Notable upcoming events and other announcements

SkyTruth Aggregates FracFocus Data

Among the many provisions under Act 13, Pennsylvania oil and gas operators now must join several other states by disclosing some generalized information about chemical additives to wells that undergo hydraulic fracturing to a national registry called FracFocus.org. On their main page, FracFocus describes their role in the following manner:

In a single year, FracFocus has made a national impact from the Beltway to the Bakken. During this time, more than 200 energy-producing companies have registered over 15,000 well sites through FracFocus.

This success is the result of nationally recognized organizations working with the oil and natural gas industry to provide public transparency. Learn more and see highlights from the first year of FracFocus.

However, there are strong differences of opinion on what transparency really means.  Does it entail specific data about a well, general information about all the wells, or both?  The chemical registry is focused on specifics about individual wells, and although the data is easily accessible for them, they don’t offer data downloads for users interested in a wider scope.  Whether this amounts to data transparency has everything to do with the lens that one looks through.

Let’s say, for example, that you already know a bit about a given well.  As a random example, let’s use API# 37-131-20104, a well operated by Chesapeake in Wyoming County, PA.  When we conduct a search, we are given the opportunity to download a PDF where we can learn a great deal about the well that is not available from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) data download section. We learn, for example, that the well was fractured on May 8, 2012 using over 1.3 million gallons of water, as well as the maximum amounts used of chemical additives the hydraulic fracturing fluid, and why they were added to the mix.

Objectively, that is a large step forward in transparency, as this information was not available before.   But what if your questions about the industry are broader?  You may want to know, for example, if some operators are putting diesel fuel into the hydraulic fracturing fluid, or whether some anti-bacterial agents are more prominent in certain geographies than others.  You might want to do a comparison on which companies claim data to be proprietary, relative to the industry as a whole, or whether there is any correlation between particularly noxious chemical additives and well production.  To answer questions like these, you just need a summary of the data that FracFocus already offers.  But unfortunately, FracFocus will not provide this aggregated data.

To help address questions such as these, SkyTruth.org has extracted the data from the PDF documents using a combination of automated and manual techniques, and have made the results available to FracTracker and the general public.  The result is a major step forward in data transparency; even before the chemical data have been picked through and combed over, there are still several new types of data that the general public didn’t have access to before.

FracFocus Data Available for Mapping
SkyTruth’s efforts have allowed us to map FracFocus data. Click on the map above to explore.

The data include over 26,000 records from FracFocus since January 1, 2011 from twenty different states around the country. Now it is possible for people other than industry insiders to learn about variables not provided by the various states, including depth of target formation, fracturing dates, amounts of water used. There is also a separate dataset including all listed chemicals at each well, which comes in at well over 800,000 records for the 21 months of the report.

Of course, users must remain mindful that this is not, in fact, a completely comprehensive dataset.  While several states have recently required disclosure of the chemical additives, in remains a voluntary disclosure in other locations.  Some of the chemicals are listed in the abstract, but marked as proprietary, which naturally limits our understanding of what was put into the well.  And as with other large datasets of this sort, it is likely that there are a significant number of omissions and errors.

At FracTracker, we’d like to extend our gratitude to both FracFocus for collecting the data and making it public, and to SkyTruth, for aggregating it and making it more usable.  In our view, both of these steps are critical for true data transparency.  This transparency, in turn, is indispensable for making an enhanced understanding of the oil and gas industry possible.

Fall Media Tours

Event Notice: FracTracker Alliance would like to invite members of the media to participate in one of our media tours scheduled for the fall of 2012 in northeastern Pennsylvania. These tours are made possible through the support of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and the William Penn Foundation.

As part of our mission to educate and inform the public about shale gas issues, these tours are designed to highlight specific lesser-known impacts of the drilling industry and familiarize reporters and journalists about the work of FracTracker Alliance and our website’s mapping and data capabilities.

