North Strabane Township, Pa.
- Public Hearing on Gas Drilling -
Shell’s Environmental Devastation in Nigeria
First it was Exxon-Mobil buying big into the Marcellus Shale gas play, now it is Europe's largest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell. This is yet another blow to the waning concept of US energy independence from Marcellus Shale, with other recent foreign investments from Singapore, India, Norway and Japan.
Shell buys US company East Resources for $4.7 bln
(AP) – 2 hours ago
AMSTERDAM — Royal Dutch Shell PLC says it has agreed to buy East Resources Inc., a major owner of shale gas holdings in the United States, for $4.7 billion from private investors.
Shell says it will pay cash for the company, which is capable of producing the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil per day in Marcellus Shale, which extends over large parts of the northeastern United States.
Shell said Friday it was buying the company from East Resources itself, from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and from Jefferies & Company.
I have been trying to get an interview with Terry Engelder,PSU professor, "Marcellus expert" for a few months, mostly to ask him some tough questions. This week, it happened. He dodged some of my questions, but said interesting things about sacrifice of his own accord.
The June issue of Voices probably won't go up on the web until the
weekend, but here are PDFs of the pages in case you want to read it now.
Terry takes the 'money side' of the 'gas play'
Bio: Owner of Appalachian Fracture Systems Services http://www.geosc.psu.edu/~engelder/AFS/AFSindex.html
Terry Engelder, a leading authority on the recent Marcellus gas shale play, holds degrees from Penn State B.S. (’68), Yale M.S. (’72) and Texas A&M, Ph.D. (‘73). He is currently a Professor of Geosciences at Penn State and has previously served on the staffs of the US Geological Survey, Texaco, and Columbia University. Short-term academic appointments include those of Visiting Professor at Graz University in Austria and Visiting Professor at the University of Perugia in Italy. Other academic distinctions include a Fulbright Senior Fellowship in Australia, Penn State’s Wilson Distinguished Teaching Award, membership in a US earth science delegation to visit the Soviet Union immediately following Nixon-Brezhnev dêtente, and the singular honor of helping Walter Alvarez collect the samples that led to the famous theory for dinosaur extinction by large meteorite impact. He has written 150 research papers, many focused on Appalachia, and a book, the research monograph "Stress Regimes in the Lithosphere". In the international arena, he has worked on exploration and production problems with companies including Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Agip, and Petrobras.
Good news! Several folks have ponied up $2,800,000 to fund testing and study of well drilling sites here in Pennsylvania. The funding, while spread out over three universities, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne, will be overseen by Pitt. Pitt has strong leadership and field testing talent in this area.
Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee
Sen. White, Chair
Sen. Tomlinson, Vice Chair
Sen. Musto, Minority Chair
From: Angelo Serignese, Washington County
I am writing today in hopes that I can stir this committee to meaningful action on behalf of all Pennsylvanians.
Since April 23rd, just a month ago, my life has been turned upside down. That was the day I discovered that an absentee neighbor (who currently resides in Colorado) had leased his property (a few thousand feet from our home) to a shale gas drilling company.
The very next day I heard about two property owners in Washington County who have lost all of their property value because of gas drilling. The first is Ron Gulla who lost $500,000. Ron introduced me to George Zimmerman who lost $11,000,000 in property value. These properites were paid for in full -- no debt. These owners can't get a bank to lend them a dime against either of these, once pristine farms.
I have been researching this matter non-stop for 30 days – 7 days a week, eighteen hours a day. I have expended resources on this study to come up with real science and hard evidence. I have spent hundreds of hours consulting with scientists, attorneys and landowners across the country. What I have discovered is a rapidly developing environmental disaster that my mind can barely imagine. The first piece of drilling equipment hasn't even shown-up yet and I am already overwhelmed by several findings;
• There is a stunning ignorance and unwillingness to take intelligent action on the part of my elected officials and agency heads at the state and local level.
• Thousands of my neighbors don't even know they are about to experience the most horrific attack of their lives, on their health and finances.
