Setting the Record Straight on a Pa. Gubernatorial Candidate’s Fracking Misinformation Tour
Pennsylvania gubernatorial hopeful David Anspach (I – write-in) and a Chester County, Pa., anti-fracking group that is actively fighting the Mariner East 2 pipeline recently made the roughly three-hour trek to Susquehanna County to, according to the group’s website, “travel to areas that have been severely and negatively impacted by fracking.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the misinformation this tour spread about Dimock — which Anspach didn’t even know how to spell — and Susquehanna County’s thriving shale industry.
I have to stand corrected on my spelling of Dimock Pa. since I can’t correct a tweet it will just be another permanent reminder of small mistakes. The pollution in Dimock is not a small mistake and it’s one we can correct. It’s time to correct it, it’s time to be the change!
— David Anspach (@WriteinAnspach) June 4, 2018
The activist group, Uwchlan Safety Coalition (USW), appeared late in 2017 to stop pipelines from being built in Chester County, specifically targeting the Mariner East. The group also recently took an apparent interest in preventing the “fracked materials” carried in the pipelines – natural gas liquids (NGLs) – from being developed, and has an aversion to these materials being used to make plastics.
The following are a few of the most ridiculous statements made about Pennsylvania’s shale industry on USW’s website and during the tour, followed by the facts.
USW Website Claim: “We here in Chester County have known for some time our pipeline is filled with fracked materials. We understand that, frack to plastic to waste, our pipeline isn’t just bad for the local vitality of our region, but it has state and global impacts to the natural environment. But what exactly is happening in those communities where the butane, propane and ethane is being extracted from the ground? … Please follow along with us on Sunday, June 3rd while we travel to areas that have been severely and negatively impacted by fracking.”
FACT: USW’s decision to begin its investigation of communities where NGLs are “being extracted” in Dimock is telling of the group’s level of understanding of Pennsylvania’s shale industry. Susquehanna County is known for its incredible dry gas.
In other words, though Susquehanna County may be leading the state in natural gas production, it’s not the region of the state with the abundance of NGLs the Appalachian Basin has been blessed with, and it’s certainly not producing the feedstock for the Mariner East pipelines. The vast majority of Pa.’s NGLs are produced on the other side of the Commonwealth in Southwestern Pa.
FACT: Susquehanna County has a thriving shale industry that has had tremendous impacts on the county – and the so-called issues still being perpetuated by activists aren’t among those impacts. Here are just a few of the ways the county has been “severely and negatively” impacted:
- Thanks largely to shale-driven revenue, Susquehanna Co. was able to build a brand new state-of-the-art hospital that residents had for years been trying to raise funds for with little success.
- Lackawanna College was able to institute a shale workforce training program that has seen near 100 percent job placement upon graduation since its first graduating class, and for the first time ever has been able to offer scholarships to degree-seekers in the region.
- As was noted at a recent conference, Susquehanna County has seen unemployment decrease since the shale revolution began, with the low unemployment rate of 4.8 percent in March 2018.
- More than $1.5 billion in royalties has been paid to landowners by just one of the numerous companies operating in Susquehanna County. Further, the county has received more than $29.8 million in impact fee money through 2017. That amount does not include the funds allocated to individual municipalities or the disbursement that will occur in the next few weeks.
- Rural households, schools and businesses have – for the first time ever – had the opportunity for natural gas distribution, and new natural gas-fired power plants have been built in Susquehanna County. This is reducing energy bills for consumers and businesses.
- Natural gas service that is now available in Susquehanna County has also opened the door for a growing compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle market, including the county’s own fueling station. This, coupled with the transition to natural gas heating and electricity, are helping to reduce emissions.
Similar impacts have occurred in Southwestern Pa., where most of the NGLs in the state are produced, including those that will travel through the Mariner East pipelines. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the myriad of applications for this feedstock, from being used to make the plastics for pacemakers to the wax in crayons. Can you imagine the possibilities for Pa.’s Crayola with such abundant feedstock in close proximity?
USW Twitter Livestream: “This is a site of Cabot Oil & Gas. The sign to the right reads that they use 5 million gallons per day, 30 day average. [pause while walking] 500 million gallons of water per day.”
— UwchlanSafetyCoaliti (@UwchlanSafetyCo) June 3, 2018
FACT: Here’s EID’s up-close image of the sign, which clearly reads that the well site is permitted for five million gallons of water per day for consumptive use – not that it uses that much daily – and certainly not that it “uses 500 million gallons daily.”
And here is the full Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) permit for the well site.
It’s worth mentioning that the entire natural gas industry operating within the Susquehanna River Basin – where the bulk of Pennsylvania’s shale development has occurred – doesn’t consume 500 million gallons of water daily (mgd), according to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC). The approved consumptive amount of water for natural gas development in 2014 was 116 mgd, while the actual amount used was 27.2 mgd.
It’s also important to understand that just because the site is permitted to consume a certain amount of water daily, that does not mean it actually does use that amount every day. In reality, the bulk of water consumption occurs over a short period of time for completions, i.e. hydraulic fracturing.
Further, Cabot is a company that has worked to lessen the amount of freshwater being used on site through the use of recycling and reusing the water it recovers from its operations. In Pennsylvania, the shale industry recycles about 90 percent of all produced water, with companies like Cabot recycling 99 percent or more of their produced water.
As the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) explains on its website,
“MSC member companies have pioneered large-scale water recycling technologies in just the past few years. It’s an accomplishment that we are proud of and one that’s good for both the environment and our industry.”