The first tour occurred on Thursday, October 25th and addressed forest and wildlife considerations in Loyalsock State Forest. This event included a driving tour with guest speakers: Ephraim Zimmerman (Western PA Conservancy), Paul Zeph (Audubon), Dick Martin (PA Forest Coalition), Curt Ashenfelter (Keystone Trails Association) and Mark Szybist  (PennFuture). A follow up to that media tour will be posted on FracTracker soon, but in the meantime check out the photos below:

Note these dates and topics for the next two fall tours:

  • Friday, November 16 – New perspectives on water quality impacts
  • Thursday, November 29 – Challenges to agriculture

There is a $10 fee (check made payable to the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies) if you would like us to provide you with a bagged lunch for future tours. Otherwise the events are free, including transportation by van during the tour, but registration is required. Please email Samantha Malone to save your seat on the next trip: malone@fractracker.org.

Additionally, starting in November 2012, we will be distributing a bi-weekly e-newsletter specifically designed for the media featuring grassroots stories, maps, and data that may be of use in writing your own articles. Sign up to receive the e-newsletter below:

Subscribe to our media mailing list

* indicates required

 

Email Format

 

The Changes that Autumn Brings

by Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

FracTracker Alliance Logo

New Logo

FracTracker continues to evolve to meet the growing demands of a nation – and world – confronted with unconventional gas and oil drilling and the accompanying challenges. The summer of 2012 has been a busy one, and while it’s officially ended, it heralded several new beginnings for FracTracker.org.

FracTracker has incorporated and filed for nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service.  The organization’s name is the FracTracker Alliance. The word alliance was chosen because it illustrates that we are ‘allied’ in a ceaseless quest with others to obtain, analyze, map, and share insightful and objective information relating to every facet of shale gas activity.  While we appreciate the strong foundation that the University of Pittsburgh provided us, we’re now an independent entity and hope to thrive in service of a public that can benefit from the resources we provide. This change wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation and affirmation of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies who is our administrative host or, for the legal junkies, our supported organization. Nor would it have been achievable without the faith and financial support of the Heinz Endowments, an ongoing champion of FracTracker.

A strong organization needs a strong Board of Directors, and we have a winning lineup. John Dawes, Executive Director of the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, serves as our President. Mike Kane, President of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies is our first Treasurer. From the gas fields of Colorado, we’ve recruited Judy Jordan to be Secretary, a private consultant with a wealth of experience on shale gas issues and non-profit management. (Update: May 1, 2013 – Judy Jordan no longer serves on our Board of Directors.) Two accomplished researchers, Dr. Ben Stout of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia and Dr. Sara Wylie of Northeastern University in Boston add additional expertise to the inaugural board. Last, but not least, Caren Glotfelty, Director of the Environment Program for the Heinz Endowments, shares her pervasive wisdom as an ex-officio board member.

Accompanying the new board is a new staff – well, sort of. Matt Kelso and Samantha Malone, two stalwarts of FracTracker operations at the University of Pittsburgh have officially moved to the FracTracker Alliance. We’re lucky to have them. Matt is the Manager of Data and Technology, while Sam serves as the Manager of Science and Communications. Karen Edelstein, our multi-skilled liaison representing FracTracker on a contractual basis in New York is now our part-time Program Coordinator in the empire state.  To the west, talented Ted Auch, a soil scientist from Cleveland, joins the team on October 1 as our Program Coordinator in Ohio. I have the pleasure of working with all of them in my capacity as Executive Director. Of course, we all need a place to work, so we have four offices – in Camp Hill, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Ithaca, NY; and, Warren, OH – from which to serve you.

Our expanding presence outside of Pennsylvania is largely attributable to two new funding partners. The George Gund Foundation and Park Foundation are supporting our activities in Ohio and New York, respectively, and we are very appreciative.

We’re also very excited about the new mapping platform built on Esri technology and described more completely in this separate story. Amongst other benefits, the mapping tool will simplify visualization of the most commonly requested data, initially for Pennsylvania and adjacent states, and eventually other shale gas basins. I think you’re really going to like it!