• The roll-out on these well sites is moving at exponential velocity.
• The unprecedented volume of toxic chemical spills in this county.
• The level of criminal conduct on the part of drilling companies, their attorneys and the politicians who are complicit in the theft of property and natural resources of the Commonwealth.
• The politicians and agency heads who hesitate to move aggressively for a moratorium on shale gas drilling and fracturing.
• One county in the entire state has declared a moratorium on frac drilling based on expert, scientific observation. http://angelo-wwwwashcogas.blogspot.com/2010/05/some-marcellus-shale-drilling-put-on.html
Now I have some questions for you, the members of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
1. If an individual, like me, with no experience or background in shale gas mining, can assemble enough information in thirty days, to realize that this state will be un-inhabitable in a few years, why has this committee been unable to arrive at the same conclusion?
2. If you hold yourself out as having the knowledge and power to make policy and pronouncements on the shale gas industry, then why do you have the public, including trusted, environmental scientists and legal experts, trying to convince you about the glaringly obvious damage already occurring and the future devastation we can logically expect.
3.Where do the members of this committee plan to live when the soil, water and air of this state become unsuitable to sustain life?
4. Do you realize that even if the billions of gallons of clean water used in the fracturing process did not involve one toxic chemical going down and it came up free of toxic chemicals – do you realize that the radioactive uranium content alone would be enough to render the state a toxic waste site?
5. Do you realize that when a landowner discovers a spill or gas leak on their property and they call in qualified, independent testing personnel to test the soil, water and air, they are harassed and intimidated by the drilling company employees and management?
6. Do you know that administrators at local universities, that have dispatched their testing teams to a spill or leak, are harassed and intimidated directly by drilling company management?
7. Do you know that banks are refusing to lend against properties that have been frac drilled? If banks know these properties are high risk why doesn't this committee?
8. Do you know that the out-of-state drilling employees frequently commit the crimes of property vandalism and theft near well sites?
9. Do you know that fracing chemicals are now present in the public drinking water supply and that the chemicals got there via sewage treatment plants? Do you know that these facilities don’t even know what deadly chemicals to test for before releasing that treated water?
The people of Pennsylvania will have many more questions going forward. Please spare me any statements about pending legislation. All I am interested in is arresting the current perpetrators and shutting this racketeering operation down.
Most of the people who signed leases with drillers were lied to. Promises were made. Not only were they broken, but the end result has been a loss of livelihood and health in many cases.
Unfortunately these victims are in most cases, friendly, quiet and trusting farmers. They don't have a high powered computer with four monitors and hours to sift through news accounts, track down hundreds of landowners and scientific evidence. They think they are helping the country become energy independent. And they often don't realize until it's too late that they did the wrong thing.
One more question;
Why am I able to find these people so easily?
Hell, I wanted to buy Washington County land in part to exploit the natural gas for domestic use.... until I found out by accident, that it's a nightmare. I found hundreds -- not a few -- examples, of families whose land and resources have been permanently destroyed by the direct effects of shale gas drilling.
"The five challenges, and every state has these challenges:
1) How to divert the millions of gallons of water that are necessary to operate the drilling?
Eddie, What the hell do you even mean by divert. Did you mean to say "permanently destroy"? Because that's what really happens.
2) How to prevent gas migration?
Eddie, Don't puncture, perforate and crack the layers of protective rock.
3) What do we do with the frac water – how do we dispose of it or beneficially reuse the frac water?
Eddie, Ever hear of nuclear waste. Because that's what this 'waste water' is. It's radioactive plus. It's ultra polluted.
4) What about the infrastructure? What about the roads with the heavy truck traffic that’s coming in and out of shale drilling areas – mostly in our northern tier itself which is a fairly undeveloped part of Pennsylvania?
Stop! When you destroy the infrastructure you kill all commerce.
