Tom’s Top Twelve Tall Tales: Tale #3

Posted by By at 25 April, at 07 : 05 AM Print

Governor Tom tells tall tales. Here is Tom’s Top Twelve Tall Tale Number Three – I will not let them poison the water.

This rises from Tall Tale to two and a half Pincchios.

One problem is gas permits. Pennsylvania environmental regulators say they spend as little as 35 minutes reviewing each of the thousands of applications for natural gas well permits they get each year. The regulators further state they do not give any additional scrutiny to request to drill near high-quality streams and rivers even though they are protected by state and federal law.

A second is bonding levels. Drilling and mining companies are compelled to post a bond which is a certain amount of money to cover damage or unfinished work, similar to an escrow deposit that landlords ask of their tenants. The current law, set back in 1984, is $2,500 per well, with a blanket not to exceed $25,000 for all the wells a company drills. According to Elaine Lapp Esch, an energy company in Susquehanna County closed 3 wells that cost over $700,000 per well. In short, it is much, much cheaper to forfeit the bond, than it is to close the well properly. Who do you think will be on the hook to clean up the mess?

A third problem is hydraulic fracturing water or frack water. Pennsylvania is rare among gas-producing states in that it allows frack water to flow out of natural gas wells into local sewage systems that in turn empty into our rivers. In a 12 month period from June 2009 to 2010,  3,600,000 gallons of ultra-salty, chemically nasty frack water was discharged into state waterways.

Some public water utilities that are downstream from big gas wastewater-treatment plants are having difficulty staying under the federal maximum of a class of contaminants known as trihalomethanes which, over a long period, can cause cancer if swallowed.

Regulations that should have kept drilling frack water out of the Delaware River Basin, the water supply for 15 million human beings, were circumvented for many months.

When the regulations were finally put into place in 2009,  44,000 barrels of drilling waste produced by Cabot Oil & Gas were improperly sent to a treatment facility in Hatfield Twp., a Philadelphia suburb.  The liquids were then discharged through the town sewage plant into the Neshaminy Creek, which flows through Bucks and Montgomery counties and empties into the Delaware River. People living in 17 municipalities get treated water from Neshaminy Creek.

On May 27, 2009 – leaking wastewater pipe from a Range Resources gas well pollutes a tributary of Cross Creek Lake in Washington County. Range waited nearly 4 hours before contacting DEP.

On May 14, 2010  DEP fined Range $141,175 for spilling 250 barrels of fracking fluid into a high quality waterway in Washington County.

On March 22, 2010 a Range subsidiary was cited for “failing to restore the site within nine months of completion of drilling or plugging.”

On April 19, 2011, a “blowout” occurred at the Chesapeake Energy well site in Leroy Township near Canton. Katy Gresh, DEP spokeswoman said that contaminated water flowed out of the well head most of the day and pooled on the pad before flowing into an unnamed tributary that leads into Towanda Creek. DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh said. Gresh said DEP has found “… no impact to aquatic life, but no results have come back for the well testing yet.”

There are other well liquids besides frack water. Of the roughly 6,000,000 barrels of well liquids produced in a year, the Commonwealth could not account for the disposal method for 1,028,000 barrels or about 17 % of the total.

As of April 2011, eight of the drilling companies with representation on Gov. Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission were cited with environmental violations. These eight accounted for 514 out of a total of 1,227 or 42% of the violations. One company led the state in the number of violations. All contributed to Gov. Corbett’s campaign.

However, the biggest problem by far, is the corrupting influence money has on politics. See Tom’s top twelve tall tales, numbers two and one.


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The Rev. Timothy Dewald was Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Lebanon Valley College joining the faculty in 1989. He retired in May 2010. In 1993 he won the College's Evelyn J. Knisley award for Inspirational Teaching. In addition to teaching mathematics, Rev. Dewald served the College in 1992 as acting chaplain, taught courses in East Asian religions, a First-Year Seminar on Darwin and evolution, Einstein’s general relativity, and the New Testament, as well as a mathematics and statistics courses. He also served as a parish minister for 23 years. Rev. Dewald graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in political science and religion. He earned a master of divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1987, he received certification in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University. - Email Timothy Dewald

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