ing out (and much much more), and won:
Great to see the AG in PA on it, like wow, now is better than never
2018: Meet Josh Shapiro, the Man Behind the Bombshell Investigation of Clergy Sexual Abuse, As attorney general of Pennsylvania, Mr. Shapiro rooted out sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, prompting international calls for reform. Now, he talks about the anti-Semitism he faced, how the report shaped his own spirituality, and the possibility of a federal investigation.
Grand Jury report:
A statewide grand jury investigating the operations and regulation of the shale gas drilling industry has issued a scathing report detailing the systemic failure of the state environment and health departments in regulating the industry and protecting public health.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who released the report on the grand jury’s two-year investigation Thursday morning, said it uncovers the “initial failure” more than a dozen years ago of the state Department of Environmental Protection to respond to and regulate the shale gas industry and the impacts of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
And, while the Wolf administration has made improvements at the agency, the grand jury said, there remains room for improvement.
“This report is about preventing the failures of our past from continuing into our future,” Mr. Shapiro said. “It’s about the big fights we must take on to protect Pennsylvanians — to ensure that their voices are not drowned out by those with bigger wallets and better connections. There remains a profound gap between our Constitutional mandate for clean air and pure water, and the realities facing Pennsylvanians who live in the shadow of fracking giants and their investors.”
In announcing the report’s findings at a Harrisburg news conference, Mr. Shapiro held up containers of brown water and clogged water filters while detailing testimony of residents who said the shale gas drilling industry has caused their well water to turn cloudy and become “black sludge,” and caused “problems with breathing whenever we were in the shower.”
He said Pennsylvania farmers testified that their horses, pets and other livestock would sometimes become “ill, infertile, and die” after drinking the same water as the farm families.
According to Mr. Shapiro, the grand jury report noted that other residents testified that their air became so badly polluted from the drilling pad emissions and stray methane gas that they could not leave windows open or let their children play outside. He said parents testified that their children would wake at night with severe nosebleeds.
Mr. Shapiro noted that there have been recent improvements, particularly in the state Department of Health, but said the DEP has responded to the report by spouting industry positions and failing to acknowledge past regulatory and enforcement mistakes.
“More needs to be done and the grand jury’s recommendations are important to protect the public and earn back the public’s trust,” Mr. Shapiro said.
He said the grand jury took 287 hours of testimony from rural residents of the shale gas fields and government officials, and that “there is still more to come from the investigation over the coming weeks and months.”
The grand jury report makes eight recommendations:
● Expand the set back distance between homes and gas wells from 500 feet to 2,500 feet, and require an even bigger buffer between wells and schools and hospitals.
● Stop the “chemical coverup” by requiring drillers to make public to everyone, not just the DEP, all the chemicals used in drilling and fracking.
● Seek safer ways than using tanker trucks prone to spills to transport toxic wastes from wastewater ponds, called impoundments.
● Enact strict regulations on high pressure gas gathering lines running from well pads.
● Enact rules requiring the DEP to consider the aggregated air quality impacts of well sites, compressor stations and “pigging,” that is pipeline clean-out operations instead of looking at emissions from those facilities individually.
● Conduct a full and proper public health assessment of the impacts of shale gas drilling and fracking. The state Health Department is undertaking such a study.
● End the “revolving door” that allows DEP employees to go to work for the drilling industry because it erodes public trust.”
● End the “troubling pattern” of DEP addressing almost all drilling violations with civil penalties and make better use of the attorney general’s office to press criminal charges.
“DEP has told us that civil penalties are sufficient, but they are not,” Mr. Shapiro said.
The findings announced Thursday morning were the latest revelations from the 43rd statewide grand jury. On June 12, Mr. Shapiro announced that as the result of the grand jury investigation, Range Resources, one of the largest shale gas drillers in the state, had pleaded no contest to criminal charges of negligent oversight of two well sites in Washington County.
According to the grand jury investigation, Range “knowingly covered up” leaking problems at a drilling waste pit and a 3 million-gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid flowback impoundment at its Yeager well pad in Amwell Township, Washington County. And a storage tank at its Brownlee drilling site in Buffalo Township, Washington County, leaked drilling wastewater onto neighboring property and into Buffalo Creek.
The driller paid fines totaling $150,000.
On June 15, Mr. Shapiro filed charges against Cabot Oil and Gas, a Texas-based company, for methane pollution that was found to have seeped from poorly constructed natural gas wells into the local water supply in Dimock, a rural township in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The contamination in Dimock has been the subject of investigations by state and federal environmental and health agencies. In addition to civil lawsuits, the problems in Dimock have been featured in the documentary “Gasland,” as well as several books.
43rd Statewide Grand Jury Finds Pennsylvania Failed To Protect Citizens During Fracking Boom Press Release by Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro, June 25, 2020 | Topic: Criminal
Report calls for new laws to protect water supplies and manage air pollution.
AG Shapiro calls for “cleanup” at the Department of Environmental Protection.
LIVESTREAM AVAILABLE HERE: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/stream
A most excellent 45 Min!
