Notable upcoming events and other announcements
The virtual story map is live!
In this special one-day fundraiser event, two intrepid FracTracker teams will build and share a live virtual map as we travel throughout the Ohio River Valley Region documenting oil, gas, and its effects on our health, climate, and environment.
We’ll share our findings to build awareness about the plight of this region—and so many other places victimized by this rogue industry. Plus, viewers will gain a firsthand understanding of how FracTracker turns data into real-world impact.
Proceeds will benefit the ongoing work of FracTracker to decarbonize our economy and promote environmental justice.
Whether you are able to contribute financially at this time or not, we hope you’ll join us on this virtual journey. You’ll see regular video updates along the way as we share our progress, and watch as a story map is updated throughout the day.
Join our team of explorers in spirit and pledge your support! We’re excited to share this journey with you.
This testimony was provided by Shannon Smith, FracTracker Manager of Communications & Development, at the July 23rd hearing on the control of methane & VOC emissions from oil and natural gas sources hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
My name is Shannon Smith and I’m a resident of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. I am the Manager of Communications and Development at the nonprofit organization FracTracker Alliance. FracTracker studies and maps issues related to unconventional oil and gas development, and we have been a top source of information on these topics since 2010. Last year alone, FracTracker’s website received over 260,000 users. FracTracker, the project, was originally developed to investigate health concerns and data gaps surrounding Western Pennsylvania fracking.
I would like to address the proposed rule to reduce emissions of methane and other harmful air pollution, such as smog-forming volatile organic compounds, which I will refer to as VOCs, from existing oil and gas operations. I thank the DEP for the opportunity to address this important issue.
The proposed rule will protect Pennsylvanians from methane and harmful VOCs from oil and gas sources, but to a limited extent. The proposed rule does not adequately protect our air, climate, nor public health, because it includes loopholes that would leave over half of all potential cuts to methane and VOC pollution from the industry unchecked.
Emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane and VOC pollution harm communities by contributing to the climate crisis, endangering households and workers through explosions and fires, and causing serious health impairments. Poor air quality also contributes to the economic drain of Pennsylvania’s communities due to increased health care costs, lower property values, a declining tax base, and difficulty in attracting and retaining businesses.
Oil and gas related air pollution has known human health impacts including impairment of the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, leukemia, depression, and genetic impacts like low birth weight.
One indirect impact especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, is the increased incidence and severity of respiratory viral infections in populations living in areas with poor air quality, as indicated by a number of studies.
Given the available data, FracTracker Alliance estimates that there are 106,224 oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. Out of the 12,574 drilled unconventional wells, there have been 15,164 cited violations. Undoubtedly the number of violations would be higher with stricter monitoring.
There is a need for more stringent environmental regulations and enforcement, and efforts to do so should be applauded only if they adequately respond to the scientific evidence regarding risks to public health. These measures are only successful if there is long-term predictability that will ultimately drive investments in clean energy technologies. Emission rollbacks undermine decades of efforts to shift industries towards cleaner practices. So, I urge the DEP to close the loophole in the proposed rulemaking that exempts low-producing wells from the rule’s leak inspection requirements. Low-producing wells are responsible for more than half of the methane pollution from oil and gas sources in Pennsylvania, and all wells, regardless of production, require routine inspections.
I also ask that the Department eliminate the provision that allows operators to reduce the frequency of inspections based on the results of previous inspections. Research does not show that the quantity of leaking components from oil and gas sources indicates or predicts the frequency or quantity of future leaks.
In fact, large and uncontrolled leaks are random and can only be detected with frequent and regular inspections. Short-term peaks of air pollution due to oil and gas activities are common and can cause health impairments in a matter of minutes, especially in sensitive populations such as people with asthma, children, and the elderly. I urge the Department to close loopholes that would exempt certain wells from leak detection and repair requirements, and ensure that this proposal includes requirements for all emission sources covered in DEP’s already adopted standards for new oil and gas sources.
