FracTracker in the news and press releases

Talisman and Chief Fined by DEP



In response to separate incidents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued fines to two of the larger natural gas companies in the Commonwealth: Talisman Energy USA, Inc. and a subsidiary of Chief Oil and Gas.

Talisman’s $24,608 fine was announced on January 6, 2011 in reaction to a large diesel spill at a Marcellus Shale site. According to the DEP, the March 2010 spill contaminated 3,800 tons of soil and 132,000 gallons of water.

Chief Gathering LLC, a subsidiary of Chief Oil and Gas, was fined a $34,000 for illegally discharging hydrostatic water on August 11, 2010. According to the DEP report, hydrostatic water is used to test for leaks in gas pipelines before they are used for gas. There were five related violations with the incident, including:

  • Failure to minimize the flow rate from the discharge point and allowing the formation of a 150-foot erosion channel
  • Failure to submit accurate, detailed Notice of Intent project information
  • Discharging hydrostatic test water with a total chlorine residual greater than 0.05 parts per million
  • Allowing an unknown industrial waste to co-mingle in five storage tanks with the hydrostatic test water, which was subsequently discharged
  • A failure to monitor the discharge for the specified effluent parameters at the minimum frequency required.

In my earlier analysis of violations per drilling operator, both of these companies were fairly high in terms of violations per well, but relatively low in terms of violations per million cubic feet of natural gas produced.

From fractracker

Violations per Marcellus Shale gas well, 1-1-07 to 9-30-10.

From fractracker

Violations per million cubic feet (MMcf) of natural gas produced, All violations are from 1-1-07 to 9-30-10, while all production values are from 7-1-09 to 6-30-10.

How is PA handling shale gas wastewater?


Jim Riggio, plant manager for the Beaver Falls Municipal
Authority, shows a sample of solid materials removed from
the Beaver River during treatment Dec. 15 at his plant.

On January 3rd, Associated Press writer, David Caruso, criticized the efforts underway in Pennsylvania to protect surface waters from shale gas drilling wastewater – especially because in most other states the primary means of disposal is deep well injection.

On January 4th, both the Marcellus Shale Coalition (the industry’s PR group) and DEP Secretary John Hanger defended the Commonwealth’s actions and current regulations.

What do you think?

Do you want to know where shale gas wastewater is permitted to be disposed of into surface waters near you? Below is a snapshot that I made in August 2010 using FracTracker’s DataTool of the facilities within PA that are permitted to receive shale gas drilling wastewater:

To learn more about a particular site, click on the inspect button in the gray toolbar – the “i” – and then click on a red diamond. A white box will pop up. Within that box, click on “view” to see who operates these facilities and how much wastewater per day they are permitted to receive. (“MGD” stands for Million Gallons Per Day. “GPD” means Gallons Per Day.)

And finally, here are two blog posts written by CHEC staff about the challenges facing our surface waters – and potentially our health – as a result of both fresh water withdrawals and wasterwater disposal:

Exploratory Gas Drilling in the Delaware River Basin


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has been preparing to defend the appropriateness of the commission to regulate any “exploratory” gas wells drilled in the Delaware River Basin (DRB). Instead, the gas industry, which was questioning DRBC’s right to oversee such matters, has withdrawn from the hearing scheduled for January 18, 2011. It is not clear yet whether the operator of one of the grandfathered well sites will continue to push for the right to drill exploratory wells in the basin without DRBC oversight.

Expert testimony was provided to the DRBC by Dr. Conrad Dan Volz and several others regarding the potential for exploratory drilling to negatively impact the DRB’s ecosystem.

Expert Witnesses for DRBC:

  • Robert M. Anderson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Danielle Kreeger, Ph.D., Partnership for the Delaware Estuary
  • Patrick M. O’Dell, P.E., National Park Service
  • Erik L. Silldorff, Ph.D., Aquatic Biologist, Delaware River Basin Commission
  • Bernard W. Sweeney, Ph.D. and John K. Jackson, Ph.D., Stroud Water Research Center
  • Conrad Daniel Volz, DrPH, MPH, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

Their testimonies can be read online in the DRBC report.