5) How do we protect the natural beauty of the state? Pennsylvania was given by the Lord an incredible bounty of natural and wild lands. There are more natural and wild acres in Pennsylvania than the entire states of Connecticut and Rhode Island put together. And Pennsylvanians feel very strongly about that. We’re a great sportsmen’s state – fishing and hunting; and our wild and natural areas are very treasured." Gov. Ed Rendell
Natural beauty Eddie? From my perspective the only thing that you find beauty in, is power and manipulation. Did somebody write that question for you Eddie?
Eddie, Let me tell you something. So far these drillers have gone after the thinnly populated areas of the state. Watch and see what happens when they get a rig in North Strabane withing 500 feet of hundreds of new homes. I think the 'natives' are going to get pretty hot about this Eddie.
Drill, Baby, Drill!
The inside story of Ed Rendell's plot to pillage Pennsylvania's forests, consequences be damned. Quote from Michael DiBerardinis, Former Sec. DCNR;
by Isaiah Thompson
On March 27, 2009, Michael DiBerardinis, secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), dispatched an unusual memo to his boss, Gov. Ed Rendell.
"Wholesale leasing will damage our state forest landscape," DiBerardinis cautioned. "It would scar the economic, scenic, ecological, and recreational values of the forest — especially the most wild and remote areas of our state." This "rush to drill," he continued, threatened to further overburden an already frayed DCNR staff, which would struggle to keep up with its oversight obligations: "Our ability to sustainably manage our state forests is threatened by unplanned, excessive leasing activity."
"Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, is the environmental legacy you want to leave," the secretary concluded. "One hundred years ago, the land that would become the state's forests was a denuded landscape that was scarred by rampant resource extraction. Our state forest system ... grew from a visionary effort to reclaim this landscape and restore Pennsylvania's citizens their natural birthright. A rush to drill places the state forest and all its benefits at great risk."
One week later, after nearly 15 years of working for Rendell, DiBerardinis resigned as DCNR secretary. Whether Rendell's plan to expand drilling led to DiBerardinis' departure is unclear; DiBerardinis, who now heads Philadelphia's Parks and Recreation Department, declined to comment.
Rendell didn't withdraw his request to lease the forest land. In fact, within a few weeks, he doubled it, to 80,000 acres. And, last week, his office confirmed to City Paper that Rendell intends to lease even more land for drilling this year — some $120 million worth of it. The governor has the authority to do so, with or without the legislature's consent; he could act in a matter of months, if not sooner.
ROBERT D. STEELE is a retired Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer and also qualified as an S-1/Adjutant, with service at all levels from platoon to Service Headquarters.
After four years active duty and a decade in the clandestine service of the Central Intelligence Agency (including three tours overseas focused on terrorist and extremist targets), he resigned from the CIA to accept a Marine Corps invitation to be the senior civilian responsible for creating the Marine Corps Intelligence Center and served as the study directory for the flagship study, Overview of Planning and Programming Factors for Expeditionary Operations in the Third World.
He resigned from the Marine Corps civil service in 1993 to lead the modern Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) revolution, and is the author of the DIA, NATO, and SOF OSINT Handbooks, as well as personally responsible for training 7,500 officers from 66 countries.
His latest book, INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability, outlines a course of action for creating public intelligence in the public interest across all organizations.
Hydrofracking is chemical terrorism.
Legalized, because the drillers have permits.
But if Osama bin Laden or some other villain bid on a lease in state land or found a willing private landowner, could Al Qaeda send in a drill team?
The intimidation part is that fracking steers American energy policy and the economy toward further use of fossil fuels at current consumption rates, away from a rapid and complete transition to renewables at a lower consumption rate.
The coercion is implied and stated threats of continued and worsening private and public poverty for noncompliance with the drill and burn regime.
"When a fish starts to stink, it starts from the head."
Q. Guess who the Chairman of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for PA is?
A. Senator Mary Jo White.
Her State Senate news page: http://www.senatormjwhite.com/news.htm
Observe the propaganda coming from the Senator in the exchange in these two editorials..
"Raise a voice over shale drilling plan"
Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2010
Air and soil contamination follow the drilling and mining dust. Royalty payoffs are unpredictable at best. Economic benefits from jobs last a couple decades at most, but lost property values are common, and ecosystem damage is multigenerational.