Mr. Shapiro is a remarkable speaker. A few of key quotes from his press conference:
We can’t rely on big corporations to police themselves. After all, they report to their investors and their shareholders. That’s their job. It’s the government’s job to set and enforce the ground rules that protect the public interest and through multiple administrations, they failed to do that. …
One woman testified…we started getting sores all over us. So did I after bathing in my water during Encana Ovintiv’s frac experiments directly into the aquifers that supply my well. My sores were brutally painful and lasted more than half a year. I also experienced years of geometric brusing on all parts of my body except my face and neck (I don’t bathe with them under water). I was told by an expert they were typical of poisoning by red blood cell destroyer, naphthalene, often in frac’ing and that it is much more harmful to health via skin exposure, than ingested.
… Families couldn’t get clear answers from their doctors on what they should do. One homeowner actually testified that after taking her son to see a doctor multiple times for rashes, the doctor said, according to the testimony, that there was nothing she could do for me. Her advice, the doctor’s advice, was to get an attorney or to move. …
At DEP, some troubling patterns emerged that the Grand Jurors learned through records and extensive testimony from former DEP officials. DEP leadership repeatedly failed to exercise their duties and responsibilities. The failed to notify Pennsylvanians of violations at frac’ing sites. They failed to issue violations to offenders. They failed to make referrals for criminal investigations when those violations were repeated. And one employee actually testified that they didn’t even know that they could refer criminal cases to the Office of Attorney General. … The message to employees was, intended or otherwise, leave frac’ing alone. … Sadly, too many DEP employees listened. …
Gov’t is here to set and enforce the rules to protect the public. That’s what the Grand Jury said. They said, “The risk of this new industry should fall on the industry and regulatory agencies, not the public.” That’s what the Grand Jury wrote. …
The Grand Jurors said you gotta to stop the chemical cover-up. … The public has no idea what chemicals are being used or what harmful effects they may have on our air or water quality. We have no idea what impact they can have on our health or our bodies. The frac’ing industry hides behind what they’ll call “trade secrets” and proprietary information. … They use that as a means to conceal the recipe of chemicals they use during their drilling and frac’ing operations.
Grand Jurors heard testimony from homeowners and residents, including one standing before doctors, unsure of what her sick kids had been exposed to. The homeowner testified that “if they [the companies] would had at least given us what they were using, we could have had my kids tested for other things. They didn’t.”
Here’s the thing, the companies must reveal what chemicals and what their secret chemical recipe is to everyone. Not just to DEP who also keep those chemicals a secret.
How can we keep Pennsylvanians safe if we have no idea what chemicals these companies are using? …
Lots more damning details in Mr. Shapiro’s complete talk.
HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the findings and recommendations of Pennsylvania’s 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury report on the unconventional oil and gas industry. The Grand Jury’s two-year investigation uncovered systematic failure by government agencies in overseeing the fracking industry and fulfilling their responsibility to protect Pennsylvanians from the inherent risks of industry operations.
In addition to exposing failures on the part of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health, the Grand Jury made eight recommendations to create a more comprehensive legal framework that would better protect Pennsylvanians from the realities of industry operations.
“This report is about preventing the failures of our past from continuing into our future,” said Attorney General Shapiro in a press conference Thursday.
“It’s about the big fights we must take on to protect Pennsylvanians — to ensure that their voices are not drowned out by those with bigger wallets and better connections. There remains a profound gap between our Constitutional mandate for clean air and pure water, and the realities facing Pennsylvanians who live in the shadow of fracking giants and their investors.”
This report follows the findings of the Grand Jury’s previous criminal presentments against two fracking companies — Range Resources and Cabot Oil & Gas — for their repeated and systematic violation of Pennsylvania environmental law. Range has since pleaded no contest to environmental crimes committed in Washington County, Pennsylvania. These cases were referred to the Office of Attorney General by local District Attorneys.
The report details the initial failure of the Department of Environmental Protection to adequately respond to the unconventional oil and gas industry and also points out that missteps continue to this day. These failures harmed Pennsylvanians living in close proximity to this industry. The grand jurors found that, while the Wolf administration has forced through some improvements at the agency, there continues to be room for meaningful change to occur.
The Grand Jury also heard from many Pennsylvania residents who suffered severe health consequences and lived near unconventional drilling sites.
Residents testified that their well water was “black sludge,” “cloudy,” and using the contaminated water caused “problems with breathing whenever we were in the shower.” Pennsylvania farmers testified that their livestock, which used the same water source as the families, would sometimes become violently ill, infertile, and die. Other residents spoke of problems with their air, which became so polluted from stray gas or other chemicals used during industry operations that they could not leave windows open or let their children play outside. Parents testified that their children would repeatedly wake up at night with severe nosebleeds caused by increased levels of gas in the air around the fracking sites.
