Posts Tagged ‘Oil and Gas’

On June 17-19 Allegheny Defense Project will meet near the confluence of Salmon Creek and The Branch (a tributary of Salmon Creek) for our Spring Outing. Follow this link to a map of the camp location and/or see illustrations below. The easiest path to the site is from Route 666 crossing the bridge over Salmon Creek at Kelletville near Cougar Bobs. We will make camp Friday evening (June 17), starting at 5pm. The camp will be beside the Branch where the North Country Scenic Trail crosses FR 127 (AKA the Branch Ridge Road) and meets The Branch. Saturday morning we will discuss issues and strategy in a Forest Watch update. Saturday afternoon we will hike and backpack as far as we like on the North Country Trail and spend Saturday night on the trail. Please bring all of your own gear and food (including device to filter water). Our base camp Friday night (June 17) will be a primitive camp with no facilities. Saturday night (June 18) will be backpacking hiking and camping.

If you do not have gear but would like to join us for the base camp or backpack camp we may be able to outfit you with some items. Please contact us below if you need gear or have questions.

Please also feel free to join us for socializing and Forest Watch update Friday evening or Saturday morning even if you do not intend to camp.

Contact: Office: 814-454-7523 Cell: 814-520-4639 (We will be unable to communicate by phone after noon Thursday June 16).

Spring Outing (right click for larger image)

Spring Outing Location

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Download Related Documents Below

November 23 Press Release July 26 Press Release
November 15 Letter to John Hanger July 26 Letter to John Hanger
Response from DEP All Documents
Response from ANF File Review Documents



November 23, 2010

Contact: Cathy Pedler – (814) 454-7523
Bill Belitskus – (814) 778-5173
Ryan Talbott – (503) 887-7845

Department Of Environmental Protection Admits It Has No Authority To Permit Water Withdrawals For Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling In Western Pennsylvania

Nonetheless, DEP continues to encourage illegal water withdrawals

On July 26, the Allegheny Defense Project sent a letter to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger challenging the agency’s statutory authority to permit water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling in western Pennsylvania. Marcellus Shale gas drilling requires millions of gallons of water for the High Volume Slick-water Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing process. In central and eastern Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basin Commissions have authority to permit water withdrawals. There is no commission with such authority in western Pennsylvania, however, and the DEP lacks statutory authority under state law to issue water withdrawal permits.

In his response to the Allegheny Defense Project, Secretary Hanger acknowledges that the DEP’s approval of a “water management plan” (WMP) does not, in fact, constitute an actual authorization to withdraw water from streams, lakes, and rivers.  Secretary Hanger responded with the following disclaimer:

“DEP’s approval of [a Water Management Plan] does not give the operator any real or personal property rights, or the right to access water. For example, this approval does not grant or confer to the operator any right, title, easement, or interest in, to or over any land, including that of a riparian owner. Moreover, this approval does not obviate the necessity of the operator to obtain the proper consent from the riparian landowner and to comply with federal, state, and local legal requirements and common law regarding property rights. Rather, DEP’s WMP approval is intended to ensure that an operator’s use of water for natural gas well development does not violate Pennsylvania statutory law. For these reasons, DEP does not require an operator to notify riparian landowners or demonstrate that it has authority to make a water withdrawal.” (emphasis added)

Secretary Hanger’s claim that the WMP process is not viewed by the DEP as an authorization to withdraw water is contradicted by the DEP’s own documents. For example, on May 11, 2010, the DEP sent a letter to East Resources regarding the company’s proposal to add the Allegheny River as a new water withdrawal source to its existing WMP. DEP “approved” East Resources to withdraw 600,000 gallons of water per day from the Allegheny River.

“It is disingenuous for DEP to claim that its approval of a WMP for Marcellus Shale gas companies is not actually a permit to withdraw water,” said Bill Belitskus, Board President for the Allegheny Defense Project. “When the DEP sends letters to gas companies telling them they are ‘approved’ to withdraw specific amounts of water, it defies logic for the DEP to turn around and argue that it has not authorized a water withdrawal.”

Unable to cite legal authority to permit water withdrawals by Marcellus drillers from western Pennsylvania’s waterways, Secretary Hanger’s head-in-the-sand approach rises to intentional malfeasance when he states, “DEP does not require an operator to notify riparian landowners or demonstrate that it has authority to make a water withdrawal.” Instead, Secretary Hanger erroneously claims that its up to “the operator to obtain the proper consent from the riparian landowner” to withdraw water from western Pennsylvania waterways.