Delaware River Basin Commission Approval to be Needed for Gas Operations


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has written a draft of new legislation to help regulate natural gas extraction that could occur within that agency’s boundary, which includes part of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. If finalized, the new legislation will be known as Article 7, the full draft for which is available here.

What is the DRBC?

“The DRBC is a federal-interstate compact government agency that was formed by concurrent legislation enacted in 1961 by the United States and the four basin states (Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware). Its five members include the basin state governors and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who serves as the federal representative. The commission has legal authority over both water quality and water quantity-related issues throughout the basin.”


In essence, Article 7 will require all natural gas development projects within the basin to obtain approval from that entity, in addition to the regular process that is required by the home state. This will include not only drilling for gas, but also exploratory wells, any well-site activities, and associated water withdrawals and wastewater deposits as well. The Commission already has the authority to protect the waters in the basin from pollution, but since the issues of natural gas and clean and healthy rivers are as complicated as they are fundamental, the new regulations were deemed appropriate.

Since this basin includes some of the far eastern edge of the productive Marcellus Shale gas play in Pennsylvania and New York, the new regulations could have an immediate impact—both on the natural gas industry and the Delaware Basin itself.

Public Comments

Written comments on the proposed Article will be accepted through 5 p.m. March 16, 2011. Three public hearings will be scheduled, and details on those will be posted on the DRBC website as soon as the dates are finalized.

Is there a Link between Earthquakes and Shale Gas Drilling?


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Communications Specialist, CHEC, GSPH; DrPH Student, GSPH

While we don’t typically post about earthquakes on FracTracker’s blog, as public health professionals, we should be prepared for such incidents. Apparently, various towns have reported unusual seismic activity near shale gas drilling operations. For example, Residents in Guy, Arkansas are experiencing “swarms” of earthquakes – sometimes at rates of three to four a minute. While this isn’t the first time in history that the town, which sits in the middle of a tectonic plate in the Fayetteville Shale, has had an earthquake, residents cite the natural gas industry as the cause. (The deputy director of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission sees circumstantial evidence related to the deep well injection that is occurring there, as well.) The true trigger of these minor earthquakes is the focus of researchers from the University of Memphis and the Arkansas Geological Survey.

A quick Internet search shows that similar speculations about the link between the natural gas industry and earthquakes have been voiced in West Virginia, Texas, and several other states experiencing an influx of deep well injection (a liquid waste disposal system). Is there really a connection between the two? Do the geologic formations that make shale gas drilling possible have higher rates of earthquakes naturally? (Probably not in PA based on the hazard map produced by the USGS.)

The map below from the DataTool shows all of the shale gas plays in the continental U.S. By clicking on the “i” in the gray toolbar and then on a pink region, you can inspect each play. Just click “view” when the pop-up box appears to learn more.
[map removed]

Presently, we do not have drilling data from the Fayetteville Shale on FracTracker. If any person / organization has already obtained this information and would like to share it, we invite you to upload it onto FracTracker’s DataTool (Registration is required on our site, but at least it is free.)

Here is a quick list of articles from Google Scholar about induced seismicity if you’re interested, and a really interesting documentary website about people who live and work in shale gas plays across the U.S.

Is a Severance Tax in the Future for Pennsylvania?

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Communications Specialist and DrPH student, Center for Healthy Environments & Communities (CHEC), University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

Last week the PA House of Representatives voted in support of a severance tax of 39 cents for every thousand cubic feet of natural gas extracted. This proposed bill now awaits its fate in the Senate. Governor Edward Rendell recently sent a letter to Senate leaders urging them to move forward on the bill.

“A week ago the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to impose a severance tax on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Since that time, in spite of the expressed commitment made by the you in the fiscal code, your comments, and those made by your staff, do not offer a shred of evidence that you have any intention of living up to this commitment you made to put the severance tax to a vote in the Senate before you adjourn the session.” Read more.

Industry representatives have stated that the proposed tax is too high and would hinder the extraction process in the Commonwealth. Supporters of this tax, however, feel it is necessary to counter the costs to local infrastructure and protect the environment and public health.

