Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Community Bill of Rights--CELDF

by Ben Price
29 March 2011

As projects director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), I hear from people every day, asking for help to protect their right to live in self-governing communities instead of municipal resource colonies handed over to powerful corporations by way of government “permits” and licenses. Government representatives and local attorneys repeatedly tell them that they can do nothing to stop unwanted corporate projects from destroying their communities and quality of life. “The law is clear,” they are told. “The corporations have a right, and you have no authority to stop them.”

Whether it is a proposed “big box store,” a land-fill, a coal-fired incinerator, the siphoning of a local aquifer by a water bottling operation, gas drilling or coal mining, those directly affected believe they must be the ones to decide if a state-chartered corporation will be permitted to inflict harm on them in order to create profit for a few. They say they have a right to self-determination and consent of the governed.  They say the state has no authority to license the violation of their rights........continued.......

Colorado No. 2 in carcinogen-laced "fracking" fluids

 Allison Sherry

WASHINGTON — Colorado ranked second only to Texas in terms of the number of gallons of carcinogen-laced "fracking" fluids used in oil and gas extraction between 2005 and 2009, according to congressional Democrats.

A 30-page House Energy and Commerce report — the second release in an investigation into hydraulic fracturing — shows that 1.5 million gallons of fracking fluids containing a carcinogen were used in Colorado in that time, compared with 3.8 million gallons in Texas and 1 million in Oklahoma. The report does not show the concentrations of those chemicals or that the carcinogens, including naphthalene and benzene, have endangered drinking water near the drilling sites in Colorado.

State leaders charged with regulating Colorado's energy industry say the report's findings are not a surprise.....continued.........

France Considers Banning Natural Gas Drilling--1st in Europe

"Amid growing concern over the environmental impact of drilling for shale gas
and oil, the French government is considering banning exploration in the
country—a first in Europe."

APRIL 19, 2011
U.S. oil company Toreador Resources Corp. (has bet big on pumping millions of barrels of oil locked away in deep
shale rock formations in northeastern France. But it could be some time
before this oil sees the light of day.

Amid growing concern over the environmental impact of drilling for shale gas
and oil, the French government is considering banning exploration in the
country—a first in Europe.

Las Vegas, NM Drilling Moratorium Extended

" Adopted an ordinance imposing an additional one year moratorium on the approval of conditional use permits or other permits for oil, gas and geothermal drilling, exploration and extraction in San Miguel County."

Certainly the most important piece of news in the OPTIC'S newspaper on the 14th and perhaps this year, but mentioned as a mere bullet point in an article on "Fire Restrictions."

Natural gas development uses upwards of 2-4 million gallons of clean, drinking water plus 3,000 gallons of toxic fluids per million gallons of water to hydraulic fracture a natural gas well.  Each well can be fractured upwards of 19 times.  The amount of clean water used to capture this fossil fuel from your property certainly does not help the "dire water needs" for the city of Las Vegas residents, nor the need for water to fight fires during serious drought conditions throughout the county/state.

The current standards and techniques used to "restore" contaminated water from the toxic chemical pollution from natural gas development falls egregiously short of the quality of water in our aquifers today in San Miguel and Mora Counties.  While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) holds standards for the presence of toxic chemicals in your water, they represent "allowable" levels more in line with corporate needs than our human and animal health concerns.  For example, the EPA does not have restrictions on the level of perchlorate in our drinking water in NM and according to Dr. Theo Colborn,  any amount can trash our thyroid.  New Mexico has some of the highest thyroid health problems in the United States. Perchlorate is a component in military aircraft fuel.

Additionally, benzene, a component in hydraulic fracturing fluids, is a carcinogen at any level.  The EPA has permissible levels for this and many other toxic chemicals that are "allowed" in our drinking water:

"EPA has set an enforceable regulation for benzene, called a maximum contaminant level (MCL), at 0.005 mg/L or 5 ppb. MCLs are set as close to the health goals as possible, considering cost, benefits and the ability of public water systems to detect and remove contaminants using suitable treatment technologies." (

The oil industry is exempt from the "Safe Drinking Water Act" which in essence, puts them "above the law" regarding contaminating our drinking water.  The EPA does not have any rules in place to keep benzene out of our drinking water supply. And "business" creates "background levels" which ultimately are incorporated by our government as "allowable background levels" that continue to increase the health risks, illness and deaths of all species.