Furthermore, conventional operators should have to report their emissions, and the Department should require air monitoring technologies that have the capacity to detect peaks rather than simply averages. We need adequate data in order to properly enforce regulations and meet Pennsylvania’s climate goals of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
Pine Creek compressor station FLIR camera footage by Earthworks (May 2019).
In the summer of 2019, FracTracker began work on a bold strategic plan. With the organization’s last formal plan dating to 2013, the effort was long overdue.
Consultations, stakeholder surveys, and scans of issues and trends fed a rigorous, facilitated retreat. More conversations followed, accompanying iterative drafting, until a comprehensive and detailed plan emerged.
Meanwhile the world didn’t stop and wait. A pandemic wreaked havoc. The fossil fuel industry reeled. Demands for equality and justice reigned. The planning proceeded, mindful of these realities.
The strategic plan explores programs and projects; technology; communications; fundraising; safety and wellness; training and capacity; diversity, equity, and inclusion; administration and human resources; and, of course, monitoring and evaluation.
We identify four key programmatic goals:
These goals, and a thorough enumeration of objectives and tasks, are guided by ten principles:
Together, they reinforce the aspirations of our new mission statement:
FracTracker Alliance maps, analyzes, and communicates the risks of oil, gas, and petrochemical development to advance just energy alternatives that protect public health, natural resources, and the climate.
The plan underscores our imperative to partner with groups that seek solutions through regulatory, legal, and legislative action and have our work contribute to the urgent collective effort to equitably decarbonize economies. It is a roadmap, providing focus, but flexibility to remain nimble and responsive to ever-changing threats. We look forward to advancing the activities contained herein, measuring our progress, and most importantly, using our tools to expeditiously create a healthy energy paradigm. Please join us on this journey, and consider helping FracTracker to advance our work through your financial support.
By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance
The team at FracTracker Alliance is honored and humbled to accept the 2020 Jean and Leslie Douglas Pearl Award from the Cornell Douglas Foundation. This award reflects the Foundation’s mission to provide support to organizations like FracTracker that advocate for environmental health, justice, and sustainability.
We accept this award alongside two illustrious organizations: the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (CREEJ), which seeks to address the root causes of poverty by seeking sustainable solutions, and Earthworks, which is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions.
Since 2013, the award has recognized the work of other esteemed individuals and groups such as Marc Edwards of the Flint Water Study Team; Raina Ripple, who is a founder of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project; SkyTruth; and many more.
“The Jean and Leslie Douglas Pearl Award is given to organizations and to individuals who are dedicated to improving the lives of others and to providing a sustainable earth for future generations. Despite challenges which often confront the recipients, they are committed to act as catalysts for positive change, and determined to promote the rights of individuals to live in a world with clean water, air, and sustainable land. The Cornell Douglas Foundation applauds their unique vision, tenacity, and extraordinary accomplishments.”
A pearl is a piece of sand that gets embedded on the inside shell of a mollusk. It creates a blister. The animal has to process this intrusion by secreting enzymes, and over time, the grain of sand becomes a pearl. Distinct from metamorphosis, where a butterfly emerges from a cocoon suddenly and magically, the pearl is conceived first in pain, laboriously worked on, and results unexpectedly in a jewel.
We are grateful for the recognition of our hard work over the years. It is truly a labor of love, for the earth and those who reside on it. Looking forward, we are reinvigorated to work alongside our partners and fellow environmental stewards in the fight for a more sustainable energy landscape, economy, and future. In all we do, FracTracker believes that the actions of informed citizens have the power to shape a better world.
The FracTracker team extends our deepest gratitude to the Cornell Douglas Foundation for this valuable support to our organization’s work. May our work continue to reflect the honorable intentions of the Jean and Leslie Douglas Pearl Award.
This paid fellowship will provide a graduate student in Western Pennsylvania with the opportunity to deepen their academic understanding of environmental issues affecting the heavily-fracked region around Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The fellow will work in close collaboration with FracTracker’s expert team and with their academic advisor.
This position was developed in partnership with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and The Heinz Endowments.