It must be noted that under Pennsylvania riparian law that, “a riparian owner has no property right in the water per se, but rather only a right to use the water on the riparian land. Accordingly, diversions for uses elsewhere are not protected by common law.”  In other words, riparian landowners cannot sell water nor access to water under riparian rights common law; so the DEP’s assertion about operators obtaining “proper consent from the riparian landowner” is absurd on its face.

“What is truly upsetting about Secretary Hanger’s response is that while he acknowledges on the one hand the DEP has no authority to permit water withdrawals, on the other hand he refuses to require proof that these companies have any legal authority to withdraw water in the first place,” said Cathy Pedler, Forest Watch Coordinator for the Allegheny Defense Project. The DEP should not issue any more drilling permits for any oil and gas drilling until companies can demonstrate that they have a legal right to withdraw water from Pennsylvania’s waterbodies.”


[1] Craig M. Wilson, “Water Resources,” ch. in Pa. Environmental Law and Practice, Terry R. Bossert & Joel R. Burcat, eds. (5th Ed. 2008), PBI No. 5203, p. 189.

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Contact:  Cathy Pedler – (814) 454-7523
Bill Belitskus – (814) 778-5173
Ryan Talbott – (503) 887-7845

Department of Environmental Protection Unlawfully Permitting Water Withdrawals For Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling in Western Pennsylvania
Only riparian owners can make use of water in streams and rivers

Natural gas companies have descended on Pennsylvania’s forests and farmlands to drill into the Marcellus Shale.  Each Marcellus Shale gas well requires millions of gallons of water for the drilling process.  That water is taken from Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers under the alleged authority of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The DEP, however, does not have the authority to permit water withdrawals in Pennsylvania.

In central and eastern Pennsylvania, water withdrawals are managed by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and Delaware River Basin Commission.  Congress created the two commissions as federal-interstate compacts with the authority to permit water withdrawals within their respective basins.  The rest of Pennsylvania, most of which is in the Ohio River basin, is governed by riparian rights common law, which allows only the owner of property along a watercourse to withdraw water for use on their land.  There is no state law regulating water withdrawals other than for municipal drinking water supplies.

In a letter sent to DEP Secretary John Hanger, the Allegheny Defense Project (ADP) outlined the current state of Pennsylvania law regarding water withdrawals and charged the DEP with operating an unauthorized water withdrawal program that allows natural gas companies to take water that they have no legal right to for their Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations…Read More

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July 26, 2010

Via Electronic Mail and Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested

John Hanger, Secretary
Department of Environmental Protection
Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Dear Secretary Hanger:

Marcellus Shale gas drilling poses significant risks to Pennsylvania’s waterways, both in terms of water quality and quantity.  Drilling a Marcellus Shale gas well requires millions of gallons of water that drilling companies withdraw from our streams and rivers.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) website, in addition to several media reports and documents obtained through recent file reviews, the DEP is purportedly authorizing water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling under an allegedly comprehensive regulatory scheme that protects Pennsylvania’s waterways.  The fact is, however, that any purported “approval” or “authorization” or “permitting” by the DEP of a surface water withdrawal in western Pennsylvania would be clearly illegal, beyond the DEP’s statutory authority and in direct contravention of the rights of those who hold valid surface water rights under Pennsylvania law.  At best, the DEP’s recent conduct discussed below amounts to the DEP intentionally ignoring and facilitating illegal water withdrawals by numerous Marcellus shale drilling operations.  At worst, the DEP is, in direct violation of its authority under Pennsylvania law, purporting to authorize the withdrawal of water by entities that in fact also have no legal right to make such withdrawals under Pennsylvania law.

There are two major problems with the DEP’s actions with regard to “approvals” of water withdrawals by Marcellus shale drillers.  First, any notion that the DEP has a comprehensive regulatory scheme in place to keep a check on water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling is simply erroneous.  In fact, water resources law in Pennsylvania “is not guided by any comprehensive statutory or regulatory program.”1 Second, and most importantly, the DEP actually has no authority whatsoever to authorize or permit water withdrawals in Pennsylvania. In other words, if the DEP “authorizes” or “permits” water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas drilling, it is acting without authority and encouraging unlawful conduct…Read More

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July 22nd the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held one of four public hearings  for a study on Hydraulic Fracturing that will look for potential relationships between the process and drinking water resources. The EPA held the meeting in a Hotel in the the Southpointe Industrial Park near Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, which also happens to be the base for Chesapeake Energy, Columbia Gas Of Maryland Inc., CONSOL Energy Inc.,  EOG Resources Inc., Halliburton, Range Resources, and Reliant Energy. Over 1,000 attended the event according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The majority of the citizen speakers spoke out against the drilling practice and many called for a moratorium. Industry supporters described the outcry against the drilling process as “…anti-capitalist demonization and misinformation…

Cecil Township Police were present at the event, including two K9 vehicles. Two officers were stationed at the public comment podiums so that they could, according to the night’s moderator from  The Cadmus Group, Inc., escort those giving public comment back to their seats if they did not stop speaking immediately after their allotted 2 minutes expired. One hundred and thirty speakers gave their input to the EPA.

