Appalachian Basin

Why Are We Here Again? Oh Right, Air Quality Plan

This past Tuesday the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)  held a public hearing at Montrose High School regarding an Air Quality Plan Approval Application for a compressor station proposed by Williams. Like most of these hearings, protestors gathered outside the front doors exclaiming how bad hydraulic fracturing and the compressor station are for the environment.  Supporters of the project were also present to take the emotion out of the room and talk about the good experiences they’ve had with the gas companies, including Williams.

The hearing began with Williams talking about the compressor station project and what the air quality plan entailed:

The plan outlines that the compressor station would include three natural gas-fired compressor engines; a solar turbine; an emergency generator; three water storage tanks; three dehydration units to remove water from incoming natural gas; and an enclosed, smokeless and enclosed flare that is used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed compressor station will be part of Williams Field Services’ gathering system in Susquehanna County, which draws natural gas produced from area wells.

After the presentation by Williams residents were given the opportunity to speak and provide testimony.  The interesting thing to note about this public testimony is that a majority of the people testifying were from out of the area, including a few from New York and the Philadelphia area.

The video above shows how most of the evening was dominated by “fracktivists”  from outside the area.  The DEP moderator needed to be stern in an effort to keep the hearing on track and schedule.  Each person was allotted one three-minute opportunity to provide testimony.  As you can see in the video above Frank Finan tries to allot his time to someone else and Rebecca Roter jumps up after she already had her three minutes, as did the woman she’s trying to get back up to the microphone. The DEP moderator had to intervene in an effort to keep order and was called “rude” for trying to maintain the structure of the meeting.

Protesters Outside Montrose High School

Demonstrators outside Montrose High School

The man who gave his testimony following this outburst, Mark Schmerling, traveled from Huntington Valley in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania–over 150 miles away. He says he’s not sure why we were all there, and I had to wonder specifically why he traveled all the way from down by Philadelphia to testify at a Susquehanna County meeting. He then asks if anyone has ever heard of a spill from a solar panel or wind farm. He was reprimanded more than once for bringing posters and photos into the hearing.

Actually, every potential energy source comes with risks. If you’ve been following the ongoing effort to clean-up Solyndra’s plants after their bankruptcy, it’s apparent even solar has its issues, including what to do with the hazardous waste used to make the panels, as you can see in this video.

The Fremont Fire Department’s Jay Swardenski oversees the cleanup. He said some materials, such as cadmium, are toxic, and hard to dispose of.

“They don’t degrade at all, so we want to make sure we don’t allow these materials to get into the environment,” he said.

How do you live with yourself when you know your perpetrating genocide. – hearing attendee

There are people all over that live just as close to compressor stations, if not closer, and have never gotten sick from them. This industrial process has been going on for decades and has not resulted in genocide.  Most concerns from these out-of-towners were about the emissions from compressor stations.  of course, what these out of town visitors wouldn’t understand, or choose to ignore, is that all of the emissions emitted into the air are regulated by the state and federal government under the Clean Air Act and none of these emissions are emitted at levels that will cause a public health impact or exceed levels outlined in state and federal law.

These hearings, a priority of the Clean Air Council out of southeastern Pennsylvania, have simply provided an opportunity for folks from other areas to elicit fear over the emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) emanating from these activities.  The only problem is the local residents living in close proximity to these stations know the truth and won’t buy what the Clean Air Act is selling.  You see, they understand that while compressor stations have emissions, they are regulated by state and federal agencies and don’t exceed standards that would cause concern.

Yes, there are VOC emissions from compressor stations, but there are VOC emissions in many places, at many times, including inside your home.  Don’t take my word for it,  the Minnesota Department of Public Health took a hard look at VOC’s and their prevalence inside our homes and offices.  They found that due to the following products, among others, the levels of VOC’s indoors is generally two to five times higher than the level of VOC’s outdoors. From the Minnesota Department of Health:

Many products we have in our homes release or “off-gas” VOCs. Some examples of sources of VOCs are:

Building Materials

  • Carpets and adhesives
  • Composite wood products
  • Paints
  • Sealing caulks
  • Solvents
  • Upholstery fabrics
  • Varnishes
  • Vinyl Floors

Home and Personal Products Containing VOC’s

  • Air fresheners
  • Air cleaners that produce ozone
  • Cleaning and disinfecting chemicals
  • Fuel oil, gasoline
  • Vehicle exhaust running a car in an attached garage

Vera Scroggins also came out to testify against the air quality plan approval, although she mostly spoke about zoning and dairy farmers that have seen negative effects in their animals.

In Pennsylvania and New York there haven’t been any negative effects on animals. In fact, dairy inspections continue as planned and not a single one has turned over any evidence of animals impacted by natural gas development as these activists have claimed. Examples of these inspections are laid out below.

Dairy is one of the most regulated and inspected industries in agriculture. As part of the regulation process, dairy farms are regularly inspected by both state and federal employees to ensure clean water and to minimize environmental impacts in years to come. These inspections can be unannounced, so farmers must always be ready to show an inspector around their farm and be willing to make the environmental improvements suggested by the inspector. Water and soil samples are commonly taken during these inspections to determine compliance with CAFO permits, and state and federal laws. Protecting natural resources is good for farmers and good for the planet.

In fact, the only study claiming negative impacts to farm animals has been produced by a pair of researchers from Cornell University who themselves admit their study shouldn’t be viewed as science.  With this as background it makes sense that Dr. Ian Rae, the Co-Chair of the United Nations Chemicals, had this to say about the study, “It certainly does not qualify as a scientific paper but is, rather, an advocacy piece that does not involve deep…analysis of the data gathered to support its case.”

William Huston also made an appearance at the hearing and he compared himself to James Bond 007. In his comments, he talked about how Dimock is still poisoned--must have missed the four EPA memos declaring the opposite–and how the natural gas industry is guilty of the highest crimes in America.  Huston’s lack of scientific evidence during the testimony shows he is there for one reason, to evoke emotion and make an entertaining scene for the cameras.

Bill Huston, is from New York, no horizontal natural gas development there.  Now contrast his hyperbolic statements with the statements of local residents like the gentleman below who calmly asserts that the maladies suggested by these out-of-towners is not at all in concert with what is being experienced in these communities.

Its easy for anyone to take a picture of torn up ground and say how bad it is.  I challenge you to come back after development is completed, after DEP has come in and checked everything out.  You dont find all the bad things shown here tonight. – local northeastern Pennsylvania resident

In fact, this resident hosts natural gas development on his land.  For him to come out to this public hearing, speak about his experience, and be supportive of the natural gas industry should show the alarmism being used by these activists is simply out of touch with reality.

Another local northeastern Pennsylvania echoed his neighbors remarks, saying quite rightly, that all forms of energy have drawbacks however societies success to this point has been regulating these drawbacks, limiting their occurrence, and producing energy safely is what has led to our nation’s success.

I realize that we need energy, its a central thing to life. I am a Navy veteran and I am glad I live in a democracy where we can have open forums like this where people can come and air their views. I’m sure we’ll work this out also and I support the gas industry. – local northeastern Pennsylvania resident

In the end, the entire hearing was filled with antis from out of the area and their emotions, however, not everyone was against the proposed project and air quality plan.  The current air quality plan is still being decided on and with any luck the outcome of the plan will be based on science and not the hyperbolic tirades of activists who refuse to accept science.  Stay tuned for an update in the near future.


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