Title: FracTracker Alliance Environmental Health Fellow
Eligibility: Current graduate students
Fellowship Period: 12 weeks (6/1/20 – 8/21/20)
Application Deadline: April 3rd, 2020
Compensation: $15/hour, 37.5 hours per week
The environmental health fellow will perform research and geo-spatial data collection, processing, and analysis with a focus on environmental health issues associated with oil, gas, and petrochemical development. Specific projects and research interests will be identified by the fellow in consultation with FracTracker staff and the fellow’s graduate program advisor. While multiple projects might be undertaken, a signature capstone project and blog post on www.fractracker.org will be the primary foci of the experience.
This position is not eligible for health benefits, but approved travel expenses for relevant research, meetings, and fieldwork will be reimbursed. Fellows will work out of the Pittsburgh FracTracker office.
The responsibilities of the fellow will revolve around their capstone project. They may also be asked to assist with daily work and time sensitive projects of the organization. Responsibilities will vary, but may include:
This fellowship is dedicated to current graduate students in Western Pennsylvania only. The candidate should possess the following qualifications:
Completed studies in environmental or public health, environmental science, environmental policy or environmental law, environmental engineering, chemistry, biology, economics, marketing, or nonprofit management are desired, but not mandatory.
To apply, please fill out the form below. The application deadline is Friday, April 3rd at 5pm.
Selected candidates will be contacted for an interview with FracTracker staff members. First-round interviews will take place between April 13th – April 24th.
Once the fellow has been selected, all first-round candidates will be notified regarding the result of their application by April 10th.
Second-round interviews will take place between May 4th – May 15th, with the final candidate being selected by May 20th at the latest. All first-round candidates will be notified regarding the result of their application at that time.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Shannon Smith at email@example.com.
FracTracker is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities without regard to race, creed, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, citizenship status, age, veteran status, or disability.
You must click the “submit” button in order for us to receive your application!
Learn more about FracTracker’s fellowships, internships, and visiting scholar program here.
There are many courageous and determined individuals to be grateful for within the environmental movement. At the 2019 Community Sentinel Awards for Environmental Stewardship, we were graced with the presence of many such leaders, and celebrated four in particular as this year’s award winners. From those fighting LNG export terminals on the West Coast, to those resisting fracking expansion in the Marcellus Shale and other formations, to those shutting down petrochemical expansion in the Gulf Coast – thank you, Sentinels.
The 2019 reception and ceremony coincided with the oil and gas industry’s three-day Shale Insight Conference. The fighters and victims of dirty energy and petrochemical development were recognized as we opposed the nearby perpetrators of these harms. The event featured the keynote speaker Andrey Rudomakha, Director of Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, and inspirational emcee David Braun of Rootskeeper.
You can watch the full 2019 Awards Reception here:
Mr. Gulla knows the industry well, having worked as an equipment supplier for various oil and gas operations. Like so many, he believed the industry crusade that touted energy independence and its promise of becoming a “shalionaire.”
Four unconventional gas wells were installed on Mr. Gulla’s property from 2005 to 2008. As a result, his water source and soil were contaminated, as well as a nearby stream and pond. He immediately began speaking out about his experiences and warning people of the potential dangers of fracking. Soon, people from all over the state were reaching out to him to share their stories.
Mr. Gulla became a central figure in informing and connecting people who were desperately looking for help. He has documented individuals’ stories for health studies and appropriate regulatory agencies, testified in front of the PA Department of Health and other official bodies, and he was instrumental in organizing letter campaigns with other affected landowners addressed to local district attorneys. These efforts resulted in a statewide investigation into many of these cases. He also has coordinated with local, state, and national news agencies to expose these critical issues.
Mr. Gulla proactively engaged the media and brought like-minded people together to tell their stories. Without his relentless efforts, much of the progress made in exposing the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania would not have been possible.