The problem is, there are currently no legal ways to stop destruction and poisoning by gas-drilling companies wielding state-stamped permits. Most local authorities know that and give up without a protesting peep, because knowledgeable attorneys have warned
them that corporate property rights trump local public health and well-being and resistance is futile.
The state Department of Environmental Protection’s role is not to protect water, land and air; staffers are paid to approve applications, not reject them. So these two entities — gas drillers and DEP regulators — can and do destroy communities and ecosystems,
even when the people in those places don’t want to be destroyed and say so. Without being able to say no to dangerous abuse, we can’t come together to figure out ways to make our lives better and more secure.
The upshot? We’re not free and we don’t live in a democracy, even when we’re allowed into public meetings to watch the permit- stamping, and can sign petitions and write letters to our state representatives, even if we get monitoring stations to let us know the exact date our wells have run dry or gone undrinkable.
Katherine Watt is a community columnist for Centre Daily Times and a member of the Centre County Natural Gas Task Force subcommittee on Public Policy and Legal Issues.
Now, take a look at how Sen. White is intellectually limited to self righteous indignation, steam rolling and dis-info in response to Katherine's assertion of fact in the shale gas pollution issue....
"Gas drilling, DEP given a bad rap"
Tuesday, Mar. 30, 2010
Sen. Mary Jo White
I read with interest and significant concern the letter submitted by Katherine
Watt, a member of the Centre County Natural Gas Task Force, regarding the potential impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas development.
Watt makes several statements that are neither fair nor accurate. Her statement that the state Department of Environmental Protection staffers can and do destroy communities and ecosystems is an outrageous indictment of the hundreds of dedicated employees who pride themselves on ensuring that Pennsylvania’s air, land and water resources are protected.
Read more: http://www.centredaily.com/2010/03/30/1883181/gas-drilling-dep-given-a-bad-rap.html#ixzz0onK0sxmM
Well guess what Senator White, If you had a good case of shale gas drilling you'd have the beneficiaries right up there in public meetings telling everyone how great it is. But you don't because they don't exist.
ENRON: Assetless Shell, A miniature version of the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Enron was a big deal. $60 billion in shareholder theft, $2.1 in pension theft. 5,600 Enron people unemployed. Enron top brass helped put 85,000 Arthur Anderson employees out of work globally.
But for all their evil deeds Enron was a blip on the screen compared to what is in store for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The drillers are playing with tens of trillions and destroying the environment with permanent, unremediated pollution. i.e. One gas driller in PA has leased about 700,000 acres of PA public lands from the state. (I'll be damned if I can get a straight dollar figure on those leases.)
Then the driller turned around and 'sold' rights to those acres to China and other cash heavy wannabe gas players for about $30,000 per acre. That's 21,000,000,000 (twenty-one trillion dollars) for just one company and there are over a dozen drillers in PA. That's a lot of money for PA residents and government agencies to fight against in court. That's Pentagon funding for 40 years.
The money in this deal is mind boggling.
And with that kind of money at stake, there is not one person who is too important to destroy. The predators will not stop unless there is an overwhelming force of individuals across the state that stand-up and lean hard on politicians at every level of government.
The environmental devastion for states sitting on shale gas deposits is going to be the biggest environmental disaster in history.
The Enron/Arthur Anderson thing was pocket money compared to the crime being perpetuated against the state of Pennsylvania.
Who gets screwed?
What or who can survive without an adequate supply of clean drinking water?
RED ALERT! RED ALERT! RED ALERT!
By Chris Ramirez
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Keeping the region's waterways clean could get tougher because the state is losing its biggest bundle of money for environmental restoration, a former state Department of Environmental Protection secretary said Friday.
David E. Hess, a consultant for a Harrisburg government relations firm, told the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy that the state's $1.3 billion Growing Greener program is projected to run out of money this year. That isn't the DEP's only problem. One-fifth of the agency's staff has been reduced since 2003 because of budget cuts.