In fact, Cabot spokesman George Stark told the Tribune Review in 2015 that recycling has enabled it to reduce the amount of freshwater used in typical wells, and the company has even completed “a whole frack on nothing but recycled [water].”
Also notable is that the SRBC’s April 2017 Annual Report explains,
“Power plants that use natural gas have the additional opportunity to switch from single cycle to combined cycle (gas and steam turbines in concert). With combined cycle gas turbines comes increased opportunities for dry cooling technology that uses air to cool the steam. The use of dry cooling results in the reduction of consumptive use of approximately 95 percent over evaporative cooling … To date, two dry cooling power plants have been constructed in the Basin and five are in various phases of design or construction.”
In other words, the natural gas that’s being developed by Cabot on this well site and by other companies across the state is helping to lower the amount of water being consumed in the Commonwealth for electricity generation – Pennsylvania’s second highest water consumer. So not only is the shale industry continuously striving to reduce the amount of freshwater it consumes, but it’s also reducing the amount of water consumed for high end-users of energy.
USW Twitter Livestream: “That’s a compressor station right through the trees. …I want to show what we’re seeing in what’s called a FLIR imager. …So you can see that’s how much stuff’s coming out.” [Craig Stevens]: “Oh yeah. And it’s going sideways. Heat doesn’t go sideways. It goes straight up, so that’s not heat.” [USW]: “It is not heat.” [Woman off camera]: “So this is all the cancer-causing chemicals coming out from the compressor stations.” [Vera Scroggins]: “See if I have hydrocarbons. … Anything flaring out of my hands? I’ve been exposed to it so long I should have hydrocarbons. I should be saturated in them.” [Craig Stevens]: “Whatever’s in the gas, comes out those stacks. Because you got to get rid of the junk. They want just methane. They don’t want that junk in the pipe. Even if you get rid of 98 percent of it, there’s still that two percent mix of the rest of that leftover, it’s still gonna come out wherever you are. … Let’s say you’re a chef in Philly or New York City and you’re sitting in front of a gas flame 10 hours a day cooking, that radon is coming straight out. And radon is the thing that gives even people that don’t smoke the highest rate of lung cancer. …But the difference is, we know it’s in the gas that comes out. But because they call it noble, that means it will not burn when they burn the methane.” [Man off screen]: “These aren’t compressors, these are refineries.” [Vera Scroggins]: “Oh yeah, I call it refinery.”
— UwchlanSafetyCoaliti (@UwchlanSafetyCo) June 3, 2018
Compressor station in Kingsley, PA. Oil and Gas companies pay top dollar for land use. What is your health worth? Fact: Compressor stations emit cancer causing chemicals. #peopleoverprofits #banfracking pic.twitter.com/75cLbNVPcy
— UwchlanSafetyCoaliti (@UwchlanSafetyCo) June 3, 2018
FACT: Even activists have admitted that their use of “Forward Looking Infrared” (FLIR) imagery is devoid of scientific evidence. In a recent interview with the Kingfisher Times & Free Press, Earthworks’ Hilary Lewis admitted,
“No air quality tests were conducted in connection with the infrared drone photographs to quantify what amount of methane or other pollutants, if any, were being emitted at the named well sites.”
Actual sampling and air inventories of Marcellus shale development and its related infrastructure, which includes compressor stations, show that even with the increased production and new infrastructure, emissions continue to decrease, or in the case of average emissions per facility, remain steady. As the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) explained in its most recent annual Marcellus emissions inventory,
“Even though the total tons of methane reported increased due mainly to the increase in the number of sources, the average emission per facility is staying relatively level. The average methane reported from each mid-stream compressor station decreased from 106.9 tons in 2012 to 97.5 tons in 2015.” (emphasis added)
The dramatic reduction in air pollution not only in Pennsylvania, but across the United States, has been a boon for public health. Perhaps Dr. Michael Greenstone, an MIT professor of environmental economics, put it best when he said,
“There’s a strong case that people in the U.S. are already leading longer lives as a consequence of the fracking revolution.”
FACT: The myth that end-users of Marcellus gas are being exposed to high levels of radon has been thoroughly debunked. Carnegie Mellon released a report in 2016 that concluded “there is no support” for activists’ claims about cancer risks from radon in Marcellus shale gas.
Both the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Pa. DEP have also debunked this claim:
- N.Y. DEC: Radon levels in Marcellus natural gas are “essentially equal to background values” and “do not indicate an exposure concern for workers or the general public.”
- Pa. DEP: “[T]here is little potential for additional radon exposure to the public due to the use of natural gas extracted from geologic formations located in Pennsylvania.”
FACT: A compressor station is not a refinery. As Penn State Extension explains,
“Compressor stations are an integral part of the natural gas pipeline network that moves natural gas from individual producing well sites to end users. As natural gas moves through a pipeline, distance, friction, and elevation differences slow the movement of the gas, and reduce pressure. Compressor stations are placed strategically within the gathering and transportation pipeline network to help maintain the pressure and flow of gas to market.”
A compressor station’s purpose is literally to keep the gas moving through a pipeline. A refinery is quite different – as a group from Chester County should be well aware, given its proximity to Marcus Hook, where an oil refinery was operational from 1902-2011.
It’s unfortunate that a gubernatorial hopeful would choose to educate himself through an activist network with a clear and long-established “Keep It In the Ground” agenda. But if Ohio is any indicator, the people of the Appalachian Basin can see through the misinformation about an industry that is having tremendous positive economic and environmental impacts on the region.