Ms. Sharon Lavigne lives in the epicenter of the oil, gas, and petrochemical facilities in Louisiana. She is the founder of RISE St. James, a faith-based environmental and social justice organization dedicated to protecting St. James Parish from these toxic, cancer- causing industries. Her work is a matter of life or death — the 20 acres of land that Ms. Lavigne inherited from her grandfather is dead center of what is known today as “Cancer Alley.”
The 4th and 5th Districts of St. James Parish are majority Black neighborhoods, and they were the only districts to be covertly rezoned from residential to “residential/future industrial.” The environmental racism could not be more pronounced. Ms. Lavigne is fighting to protect the health of all residents living along the 85-mile long Cancer Alley, from those in New Orleans to those in Baton Rouge. Industry and elected officials are intent on wiping historic Black communities off the map, but with Ms. Lavigne’s leadership, residents are rising up to protect their health, their home, and their future.
At the heart of Ms. Lavigne’s work with RISE St. James is the demand for a moratorium on oil, gas, and petrochemical industry in St. James Parish. The district where Sharon lives has 2,822 people and 12 petrochemical plants — one plant for every 235 residents. Despite these staggering ratios, Formosa Plastics is trying to build a 14-plant petrochemical complex less than two miles from Ms. Lavigne’s home.
After working tirelessly over the last year to educate and mobilize other residents, Ms. Lavigne and RISE St. James members recently celebrated their biggest victory yet: blocking a $1.5B Wanhua petrochemical plant from moving into St. James Parish and operating within a mile of residents’ homes. In Ms. Lavigne’s words, “This is our land, this is our home, and we are standing up together to defend it. St. James is rising.”
Ms. Allie Rosenbluth is a dedicated community activist who has spent years coordinating a huge grassroots rural coalition opposing Pembina’s proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal and Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline in southern Oregon. She also recently traveled to Poland as a COP 24 delegate with SustainUS, a youth-led justice and sustainability advocacy group.
For over a decade, the Jordan Cove LNG project has been threatening southern Oregonians with the prospect of a 36-inch pipeline stretching across four rural counties, 229 miles, and over 180 state waterways, ending in a massive methane liquefaction and export terminal in Coos Bay. Ms. Rosenbluth has worked incredibly hard to ensure that all those opposed to the project gets a chance to speak with their elected representatives about the project and make their voice heard in local, state, and federal permitting processes. She has coordinated efforts to generate tens of thousands of comments in state and federal agency comment periods to review the various environmental impacts of the project. This turnout has surpassed public participation records in such permitting processes.
Ms. Rosenbluth’s efforts helped lead to a May 2019 denial from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on a Clean Water Act permit needed to build the project, underlining the importance of state authority to defend water quality under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which the Trump Administration was simultaneously trying to weaken. She also helped mobilize over 3,000 rural Oregonians to attend four public hearings on the State Lands review of the project. Ms. Rosenbluth’s masterful coalition-building has helped unify people of all political persuasions, races, and ethnicities across the state to unify their opposition to fracked gas infrastructure in Oregon.
Ms. Troutman’s Public Herald publications have seen widespread coverage. Her work has been referenced in the books Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza Griswald; Legal Rights for Rivers: Competition, Collaboration and Water Governance by Erin O’Donnell; and Sustainability and the Rights of Nature: An Introduction by Cameron La Follette and Chris Maser. Her work has been cited in over 20 academic studies to date. Furthermore, Ms. Troutman has produced three award-winning documentary films on fracking: Triple Divide (2013), TRIPLE DIVIDE [REDACTED] (2017), and INVISIBLE HAND (2019). Her films continue to play an important role in the narrative surrounding fracking and democracy.
In 2017, Ms. Troutman uncovered that 9,442 complaints related to oil and gas operations were never made public by the state. Her analysis of drinking water complaints revealed official misconduct by state officials that left families without clean water for months, even years. Consequently, Public Herald called for a criminal and civil investigation of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection. In 2018, Ms. Troutman’s reporting on an untested fracking wastewater treatment facility at the headwaters of the Allegheny River was used by the Seneca Nation of Indians to shut down the project.
Ms. Troutman’s tireless efforts are an inspiration to the environmental movement in Pennsylvania, across the country, and beyond.