Bill Belitskus, Walt Atwood, and I attended the event along with many others concerned about the  the oil and gas industry’s use of Hydraulic Fracturing in Pennsylvania. Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action, Peter Wray and Claudia Kirkpatrick of the Allegheny Group of the Sierra Club, Nadia Steinzor of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, and the Green Party’s Mel Packer to name a few. Although Police and the the Hilton Garden Inn manager had no problem with an oil and gas industry demonstration on the sidewalk at the front entrance to the hotel, Police and the Hotel management chased an environmental coalition’s press conference around their grounds attempting to interfere with the press event (See Video). Clean Water Action’s Myron Arnowitt, who organized the event, eventually persuaded the Police to allow the group to speak with reporters.

Inside, we lined up with the others who wished to speak to get yellow bracelets with numbers showing the order in which we would share our comments with the EPA. Our numbers were keyed to our names and affiliations so that the moderator and the Police escorts could keep track of us as we stood in line waiting for our chance to speak. AP’s Marc Levy reported on some of those giving comments,

Darrell Smitsky said five of his goats died mysteriously and, even though state regulators told him the water was safe, his own test showed sky-high levels of manganese and iron. When he blamed the drilling company, he said, it responded, “Can you prove it?”

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Photos By Bill Belitskus, Walt Atwood, Cathy Pedler

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On May 4, 2010, four days after a Howard Drilling oil spill was reported in the Warren Times Observer, “Oil Spill In ANF Contained By Dike,” an Allegheny Defense Project team hiked several miles up gated Forest Service Road FR 261 to investigate the spill.  Upon arriving at a Howard Drilling tank battery, ADP discovered a spill that had, in fact, breached the dike and flowed several hundred feet downhill toward Mud Lick Run (see photo on right, Mud lick run photo below).

At the site, the scent of oil permeated the air and some of the soil was still blackened with oily residue.  The ADP team investigating the Howard Drilling spill saw evidence that workers had cleared soil from a large area within the dike, and from a wide path that ran over the dike and downhill toward Mud Lick Run. The affected area had been covered with straw, gravel, and seed. According to the April 30 Warren Times Observer article, the spill on FR 261 had been contained within the tank battery’s dike. According to the article, the spill was discovered by ANF officials and reported to the DEP, who in turn alerted Howard Drilling, who subsequently told the PA State Police that someone else was responsible for the spilled oil. The spill that the Allegheny Defense Project discovered on FR 261 on May 4, 2010, was very obviously not contained by a tank battery dike (see more photos below). See Also alleghenydefense.org.

Above: Apparent spill path (covered with straw) running downhill from tank battery

Above: Top of dike with evidence of spill on both the inside and outside dike wall

Above: Note path of cleared soil with straw on wall and top of dike

Above: Evidence of spill inside dike, soil cleared and covered with straw

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ADP Investigates Snyder Brothers 2008 Oil Spill Sites; Finds Valves Still Unlocked and Evidence of More Spills

A team of Allegheny Defense Project (ADP) volunteers discovered that all is not well on FR 267 and FR 269, the sites of a major oil spill two years ago. At these sites, disgruntled former employees of Snyder Brothers, Inc. let loose more than 40,000 gallons of oil that fouled Indian Run, Chappel Fork Creek, and the Allegheny River Reservoir. On May 22, 2010 ADP staff, board, and volunteers visited the sites involved in the spill, observed that the there have been subsequent dike breeches, and that the valves on the same tank batteries that were tampered with in 2008 are still unlocked two years later. The valves pictured here are located at the back of the tanks in the Snyder Brother development on FR 269. Workers use these valves to drain brine water, but if left unattended, they will also drain oil from the tanks. The photo on the left shows the unlocked valve. The photo on the right shows the brine water tank, which given its horizontal placement, will only hold about half its total volume before water and oil spill out of the hole where the liquid is supposed to enter (which apparently has happened at the Snyder Brothers site pictured here). The tank battery dikes are filled with gravel. For oil to pool as it is in the photos here the gravel-filled tank battery dikes must be saturated with oil.