"The state simply won't have the capacity to take care of its watersheds the same way," said Hess, who served as secretary from 2001-03 under former Gov. Tom Ridge. "You're looking at the wheels coming off."
.......Conservancy officials celebrated environmental protection victories since the 1950s, when pollution from steel-making and coal-mining industries made orange- and brown-colored rivers commonplace.
"It took us decades to get where we've gotten to today ... and it will take us decades to get where we want," said Nick Pinizzotto, senior director of the conservancy's Watershed Conservation and Conservation Services.
Populations of freshwater drum and 52 species of mussels, each at one point considered endangered, have begun to flourish in the Clarion and Allegheny rivers, respectively, said Charles Bier, the conservancy's senior director of conservation sciences.
Specimens of the Eastern Hellbender salamander tested in Little Mahoning Creek in Indiana County and Tubmill Creek in Westmoreland County weighed more and seemed healthier overall, said Eric Chapman, director of aquatic sciences for the conservancy. He said the findings suggest creek water is cleaner and abundant in food sources.
"You have to have good quality conditions for these animals to survive," Chapman said.
Murrysville officials to give Marcellus Shale close look
By Tom McGee
Friday, April 30, 2010
Marcellus Shale gas drilling will be a recurring theme at Murrysville Council meetings during the next few months.
Murrysville officials plan to discuss different viewpoints and possible regulations for Marcellus Shale gas drilling at future council meetings.
Officials discussed the continuation of a public hearing on a request from Range Resources to drill up to 10 wells near Route 380 and Logan Ferry Road. The first part of the hearing was held earlier this month.
If you haven't seen this video you are at risk of being a "knowledge deficient" target for predator companies and politicians.
NOTE: I've got news for you. It's already happenning. The frac related pollutants will only increase going forward. Go have your water tested by a robust lab.
The Environmental Quality Board today approved regulations to protect waterways from the effects of natural gas drilling wastewater.
Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said the new regulations are necessary measure to ensure that drilling wastewater from the booming Marcellus Shale operations containing high concentrations of total dissolved solids, or TDS, do not pollute drinking water supplies, damage industrial equipment or endanger delicate aquatic life.
“Drilling wastewater contains TDS levels that are thousands of times more harmful to aquatic life than discharges from other industries. Without imposing limits on this pollution, treatment costs for this wastewater are passed along to downstream industries and municipal ratepayers,” said Hanger. “All other industries in Pennsylvania are responsible for the waste they generate and the drilling industry should be no exception.”
Next, the EQB-approved TDS rules will move onto the Environmental Resources and Energy committees in the state House and Senate, as well as to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for a 30-day review period.
The regulations were first proposed in August and four public hearings were held around the state.
Under the new regulations, wastewater discharges from new and expanded facilities must meet a concentration threshold of 2,000 milligrams per liter and wastewater discharges from drilling operations cannot exceed 500 mg/l. The lower standard was set for the drilling industry because drilling wastewater is so heavily polluted and because drillers have options other than returning water to rivers and streams such as reusing and recycling it, or injecting it deep into caverns situated below ground water supplies when approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Several states – including Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee – prohibit returning any drilling wastewater to streams.
Drinking water treatment facilities and industrial water users are not equipped to process water with high levels of chlorides and sulfates, so the new rules place limits on the amount of total dissolved solids that can be discharged into surface waters.
TDS levels have exceeded the EPA’s secondary drinking water standards of 500 mg/l several times over the past two years in the Monongahela River. The elevated levels led to complaints from drinking water customers about foul-smelling water and damage to laundry and dishes. Industrial users such as USX have complained of equipment damage caused by polluted river water.
High TDS levels also led to a toxic algae bloom that killed all fish and aquatic life in a 30-mile section of Dunkard Creek in Greene County last year.
Gas industry urged to act soon on drilling rules
By Andrew Maykuth
Inquirer Staff Writer
On the heels of penalizing one natural gas operator $240,000 for contaminating water wells, Pennsylvania's top environmental official Thursday urged the industry to immediately adopt proposed new drilling standards rather than waiting for them to be formally enacted.