So autumn has ushered in many changes at FracTracker, but rather than cooling down, things are warming up. Perhaps it is the pace of the work or just the good feeling one gets from collaborating with great people and brave, committed organizations day-to-day. Whatever the cause, know that FracTracker – now FracTracker Alliance – is ramping up capacity to be a more timely and powerful resource… for you.

Unveiling FracMapper, FracTracker’s new mapping system!

Transition to FracMapper

These are exciting times for those of us at FracTracker – now officially the FracTracker Alliance. One of the many changes that we have been working on over the last few months is a new mapping utility for website visitors who want an easy-to-use point and click tool – what we are affectionately calling FracMapper.

FracMapper runs on an Esri-based platform called ArcGIS Online. As those in the GIS world may know, Esri is the largest company in the world that specializes in helping people make maps with GIS technologies. You don’t need to be registered to use FracMapper, although we do highly encourage you to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, which keeps recipients up-to-date with FracTracker news and information about shale gas.

There are a lot intuitive features available on the new tool as of today’s launch. See the list below for just a few of them. We are also in the process of developing a few more features, including the ability to store and share the data behind the maps. All of this is coming to you this fall as we slowly phase out our existing data/mapping platform (Data.FracTracker.org).

Current FracMapper Features

  • Maps by state: PA, WV, OH, NY, etc. and US-wide
  • Layers as available by state (permits, violations, drilled wells, etc)
  • Search by location
  • Save a location and return to it later
  • Choose which layers you want to show on the map
  • View/hide the legend
  • Zoom or pan the map
  • Variety of base maps available
  • Click on a point or area for more information
  • Read text and brief metadata in the “About” section
  • Scale bar
  • Distance, area, and location measurement tools
  • File downloads
    • Shape file (polygon/lines)
    • CSV – comma-separated values files (points)
  • And many more…

Features in Development

  • Map exporting and printing (added February 2013)
  • Data search (e.g. by permit number)
  • Sticky notes
  • Clip and ship – Will allow for a targeted download of data from a self-designated an area of interest (e.g. Allegheny County)
  • Charting, including within the popup boxes
  • Data storage
  • Additional states, countries, and map layers

Don’t worry! The data focus of FracTracker.org is only going to grow with the implementation of FracMapper. We are designing the new platform to include the capacity to store and share your data. We are hoping to roll out that feature by spring 2013. Contact us with questions: Info@FracTracker.org.

[survey form below closed]

2012 Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction Conference

Archived

This article has been archived and is provided for reference purposes only.

Registration Open

Registration is now open for the 2012 Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction Conference being hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health on November 9, 2012 in Pittsburgh, PA. The process is entirely online this year. Click here to register through the PA Public Health Training Center’s (PAPHTC) website. Registrants must sign up for a user name and password through PAPHTC before registration can be completed.

Speakers

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dan Bain, PhD — Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Geology and Planetary Science
  • Michelle Bamberger, MS, DVM — Veterinarian, Vet Behavior Consults
  • David Brown, ScD — Environmental Health Consultant, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project
  • Donald S. Burke, MD — Dean, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
  • Leonard Casson, PhD, PE, BCEE — Associate Professor/Academic Coordinator, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering; Secondary Appointment – Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Graduate School of Public Health
  • Jeffrey Dick, PhD — Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Youngstown State University
  • Alexandra Hakala, PhD — Geochemist, National Energy Technology Laboratory, Geosciences Division, Office of Research and Development
  • Elaine Hill — Doctorate student, Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Jill Kriesky, PhD — Senior Project Coordinator, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health Department, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities
  • Brook Lenker, MA — Director, FracTracker Alliance
  • Robert Oswald, PhD — Professor of Pharmacology, Department of Molecular Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University
  • Radisav Vidic, PhD — Professor of Environmental Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh

Academic Posters

To support the educational and professional development of students and young professionals in this field, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is offering 15-20 complimentary posterboard spaces for this year’s shale gas conference. The recipients will be selected by the conference coordinating committee, and each accepted applicant will present during both of the scheduled conference poster sessions on November 9th. Those selected to present their posters are also eligible for one of two monetary awards of $50, which will be presented at the conclusion of the day-long conference. More information

Learn more on the conference website: shalegas.pitt.edu

Request for Papers:  Special Issue of the ASCE Journal of Environmental Engineering

Topic: Environmental Aspects of Shale Gas Development

Submission Deadline:  September 30, 2012

Guest Editors:
Jeanne VanBriesen, Carnegie Mellon University
Michel Boufadel, Temple University

Unconventional gas in tight shales like the Barnett, the Marcellus, and the Eagle Ford formations is changing the view of domestic natural gas supply. Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing has opened up new resources, but also opens new debates on the impacts of extraction technologies on water and air resources. Environmental engineers are leading technology developments in green completions, as well as investigating the effects of drilling on water and air quality.

ASCE is pleased to announce a special issue of the Journal of Environmental Engineering broadly encompassing the following aspects: Water resources and allocation, migration of fluids (liquids and gases) in aquifers and waterways, produced water treatment, and air quality.

Prospective authors are requested to prepare manuscripts according to the guidelines published at Journal of Environmental Engineering. Submission of a manuscript for the special issue does not guarantee publication. Manuscripts will be subject to the same peer-review process for all manuscripts published in the Journal of Environmental Engineering. Submit articles to editorial manager.

A detailed timeline for publication of the special issue is given below:

Schedule

Submission deadline: September 30, 2012
First round of reviews: December 30, 2012
Final decision: February 28, 2013
Accepted manuscripts due: March 30, 2013
Publication: Late 2013/Early 2014

Prospective authors for the special issue should address cover letters to Special Issues Editor Dionysios (Dion) D. Dionysiou. If you have questions regarding this special issue, please contact Jeanne VanBriesen or Michel Boufadel.

Trail Logbook Project

Collaborative Trail Logbook – Reporting Gas Industry Impacts on PA Trail Experiences

(Harrisburg) – FracTracker.org and the Keystone Trails Association are proud to launch Trail Logbook: Reporting Gas Industry Impacts on Pennsylvania Trail Experiences – an effort to collect information from hikers and other trail users who have had negative or hazardous encounters while recreating in PA.

“Throughout the Marcellus Shale region, more and more we’re hearing of problems from our constituents,” said Curt Ashenfelter, Executive Director of the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) – a volunteer-directed, public service organization dedicated to providing, preserving, protecting and promoting recreational hiking trails and hiking opportunities in PA. “Pennsylvania hikers are concerned about the effect of drilling and want to play a role in monitoring the impact of this industry on PA’s forests and hiking trails.

With a simple-to-use form – available online and as a mail-in postcard – data on a variety of trail impacts related to shale gas drilling activities will be uploaded to FracTracker.org, a website providing a common portal to share data, photos, maps, and information related to the issues corollary to the shale gas industry. Photos of reported impacts can also be submitted.

“We’re pleased to be a partner in this grassroots endeavor to aggregate what have to date been mostly anecdotal but often alarming reports from our state’s extraordinary network of trails,” said Brook Lenker, Director of FracTracker. “We hope the information gathered helps to clarify the nature of the impacts and leads to sustainable solutions.”

“With over 3,000 miles of hiking trails in Pennsylvania and tourism being the Commonwealth’s 2nd largest industry, it’s critical to expose and address recurring problems caused by gas drilling activities, “ Ashenfelter added. “With a quick feedback loop like FracTracker, we can report problems to the appropriate agencies and gas drilling companies and seek remediation quickly.”

For more information on the Trail Logbook project, contact:

To  see the Trail Logbook submission page or to submit data, visit: https://www.fractracker.org/logbook. If you would prefer to print out the logbook and mail it in, click here.