On FR 267 at the tank battery, and gravel pit near Hemlock Run, ADP noted a recent spill or seepage from what appeared to be a newly expanded or repaired dike…Read More

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An oil field worker in Kinzua Heights, Allegheny National Forest expressed anger (HEAR AUDIO) about  Allegheny Defense Project (ADP)’s Forest Watch work. Last week ADP and a photojournalist revisited the Kinzua Heights site in the Allegheny National Forest that was one of the focus areas of ADP’s May 22nd Forest Watch Training. During Forest Watch monitoring ADP documented the oil and gas drilling site of Freedom Oil Ventures, LLC and submitted a report and photos to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and PA Fish and Boat Commission (PAFBC). See Kinzua Heights: Freedom Isn’t Free. Citizens Bear Costs of Violations by Freedom Oil Ventures, LLC).

Join our Forest Watch efforts. Document and report industry violations in the Allegheny National Forest. Send reports and photos to:

John Hanger, Director
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Headquarters
Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Shawn Garvin
Environmental Protection Agency Region 3
1650 Arch Street (3CEOO)
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029

Robert Nestor
PA Fish And Boat Commission
Northwest Region Office
11528 State Highway 98
Meadville, PA 16335

Leanne M. Marten
USDA, Allegheny National Forest
4 Farm Colony Drive
Warren, PA  16365

Anthony V. Scardina, Bradford Ranger District
USDA, Allegheny National Forest
29 Forest Service Drive
Bradford, PA 16701

Robert T. Fallon, Marienville Ranger District
USDA, Allegheny National Forest
131 Smokey Lane
Marienville, PA 16239

Kent Connaughton, Regional Forester
USDA – Forest Service
Eastern Region – R9
626 East Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

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An Allegheny Defense Project (ADP) Forest Watch Team finds multiple, flagrant violations in a new oil and gas drilling site in Brothwell Run on the Allegheny National Forest. On May 22, 2010 the Forest Watch Team participating in our first training session investigated Kinzua Heights area of Brothwell Run, which has been hit hard by oil and gas drilling in the last few years. Residents living in the area had been hearing loud machinery noises during the day and long into the night. We traveled down FR 147, and FR 625 to discover the “Liberty” Farms of Freedom Oil Ventures, LLC of 4801 Lang NE STE 110, Albuquerque, NM 87109.

We parked at the gate and hiked from the point where citizen vehicles are not allowed—”Foot Traffic Only”—unless you work for the oil and gas industry.

The “Liberty” Farm areas of Freedom Oil Ventures, LLC have it all. There were no Erosion and Sedimentation Plans posted, and not surprisingly, no erosion and sedimentation controls. At one place in the deeply rutted road, Freedom Oil Ventures, LLC bulldozed the road fill over the edge of the roadway into the rock canyon system on Brothwell Run. These rock formations contain openings and pathways into groundwater. The acidic runoff and oil residue from the poorly constructed roadways drains into the rock formations (see photos). Drilling fines were either blown into the woods, or into an unlined brine pit (see photos). A newly drilled well was simply covered with a bucket (see photos). One of the most alarming violations was the venting of gas into the forest from valves at well jacks (see photo above and see video below)….more

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By Forest Watch Staff

Take Action on Pine Bear!

The Pine Bear Project, located on 10,055 acres in the southeastern part of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF), proposes approximately 3,000 acres of even-aged logging—1,324 acres of which is clearcuts and 1,781 acres staged clearcuts (see location). Additionally, the project calls for 2,294 acres of other “treatments,” 1,483 acres of herbiciding, 105 acres of burning every 3 to 5 years, over 500 acres of fencing, 12 acres of stone pit expansion, and 2.5 miles of new road.

Within the Pine Bear project boundary are high quality aquatic habitats, which will be adversely affected by the actions proposed in the Pine Bear project (e.g., by clearcutting, and herbiciding). Bear Creek is classified as a High Quality, Cold Water Fishery, which must be afforded special protection. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Fish And Boat Commission recognizes Bear Creek as well as the streams and creeks listed below as Naturally Reproducing Trout Streams.

Stream Tributary to
Bear Creek Clarion River
Pigeon Run Bear Creek
Maple Run Bear Creek
Pine Run Bear Creek
Twin Lick Run Bear Creek
Red Lick Run Bear Creek

These important aquatic habitats must be protected. The proposed action in the Pine Bear project will damage these streams and creeks with increased runoff and siltation, stream warming from canopy openings, and pollution from herbicide applications. The USFS must conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine the impact of the project on these important aquatic habitats and on the species that inhabit them.

The northwest area of the Pine Bear Project includes the Sackett oil field seen in the sattelite image below. This area has been heavily fragmented and impacted by oil and gas drilling.

Also note previous clear-cut activities in image above. Some of these resulted from the East Side and Mortality I projects. Now the U.S. Forest Service intends to layer additional impacts on an area already hit hard by industrialization and extraction.

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Take Action on Pine Bear!

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