On March 25, 2019, Bill Hughes of Wetzel County, West Virginia, passed away at age 74. Mr. Hughes, an environmental defender extraordinaire and former FracTracker colleague, served on the County solid waste authority, where he consistently pushed back on accepting the radioactive waste of the fracking industry. For nearly a decade, Mr. Hughes documented and disseminated photographic evidence of the activities and effects of shale gas development, and in turn educated thousands of people on the negative impacts of this industry. Mr. Hughes also shared information via gas field tours, PowerPoint presentations to groups in five states, op-ed pieces written for news media, and countless responses to questions and inquiries.
His legacy lives through the multitude of lives he enriched – from students, to activists, to everyday people. Bill was an omnipresent force for good, always armed with facts and a pervasive smile.
April Pierson-Keating of Buckhannon, West Virginia, passed away on September 28, 2019, at age 52. Mrs. Pierson-Keating was the founder and director of Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, and a founding member of Preserve Our Water Heritage and Rights (POWHR). She was a board member of the Buckhannon River Watershed Association, the cancer research group ICARE, and the WV Environmental Council, and she was also a member of the Sierra Club, the WV Highlands Conservancy, and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). When one met Mrs. Pierson-Keating, one could not help noticing and absorbing her passion for environmental preservation.
Mrs. Pierson-Keating received the Buckhannon BEST Award on May 14, 2019 in recognition of her commitment. Mayor David McCauley stated: “Mrs. Keating is a supreme protector of our environment. She is a lobbyist for clean water at both our state and federal governments, a participant in Buckhannon’s Community Unity & Kindness Day, the Equality March, the Science March, and other awareness activities… April Keating has helped us all in our B-U community to be happier and healthier in many ways.”
Ricky Allen Roles passed away at age 61 at his ranch in Silt, Colorado, on November 22, 2018. Mr. Roles was an adamant anti-fracking activist and spent many years fighting for safer oil and gas drilling and fracking regulations. He tirelessly fought to protect our earth’s sacred water and soil for the health and wellness of all living creatures. He is featured in books such as Fractivism and Collateral Damage, and documentaries including the Emmy Award winning film Split Estate and Oscar-nominated and Emmy-Award winning Gasland. He also bravely testified before Colorado’s Congress on the dangers of fracking.
Mr. Roles shared how his and his livestock’s health precipitously declined with the drilling of 19 wells on his property. He experienced respiratory, immune, and nervous system problems. Despite his health problems,
he strove to create awareness of the harmful impacts of fracking in his community and beyond. With those publications, his voice, beliefs and legacy will be heard forever.
John A. Trallo, Sr., 67, of Sonestown, Pennsylvania passed away on August 13, 2019. Mr. Trallo was a dedicated environmental activist who contributed to several groups working on pressing environmental issues such as hydraulic fracturing. He was a brilliant man who earned three college degrees and a teaching certificates in two states. He asked hard questions and was adamant in keeping government officials accountable. Some of the groups he was involved with were: Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA), Shale Justice, The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), PA Community Rights Network, and Organizations United for the Environment. Mr. Trallo left this planet a better place for future generations, and we honor his spirit by continuously working towards his noble vision.
Sponsors and Partners
The Sentinels’ program and reception requires financial support – for monetary awards, awardee travel, and many
other costs. As such, each year we call upon dedicated sponsors and partners for resources to enable this endeavor to continue. The daily, often-thankless jobs of Community Sentinels working to protecting our health and the environment deserve no less. Thank you to this year’s incredible award sponsors: The Heinz Endowments, 11th Hour Project, Center for Coalfield Justice, and Foundation for PA Watersheds.
We extend a big thank you to the following award partners: Viable Industries, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oxfam, Rootskeeper, Food & Water Watch, STAND.earth, Halt the Harm Network, Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Choose Clean Water Coalition, Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community, Mountain Watershed Association, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, Earthworks, and FracTracker Alliance.