###

Shale gas plays with Utica in blue

Stepping into the Utica Shale

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH

I recently had the honor of presenting to a well-informed and concerned audience of residents, media, academics, non-profits, and industry personnel in the town of Alliance in Northeastern Ohio. The reason I was asked to participate in this public meeting was to provide some insight into how drilling has progressed in Pennsylvania from a public health perspective. While Ohio doesn’t really have much Marcellus Shale activity, the industry has been ramping up their efforts in the Utica Shale, which is situated approximately 6,500 feet beneath Alliance and below the Marcellus formation. See the map below of all known U.S. shale plays; the Utica has been shaded blue.

Shale gas plays with Utica in blue

Shale gas plays in continental U.S., with Utica in blue

Also on the agenda that evening were two experts in their fields: Dr. Jeffrey Dick, Chair of the Geology and Environmental Science department at Youngstown State University, who spoke about the hydraulic fracturing process and the available research regarding its impacts from a geological and hydrological perspective; and Dr. Theodore Voneida, professor emeritus of Neurobiology at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, who discussed medical concerns with a very moving talk and follow-up video.

The event began as expected – with an air of fear present as to what this consortium of speakers would say about such a potential money-maker for certain mineral rights owners and the local economy. What surprised me by the end of the presentations was the intuitive discussion among residents and attendees of their experiences with the industry and landsmen. (Landsmen are the personnel hired by the gas drilling companies to persuade mineral rights owners to lease their property for natural gas extraction purposes. Historically, there have been many complaints raised about the transparency of the process and the unscrupulous nature of these contracted employees.) Alliance’s residents reported similar experiences. Some were told, “all of your neighbors have leased, so we’ll get the gas out one way or another.” When, in fact, those neighbors (also present at the meeting) had not signed, but were given the same spiel about why they should lease their mineral rights to one company in particular.

The most unfortunate part about witnessing this discussion was the realization that I had heard it all before: in 2009 and 2010 when drilling activity intensified in PA and WV. In fact, residents’ concerns and frustrations were significant driving forces behind the development of FracTracker. People craved access to easy to understand and transparent information about the pace of lease, drilling, and its associated risks. I truly hope that we’ve begun to provide what is needed to make well-informed decisions about natural gas drilling since that time.

Shale gas drilling activity is increasing quickly in Ohio. According to Dr. Dick, there were six drilling rigs working the region in November 2011. By late February 2012, 18 rigs were at work and 76 wells have been permitted. At least 10 different companies are aiming to exploit the Utica Shale in 18 counties of Eastern Ohio. With no end to this surge in site, FracTracker will strive to respond with an increase in Ohio data sets, snapshots, and stories that will keep everyone better informed.

Additional Resources:


Author Information:
Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH — Communications Specialist, FracTracker; Doctorate of Public Health Student, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health Department. Samantha can be reached by email: malone@fractracker.org or phone: 412-648-8541.

Shale Health Office Available for Southwest PA Residents

It isn’t often that you personally know the personnel responsible for a project prior to its launch, but those of us at FracTracker had that benefit with regard to the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, or SWPA-EHP for short. (Oh how we love our complex acronyms.) Raina Rippel, the project’s director, spoke at the second annual Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction conference hosted by the Graduate School of Public Health about this very topic. Raina and her team are fantastic resources, enabling us to better understand localized concerns and impacts and providing an outlet through which we can share the information we gather during our data analyses.

SWPA-EHP is being funded by The Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Claneil Foundation because people were concerned about shale gas drilling affecting their health and the lack of data available to address those concerns. Interestingly, that is also why CHEC initially became involved with shale gas drilling several years ago – of which FracTracker is a primary result. Recently, SWPA-EHP announced that they are the opening the first-recorded shale health office where area residents can schedule medical evaluations, get help understanding their health problems and learn how to limit their exposure to hazardous substances associated with the industry. In response to the critical, unmet need for access to accurate, timely and trusted public health information, as well as the need for appropriate health care in the communities of southwestern Pennsylvania, the Project has committed itself to the following:

  • Purpose: The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP) is a nonprofit environmental health organization created to assist and support Washington County residents who believe their health has been, or could be, impacted by natural gas drilling activities.
  • Resources: The office also serves as a resource center for information on the potential routes of exposure to hazardous substances, as well as strategies for limiting the risk of health effects. Our staff will be available by appointment in the office and by phone to address concerns residents have about their environmental conditions. We will answer questions, provide guidance and steer people toward other resources when possible.
  • Features: SWPA-EHP has an on-site nurse practitioner who is available by appointment for home or office visits, exams and consultations with people who think their health may be compromised by nearby gas drilling activities. She will also provide referrals, help clients navigate the health care system and consult with environmental health specialists about residents’ medical conditions.
  • Project Goals:
    • Establish a community environmental health center in SWPA to identify, document and respond to residents’ health concerns related to natural gas extraction;
    • Conduct a community health needs assessments of Washington County communities to evaluate public health risks and resources and determine the actions necessary to address immediate public health problems;
    • Provide the services of a nurse practitioner who can offer support, assist residents in understanding their health problems, and help them navigate the health care system as needed;
    • Establish clinical resource networks to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of individual patients;
    • Establish technical resource networks to obtain, analyze, develop and disseminate timely and accurate information to community members with respect to their health and environmental risks; and
    • Initiate a planning process for comprehensive actions.

The SWPA-EHP office is located at 4198 Washington Road, Suite 5, in McMurray. The office is open Tuesday-Friday. Nurse Practitioner services are available by appointment only.

Find SWPA-EHP’s new office or add additional community resources to this editable dataset on Data.FracTracker.org by clicking on the map below:

A New Day for FracTracker

By Brook Lenker, FracTracker Director

Like the public’s comprehension of the impacts of the shale gas industry, FracTracker is growing and evolving. We’re becoming better suited to expand that comprehension and nurture more inquiry into this game-changing period in energy development.

Our innovative website was launched by the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities who passionately and skillfully managed its maturation.  Like a college student setting out on his or her own, the time has come for FracTracker to seek its independence and more fully develop its own identity.   In December 2011, I was hired as director of the FracTracker Fund at the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to shepherd this transition and to foster partnerships that will help FracTracker blossom, benefit public awareness, and synergistically energize our partners.  We’re doing this one deliberate step at a time.

Another critical task is to improve the functionality of the data tool – to make it easier to use and navigate and offer other features that attract users to it. We are working with Rhiza Labs and taking additional measures to reach those objectives. We’ll keep you posted about all our enhancements.

My past 15 years – at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and then PA DCNR – were spent in professional roles where I facilitated dialogue, interpreted natural and scientific phenomena, encouraged stewardship practices, and tapped communication tools of many kinds. I intend to judiciously and vigorously apply these skills in my new position.  I believe deeply in conservation and environmental justice and am weighted by worries about many facets of the shale gas boom. I’m equally buoyed by the power of people and the transparency of science, however. Truth conquers deception.

The dedication and acumen of my FracTracker colleagues – Samantha and Matt based in Pittsburgh and Karen based near Ithaca, NY – inflate my outlook. We’re a strong team. The league we cavort with is collectively even more impressive. From accomplished grassroots warriors to cutting-edge scientists, connecting and collaborating, sharing data and information, we’re an unequaled force for good.

Gas companies aren’t inherently evil, and the jury is divided on the pros and cons of their primary product, but the stakes are big, enormous, titanic.  If drilling occurs, it must be done in a manner that is truly sustainable – for everyone and everything. Sustainability only prevails through thorough, comprehensive, ongoing research and an absolute commitment – by government and industry – to the public interest.

FracTracker resolves, with the help of other teams in our league, to be a broker of reality – to what’s really happening on the ground, in the air, to our water, to our health, to public policy – wherever and whenever gas extraction occurs. Ideally, this service will eventually become unnecessary, unjustified. In the meantime, we’re glad to be “in” the field defending our common future and, as they say, a good defense always wins.


Contact Information:
Brook Lenker
Director, FracTracker
lenker@fractracker.org