Toxic Chemicals Injected Into Wells, Report Says--New York Times

Matt Nager
April 16, 2011

WASHINGTON — Oil and gas companies injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009, according to an investigation by Congressional Democrats.

The chemicals were used by companies during a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, which involves the high-pressure injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemical additives into rock formations deep underground. The process, which is being used to tap into large reserves of natural gas around the country, opens fissures in the rock to stimulate the release of oil and gas......continued........

Direct quotes below from instructions on selling oil and gas leases for landmen in Ohio:

A property owner in Yellow Springs PA who has been asked to lease her land got fed up with the landsmen knocking on her door.  She found a three ring binder in her drive way that looked like
it had been run over a few times.  When she looked inside the notebook she found "Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Leases."
Direct quotes below from instructions on selling oil and gas leases for landmen in Ohio:

**Water Usage -This is a question normally asked by farmers. See the Talking Points for Agricultural
Land paper to address those specific concerns. Residential owners will not know that we pull water
directly from the local aquifer.

**Property values - Multiple studies have shown that property values decrease for land with oil and gas
leases on the property. Avoid this topic. Some major banks have stopped issuing mortgages on
properties with leases for mineral and oil/gas rights, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and
other large financial institutions. This is a no-win discussion point. If backed into this issue, talk
about the potential revenues and the overall needs of the nation. China bought more oil than the
United States last year!

**Enhanced Oil Recovery - The overall plan is to drill exploratory wells, and then use more advanced
techniques to get at the small oil pockets we find. This will require multiple well heads, where we
pump in high volume of water and chemicals, much the same manner as in the fracing process. DO
NOT DISCUSS this point. We want no correlation between fracing and enhanced oil recovery
processes. We do not want landowners aware char we may have to drill many well heads in a single
area. After we have the leases signed we have the freedom to use the land as we see fit. If needed we
can even write leases with "No Fracing" positions, and even with these lease modifications we can
legally drill multiple wells and insert high pressure "extractants".

**Lease Term -This is another area of concern that you can alleviate with the right wording. The lease
is for 5 years. Sometimes landowners will read the lease before signing and realize that the lease - renews automatically if any oil/gas are produced from the well. Do not stress this point. Just state that
- the lease is for 5 years. They don't need to know, or discover through discussions with us, that the
lease can extend indefinitely with no further permission from the landowner.

° More educated landowners may know that we often sell our land leases to
larger corporations. While this if often true, we do not always sell our interests. So it
is reasonable to say that we plan all development in Ohio without partners. Future
plans do not need to be fully disclosed, and they may evolve as we do exploratory

° Most landowners will not know the difference between hydraulic fracturing and the process
of Slick Water Hydraulic Fracturing. Use that to your advantage. Most [water] wells in southern
Ohio were drilled and then hydraulically fractured to make a viable source of water. Tell
them that. Fracing is safe! There is nothing unsafe about the fracing process, if there was, it
would never have been used in their wells. If anyone knows about slick water fracturing,
avoid the topic. DO not discuss the chemicals and other material used during slick water
fracturing. The better strategy is to sate that the chemical mixtures used are proprietary and
are highly diluted with water when injected. Reassure landowners that no well
contamination has ever been documented. *Do not mention water contamination in
Pennsylvania.* We do not want to associate ourselves with potential ground water issues.
[Emphasis in original document]

° Noise -Another argument against drilling is noise. Do not deny that the initial setup can be noisy,
like building a home nearby. No one objects to new homes under construction. Say that the noisy
portion of the operation is upfront and over quickly compared to the entire operation. This pan of
the process can take up to a year, but do not emphasize overall time. The well may last for 40 years,
so one year of noise is not bad. If pressed for details tell them we monitor noise to ensure it is
approximately 80 db at 200 feet. They will likely not understand the details, and will not admit that
the technical data means little to them. *Do not compare it to anything tangible, like train noise or
airplane noise. Stick with the numbers, they provide the truth hut make it hard to understand the
exact implication.* [emphasis added]

° Well Pad Size - Many people ask about their land and how much will be used. During the initial
drilling, pad sizes of approximately 20 acres are necessary. After drilling and fracturing, the well will
be on a land size of approximately 5 acres. Stress the five acres. Do not talk about the initial setup
unless absolutely pushed on details and timeline for the drilling. After the lease is signed we will be
able to deal with landowner concerns.