John Hanger, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, summoned industry representatives to Harrisburg to discuss new construction standards for wells drilled to tap natural gas reserves. The new guidelines are designed to reduce the chance of incidents such as the one that has contaminated 14 water wells in the Susquehanna County town of Dimock.
"I made it clear that this industry needs to have world-class standards, deploy the best practices possible, and needed to reach excellence in environmental protection and safety," Hanger said in an interview after meeting with about 100 representatives of companies drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.
Hanger encountered little resistance to the new standards, which set stricter casing and cementing requirements for gas wells and require operators to test those gas wells quarterly for leaks. "I'm not aware of a company in the industry that objects to the strengthening of the standards," he said. (WHAT?)
Hanger last month issued a tartly worded invitation to Thursday's meeting after fining Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and ordering it to plug three wells that he blamed for contaminating drinking-water supplies in Dimock. The invitation had the tone of a regulatory call to the woodshed.
But participants at the meeting described the tone as positive and said that neither Dimock nor Cabot was mentioned by name.
"The industry is fully supportive of the proposal," said Kathryn "Kool-Aid" Klaber, executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group.
Hanger said the industry had worked closely with DEP to devise stricter well standards, whose chief purpose is to prevent natural gas from migrating into freshwater aquifers. DEP said it believed that natural gas from a shallow formation migrated alongside the steel casing that transports gas from the deep Marcellus formation to the surface.
The new standards call for improved cementing to seal any voids that provide pathways for stray gas to migrate into groundwater.
"As we have seen in Dimock, stray gas migrating from improperly constructed wells can build up to explosive levels near and inside homes and can make residential water supplies unusable," Hanger said.
The new regulations will be presented to the Environmental Quality Board on Monday, and Hanger said they would be enacted later in the year. He called upon the industry to embrace the standards immediately.
OK. Now knowing all that you know... Do you think this will stop the destructtion of our environment? It won't. But it's a start.
I haven't been able to describe the behavior of public officials and agency bureaucrats across the state of Pennsylvania other than deranged.
No matter the reward. No matter the benefit of power and control afforded to political operatives...
The end-game will be horrific.
An un-inhabitable state. Property values bankrupted. A disaster that will never be able to be corrected or repaired.
And the most discouraging part is this, the very people who stand to lose everything, health, property and prosperity, are indifferent or at best just resigned. That scares me.
My heart breaks for the children of Pennsylvania. They are the most vulnerable. What 5 year old can go to a town meeting or call a state representative and contend with the assault on the air, water and land? They can't. They are trusting the adults, the guardians of their safety. And those guardians are neutralized. Neutralized by the day-to-day activities of life. Ironic.
There's a term in the coporate banking world I came from. It's called "knowledge deficit". Companies cash in on the consumer’s “knowledge deficit”. If you want to be the most profitable bank or credit card company, you must exploit the consumer's "knowledge deficit".
That is what the gas drilling companies have done. They not only exploit the landowner's knowledge deficit, they also exploit the politician's knowledge deficit and greed.
Incidentally, most politicians also have to rely on exploiting the taxpayer's knowledge deficit to get their deranged agendas passed.
"What would motivate a homemaker from Florida to donate so much, ($180,000) to a gubernatorial candidate in a state 1,100 miles away?
Well, Pegula’s husband Terry is CEO of East Resources Inc., the third largest driller for natural gas in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region. The firm has leased about 900,000 acres."
"We're looking at things that have happened to the west of us and what needs to be put in place to prevent that," Collier said. "We're learning a lot, and we want to do it right."
Executive Director Carol R. Collier, Delaware River Basin Commission (Northeastern Pa)
By Sandy Bauers
Inquirer Staff Writer
Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania's easternmost counties has been put on hold for months, if not longer.
On Wednesday, the Delaware River Basin Commission voted unanimously to draft new regulations to govern natural gas projects and not to issue any permits until the new rules are in effect.