The following 18 people were nominated by their peers to receive this distinguished award:
* Denotes 2018 award recipient
Many thanks to the following judges for giving their time to review all of the nominations.
Job Title: Data and GIS Intern
Internship Period: February 17, 2020 – May 17, 2020, three months
Application Deadline: November 15, 2019
Compensation: $12/hour, 10 hours per week
Locations: Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, OH; Oakland, CA
The application period for this position has closed.
Job Title: Data and GIS Intern
FracTracker internships are dedicated to current college and graduate students, as well as recent grads. Applicants should enjoy working with datasets, visualizations, and maps as well as analyzing and writing about oil, gas, and petrochemical issues. FracTracker is offering three paid internships from February 17 through April 17, 2020 based in the following offices: Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, OH; and Oakland, CA. The positions in Cleveland and Oakland will be up to 75% remote. See where we work.
Please select which of the three offices you are interested in working out of when applying online:
Learn more about FracTracker’s internship program and explore the work past intern projects.
The responsibilities of paid interns revolve around the daily work of the other FracTracker staff, time-sensitive projects, and the interns’ own areas of interests. Responsibilities will vary, but may include:
Working knowledge of: Geographic information systems (GIS) and Microsoft Office products (especially Word and Excel).
Ability to: Assist with researching spatial data availability from internal and external sources; collect, assimilate, analyze, and interpret data and draw sound conclusions; prepare oral and written reports.
Enrollment in or recent graduation from an accredited college or university is required. Majors can include geography, computer science, environmental science, public health, planning or a related field.
To apply for one of our spring 2019 internships, please submit the following materials by Friday, November 15, 2019 through the online application form below: cover letter, resume, and three references. Applications are not accepted via email, but you may address questions to Shannon Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The application period for this position has closed.
Deadline to apply: November 15, 2019 at 5:00pm EST.
After November 15th, applicants will be contacted regardless of whether or not an interview is sought by us. Interviews will be conducted during the period of November 20 – December 4th, and a decision made by December 18th.
About FracTracker Alliance
FracTracker Alliance studies, maps, and communicates the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation. Learn more about FracTracker Alliance at www.fractracker.org.
Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Community Sentinel Award for Environmental Stewardship! After being nominated by peers this summer, recipients were selected by a committee of five community defense leaders and environmental champions from around the country.
Read brief descriptions of these inspiring individuals below, and make sure to register to reserve your seat at the Sentinel Award reception and ceremony, where we invite you to join us in honoring the awardees’ courageous environmental stewardship. This event will take place on October 22nd, 2019 at the Beaver Station Cultural & Event Center. The 2019 Community Sentinel Award for Environmental Stewardship winners are, in alphabetical order:
Ron Gulla, a former employee of the oil and gas industry who has been raising awareness around fracking’s destructive impacts on soil and water resources since he experienced them firsthand on his property in Pennsylvania;
Sharon Lavigne, the founder of RISE St. James, a faith-based environmental and social justice organization dedicated to protecting St. James Parish, Louisiana from the toxic, cancer-causing petrochemical industry;
Allie Rosenbluth, a dedicated community activist who has spent years coordinating a huge grassroots rural coalition opposing Pembina’s proposed Jordan Cove liquified natural gas export terminal and Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline in Southern Oregon; and
Melissa Troutman, a film director and investigative journalist whose extensive work has changed the landscape and narrative on fracking, influenced policy, and inspired countless individuals to take action in their own communities.
We are also honored to recognize the following two individuals posthumously for the Legacy of Heroes award:
Bill Hughes, an activist who experienced many detrimental effects of fracking in his home of Wetzel County, West Virginia, and who responded by educating thousands of people on the harms of the oil and gas industry; and
Ricky Allen Roles, an inspiring individual who spoke out against the myriad of health impacts that he experienced as a result of 19 fracked wells on his property in Colorado.
You can find more details on the Sentinel Award ceremony and register by clicking the button below.
Photographs in the heading of this post, clockwise from top left are from: SustainUS, UU Ministry for Earth, Public Herald, and Hope For Peace.