In response to the failures of government oversight and in order to ensure that the regulators have the tools necessary to hold this industry accountable, the Grand Jury’s report details eight recommendations. These recommendations would better protect Pennsylvanians from the risk posed by fracking operations and confront the culture of inadequate oversight in the unconventional gas industry and government agencies that oversee their activities:
- Expanding no-drill zones in Pennsylvania from the required 500 feet to 2,500 feet In Alberta, the no drill/no frac zone is only 328 feet (100 metres);
- Requiring fracking companies to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site;
- Requiring the regulation of gathering lines, used to transport unconventional gas hundreds of miles;
- Adding up all sources of air pollution in a given area to accurately assess air quality;
- Requiring safer transport of the contaminated waste created from fracking sites;
- Conducting a comprehensive health response to the effects of living near unconventional drilling sites;
- Limiting the ability of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection employees to be employed in the private sector immediately after leaving the Department;
- Allowing the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General original criminal jurisdiction over unconventional oil and gas companies.
“Our government has a duty to set, and enforce, ground rules that protect public health and safety. We are the referees, we are here to prevent big corporations and the powerful industries from harming our communities or running over the rights of citizens,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “When it comes to fracking, Pennsylvania failed. Now it’s time to face the facts, and do what we can to protect the people of this commonwealth by encouraging the Department of Environmental Protection to partner with us and by passing the Grand Jurors’ common-sense reforms.”
A copy of the report can be found here.
Fact sheets and press kit available here.
# # #
Refer also to:
2020: NEBC, Farmington and Tower Lake: Vicky Simlik and friend, living frac’d: Lands saturated (as happened to Campbells in Alberta); Iridescent greasy slime appearing (as happened to Ann Craft in Alberta); Vegetation dying (as happened at Ernst’s); Bubbling chemical aliens appearing on gravel driveway (never seen before).
2020″ Cabot Oil and Gas gets frac’d! Pennsylvania AG Shapiro files 15 criminal charges, including 9 felonies, against Cabot for failing to fix gas wells that leaked methane over 9 square miles into 18 Dimock residential water supplies. “The Grand Jury presentments prove that Cabot took shortcuts that broke the law, and damaged our environment — harming our water supply and public health”
2020: After Pennsylvania AG Shapiro’s 2 year investigation, frac’er Range Resources pleads “no contest” to environmental crimes, gets tiny slap ($50,000 in fines & $100,000 donation to an NGO to make the criminal look good).
2020: Living with Encana (Ovintiv) in Pavillion, Wyoming. Sue Spencer, hydrogeologist: “There’s this veil of secrecy about everything they do. … The oil industry went nuts. ….[the oil lobby] was just like, ‘you can’t say that groundwater was impacted by the fracking industry.’”
2017: Terrible News! Another jury award overturned on a frac harm lawsuit: Federal Judge overturns $4.24M unanimous jury award in methane contamination of Ely & Hubert drinking water after fracking by Cabot Oil and Gas Co. Orders new trial if settlement not reached.
2017: Dimock Pennsylvania: In ‘Gasland’ community, Cabot Oil & Gas continues to refuse to fix the aquifer the company contaminated with dangerous levels of methane but buys out contaminated homes, demolishing them, while blaming nature.
2016: US EPA Releases Final Frac Report: Rosebud Alberta drinking water aquifers frac’d, water wells contaminated with gas. EPA’s late edits to 2015 draft frac report downplayed the risks, contradicted the evidence, called “bizarre” & “irresponsible.” Like Alberta regulator official, Steve Wallace, secretly editing “independent” drinking water contamination reports to protect illegal aquifer frac’er Encana?
2016: Pennsylvania, 7 year-long Ely v. Cabot Oil & Gas drinking water frac pollution case goes to trial February 22: Fracking Judge Explodes At Late, Disorganized exhibits: “a sad and shocking spectacle, a debacle and dilemma”
2013: EPA Fracking Study Rebukes Agency’s Own Safety Claims, DeSmog Exclusive: Censored EPA PA fracking water contamination In Dimock, opponent neither surprised nor hopeful over EPA leak of information on water contaminated with methane
2013: Alberta regulator slams door shut on the Campbells, frac’d by Encana in 2005 and beyond, later by others, with test results showing methane, ethane, propane, butane, pentane in their drinking water, with industry depth isotopic fingerprints, their water also contaminated with H2S:
Why was a 2012 Health Canada Report, admitting significant health hazards and risks to groundwater and air from hydraulic fracturing, kept from the public? And has still not been made public by our gov’t.
And in Canada?
Watch Josh Fox’s Award Winning Gasland!
2010: DEP Takes Aggressive Action Against Cabot Oil & Gas Corp to Enforce Environmental Laws Protect Public in Susquehanna County; Suspends Review of Cabot’s New Drilling Permit Applications Orders Company to Plug Wells Install Residential Water Systems Pay $240,000 in Fines
2008: Alberta regulator slams door shut on Rosebud and Redland, rural landowners: Signers, Lauridsens, Ernst, our drinking water, protecting the law breaker, Encana/Ovintiv
Ernst’s Encana frac’d water in 2006, Photo by Colin Smith
2006: Alberta regulator approves more wells nearby and slams door shut on Bruce Jack and his loved ones and farm, after his industrial methane and ethane contaminated water ignites, blows up, seriously injuring Jack and two industry gas in water testers:
Jack was hospitalized for a month