The decision means that even as activity escalates throughout the state - nearly 900 Marcellus permits have been issued this year - no production drilling can be done in the Delaware watershed.
Adopting new rules could take six months to a year, commission Executive Director Carol R. Collier said Thursday.
It will stall indefinitely the lone application before the commission - for a well site in Wayne County at the northeastern tip of the state.
"I know there are many that want the gas-well drilling to move along quickly because of the economics and the issue of national security and providing clean fuel," Collier said. "But I really think we have to do it correctly and smartly. There's just too much at stake in the Delaware River basin."
Environmental groups cheered the decision, saying it was the "pause button" they have long sought statewide as the tally of explosions, spills, and pollution incidents mounts. So far this year, the state Department of Environmental Protection has initiated 116 enforcement actions against drillers.
"The DRBC has taken a sensible and laudable step today toward keeping gas drilling from running wild here," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware riverkeeper.
Spokesman Tim O'Leary of Stone Energy Corp., which is seeking commission approval for a well, said only one of its 14 wells in the region was in the Delaware watershed.
"Stone Energy looks forward to working with the DRBC in answering any remaining questions," he said.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, did not respond.
John Hanger, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, which also has regulatory authority over natural gas drilling, said the two agencies should work together so no conflicts arise and "to provide strong oversight of this industry."
The commission is an interstate agency, formed by a federal compact, that has legal authority over water quality and quantity in the basin. The governors of the four basin states - Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware - plus a federal appointee are commissioners, but they often send representatives.
The New Jersey representative at Wednesday's meeting, Fred Sickels of the state DEP water-supply division, said that with all the activity, "the cumulative impacts could be significant if there aren't appropriate safeguards."
Pennsylvania's northeastern counties - where the shale region and the Delaware watershed overlap - have been deemed a high-stakes area.
The pressure to drill there could be even more intense than elsewhere. Geological maps indicate that corner of Pennsylvania is a sweet spot with huge quantities of natural gas.
More than 6,000 leases have been signed in Wayne County alone, said Brian W. Smith, chairman of the Wayne County supervisors.
No drilling other than test wells, which are still allowed, has been done in the watershed.
But environmental concerns are high. The Delaware River from Hancock, N.Y., south to Trenton is so clean that it is under stricter, "special protection waters" regulations. Also, the federal government has designated portions of the river wild and scenic areas worthy of enhanced protection.
And downstream - where the river's quality is the sum of everything that has occurred upstream - are Philadelphia's water intakes.
Proponents say natural gas drilling is adding millions of dollars to local economies and has environmental benefits because the fuel burns cleaner than coal.
Critics say the drilling process is fraught with hazards and the regulatory baseline is inadequate.
In March, Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking the commission not to approve any applications in the Marcellus Shale until a full environmental impact assessment is done.
At the time, the commission was considering the Stone Energy proposal. A decision, which many felt would have set a precedent, was not expected until July at the earliest.
Stone Energy received DEP permission for the well in March 2008 and began construction without commission approval.
That December, the commission and Stone Energy reached a settlement agreement that required the company to submit an application and pay a $70,000 penalty.
Stone Energy submitted two applications - one for the well and one for a withdrawal of 700,000 gallons of water a day from the west branch of the Lackawaxen River - a basin waterway - for fracturing the well so the gas can be extracted.
The application was submitted to the commission more than a year ago. But unlike the DEP, which has 45 days to consider a well permit and can deny one only under specific conditions, the commission has no deadline. No clock is ticking.
During a public-input period, the commission received more than 2,000 comments.
"We're looking at things that have happened to the west of us and what needs to be put in place to prevent that," Collier said. "We're learning a lot, and we want to do it right."
Hey Dick, If fracturing fluids are so safe, why did you need to get a "Safe Drinking Water Act", exemption for Haliburton and the 15, politically connected gas drillers...Oh and why is the "chemical cocktail" so secret that emergency first responders can't even know what's in it? Sounds sketchy to me Dick.