° Well Spacing- This rarely comes up. Landowners do not realize that multiple wells will be necessary.
Wells are most effective if spaced 40 acres or further apart. This sounds like a large number, use it.
Some might ask how many wells will be in a square mile. *Don't answer that question.* Most
landowners will not realize that 10-20 wells can be placed in a square mile. Landowners normally
own less than 5 acres, unless it is a farm. 40 acres will be a large enough number that wells will seem
to be far apart in their mind. [emphasis added]

Residents: dozens of wells in Bradford County have been contaminated

April 8, 2011

Carol French says a number of residents along Paradise Road section Terry Township have seen the value of their homes plummet to one-tenth of what they were, due to contamination problems.

TOWANDA - At the Bradford County commissioners' meeting on Thursday, several local residents said dozens of Bradford County households have had their well water contaminated by gas drilling.

There were among the residents who filled the conference room at the courthouse on Thursday to tell the commissioners about problems related to gas drilling, including traffic congestion, high rents, and contamination issues, and ask the commissioners to help address them.......continued........

EPA launches study of fracking's impact on water

And a Quote from the U.S. President, Barack Obama:
"Now, natural gas is a clean, relatively clean energy.  It's a fossil fuel, but it burns pretty clean.  But we've got to make sure that as we're extracting it from the ground, that the chemicals that are being used don't leach into the water.  Nobody is an environmentalist until you get sick.  And it turns out, well, gosh, why didn't somebody tell me that this might affect the water that we drink or the air that we breathe, or what have you?  So we've got to do some science there to make sure that the natural gas that we have in this country, we're extracting in a safe way." 

April 5, 2011
By Susan Phillips
President Barack Obama has given the Department of Energy 90 days to look at ways to improve the safety of drilling for natural gas. The Environmental Protection Agency has already started an extensive review of how drilling affects drinking water.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the study is the first of its kind.

In the debate over natural gas drilling, one side says not enough is known about hydraulic fracturing.......continued......

State Alleges Natural Gas Ripoff: Land Commissioner suing 14 companies

By Wren Abbott

State Land Commissioner Ray Powell filed suits last week against Exxon Mobil, Williams Companies, Inc, Yates Petroleum Company, Chevron Corporation, Texaco and eight other oil and gas companies, alleging they breached contracts with the state to extract natural gas from leased lands by failing to pay full royalties, "depriv[ing] the State of critical funds used to pay for public education."......continued.......

US Fracking Chemical Registry to go Live in a Few Weeks

"US Representative Maurice Hinchey, a co-sponsor of the FRAC Act, which seeks to regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, plans to move ahead with the legislation, a spokesman, Mike Morosi, said.

He said that the creation of a voluntary chemical registry would not alleviate the need for Congress to pass federal legislation on fracking.

If the industry is willing disclose the information, they should have no problem with the disclosure provisions of the FRAC Act," he said."

Pertaining to the disclosure on the website: "However, chemical data that is considered part of a well servicing company's proprietary business information will not be posted on the website, Nickolaus said."

A great step in the right direction, yet with industry continuing to hide their "proprietary business information," some of the key toxic chemicals are being withheld from the public, medical teams, and locally elected governing bodies.  This is far from "disclosure." Full disclosure from industry is necessary in order to know the direct impact from industry's activities. After all, that is what industry continues to state when another water well is polluted....."Prove it was caused by our drilling.

Representative Markey states that industry's energy bills and activities are "Oil-Above-All".  And that is certainly what comes through with yet another industry caveat over the health, welfare and safety of the people, animals and ecosystems.

US Fracking Chemical Registry to go Live in a Few Weeks
Jim Magill,
Houston (Platts)
31 Mar 2011

An online registry in which exploration-and-production companies will voluntarily disclose the chemicals they use in their US hydraulic fracturing operations is set to be activated in a few weeks, but questions remain as to whether this will satisfy the many critics of fracking.

The registry, part of a website created as a joint effort of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council, "will go live in the second week of April," Mike Nickolaus, GWPC special projects director, said Thursday.

The architects of the website hope that its creation will help calm some of the concerns expressed by property owners and environmental groups over the potential threat that the drilling of natural gas wells could pose to groundwater supplies.

Nickolaus said the chemical registry will allow visitors to access information, on a well-by-well basis, on the components of fracking fluids used in oil- and gas-producing basins across the US. To date, about 75 E&P companies, representing about 80% of US shale gas production, have signed up to take part in the registry program.

A Land Out of Step With Time: Mora County--Sierran

A land of beauty, clean air and water. A rare gem when “Nature today is considered a subsystem of the economy” yet “we cannot function without our ecosystems,” says Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. Unspoiled, Mora County sits at the brink of change; it is a land still possessing clean ecosystems few other lands hold intact. 

Mora County sits atop a basin of extractable gases, according to the Ronald Broadhead Report, that at best supposes three (3)  percent total organic carbons (TOC) and on average less than one (1)  percent TOC. No doubt the low prices and small reserve protect both San Miguel and Mora Counties (they share this Las Vegas Basin) from natural-gas drilling today, yet as we have seen, industry raises prices at will, and we speculate do not halt their extraction until all their resources are withdrawn from beneath our feet, come hell or high water.
Unless … there is a change in direction. 

Mora County has a new commission this year, and if its meetings are any indication of change in direction, this new leadership will pave the way for a refreshing model of possibilities in this land-based county rich in fertile land, clean water, air and abundant wildlife. Protecting these vital resources upon which the citizens depend for livelihood and a culture that predates corporate interests, commission chair Paula Garcia told a packed room at the March meeting “to not forget that while an economic development plan for Mora County is necessary, it must include holistic development, ‘whole measures,’ as indicators of health and wellbeing—the economic, human,
spiritual and social wellbeing of the community,” she said. “Mora County has demonstrated that people live well here, in part, due to our culture.”

At a time when state and federal budgets are running in the red, there is little money to support counties such as Mora, whose needs far outweigh the tax revenue generated. But today is also not a time to tax the citizens further, the commission agreed.
In spite of the shortfall from government agencies, citizens continue to move forward in innovative ways. A local nonprofit group, Collaborative Visions, has been working to develop the agricultural and sustainable living possibilities in the county, from organic agriculture to biomass fuels for heating the Mora County Courthouse complex. Drilling Mora County, an educational and proactive citizen group, has provided Mora County citizens with defensible documents and test results reflecting recent baseline water-well testing for hydraulic fracturing chemicals should the oil industry begin fracking here. Excitement over Community Rights Ordinances have become part of the local discussion in the county over the past few months based upon the courageous action taken by the Pittsburgh City Council in December 2010 to adopt a “Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance” that prohibits industry from harming the citizens’ water or interfering with their right to making governing decisions on a local level.
The work by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund out of Pennsylvania is behind this ordinance and more than 120 such ordinances for communities across the United States that desire to protect their rights to clean air, land, water, and health from the ongoing egregious corporate activities that destroy ecosystems. 

While battle is being waged elsewhere, Mora County citizens are weighing the consequences as seen in other communities. It is truly a time of preparedness, and Mora County is thoughtfully moving ahead as it always has, in time and pace with its knowing of Nature, and the heart and soul of the people.

Maryland lawmakers vote to ban fracking

"We are not going to be like other states that drilled first and asked questions later,".....

Proactive protective stances take courage on the part of elected officials when it comes to standing up to corporations who are ready to take "all" for themselves, their board of directors, and shareholders, leaving travesty on the land for those living at "ground zero."

State representatives introducing protective bills, Community Rights Ordinances protecting water and local self governance, and an involved citizenry add up to an act of democracy that bears the fruit of not only a protected land, but the will of the people.

Maryland lawmakers vote to ban fracking
By Brett Michael Dykes

Concerns continue to mount nationwide over the environmental hazards the natural gas industry may create via the controversial extraction process known as "fracking"--the fracturing of underground shale to access gas reserves. Cities have banned the practice, while energy investors are pressing natural gas companies to disclose more information on fracking. And in the latest legislative pushback, the Maryland House has voted to ban fracking in the state.

"We're not going to be like other states that drilled first and asked questions later," Maryland Delegate Heather R. Mizeur, the bill's sponsor, told the Washington Post. "We understand that second chances are expensive, so we should slow down and take the time to do this right the first time."
The bill's language restricts gas companies from drilling operations until the state's Department of the Environment completes a two-year study to evaluate potential fracking-related hazards to drinking water supplies and public health.

Maryland is among several northeastern states sitting atop the Marcellus Shale formation, which contains what geologists say is one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. New York and New Jersey, which also are above the Marcellus formation, recently instituted similar moratoriums, as did the city of Pittsburgh.