Methane and Other Types of Pipelines Being Proposed as a Result of Shale Gas Expansions

Environmental and Environmental Health Considerations and Sources of Data on Pipeline Incidents

By Conrad (Dan) Volz, DrPH, MPH


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

[image removed]
Two recent articles highlight this activity. The first, published by Greater Binghamton NY, describes a pipeline that would run through Forest Lake, Susquehanna County, PA and Great Bend PA into Broome County, NY connecting to the Millennium Pipeline in Windsor, NY. The proposed pipeline would require construction of three compressor stations in Windsor NY (see the article’s correction). The second story published in the Wayne Independent announces that Penn State Cooperative Extension will host a workshop titled “Understanding Natural Gas Pipelines and Rights of Way” in Honesdale, PA on Wednesday, September 8 at the Wayne County Park Street Complex. This meeting will start at 6:30 pm and will include representatives from the Cooperative Extension, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Wayne Conservation District and the law firm of Tressler-Saunders LLC, Scranton. Topics of discussion of this meeting will be the Tennessee Gas Pipeline looping project, federal pipeline regulations and understanding right of way agreements.As the shale gas industry continues to develop and expand, and in some areas to expand to produce byproduct gases and organic compounds, pipelines are needed to connect these new producing areas with major supply lines. Byproduct gases and other useful organic chemicals will also need to be more efficiently transported to petrochemical facilities, and/or new petrochemical facilities will need to be built. This also means that new compressor plants will need to be established.

Installing pipeline – Photo from

Methane gas pipelines and pipelines carrying other organic gases and vapors, their site requirements, and proximity to population centers have important public health implications for both occupational and environmental health and community and behavioral health and have been the subject of public health research in the past (Binder S, 1989). Also, gas pipelines can have significant impacts on forests, fragmentation of habitat and endangered and threatened species and severe ramifications for wildlife systems in the event of catastrophic releases (Dey PK, 2002). Pipeline explosions and fires and acute inhalation of gases, which can have immediately dangerous to life and health consequences, occur at varying frequencies throughout the United States and in fact around the world. A branch of public health termed “emergency preparedness” is dedicated to the prevention of accidental or intentional incidents resulting in infrastructure failures and includes nuclear power plants, water treatment systems as well as oil and gas pipelines. More info: see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Preparedness for All Hazards and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Public Health Preparedness (UPCPHP) that trains public health professionals, including professionals in related organizations, to respond to public health threats and emergencies. This project is funded through the Center for Public Health Practice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooperative agreement number U90/CCU324238-05.

In the United States the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), acting through the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS), administers a regulatory program to assure the safe transportation of natural gas, petroleum, and other hazardous materials by pipeline. OPS develops regulations and other approaches to risk management to assure safety in design, construction, testing, operation, maintenance, and emergency response of pipeline facilities. PHMSA is committed to a data-driven approach to developing and refining pipeline safety programs.

On PHMSA’s stakeholder communication website, there are extensive pipeline incident and mileage reports. These reports present information and trend analyses for pipeline incidents over the past 20 years. Categories of important data and reports are grouped by:

In the last category of all reported incidents, the reports provided are generated from numerous data sources maintained by PHMSA and span decades of collection, evolving methods of oversight and multiple reporting formats. To generate these reports, PHMSA has standardized the data over various file formats, normalized incident costs over time to a common basis year- 2009 dollars, and standardized incident cause categories – all with the goal of producing a coherent and meaningful picture of National and State-specific trends in pipeline incidents. If you prefer to produce your own analysis, the raw data used in these reports are available to the public.

On this site PHMSA offers access to significant incident data. This is a treasure trove of important data that are all available to the public. In addition to 2010 data to present, there are data on flagged and significant incidents from 2006 to 2/17/2010. Below is the gateway to each year’s incident reports:

These files are a flagged version of all operator reported incident files that can be accessed from the PHMSA FOIA On-Line Library (a Freedom of Information Act library). The above flagged version of files differs from the FOIA on line library in they have been flagged to indicate incident significance, flagged to indicate fire-first Gas Distribution incidents, and include indexed costs in addition to raw (nominal) costs.

The 2010-present PHMSA flagged dataset reports 38 total incidents across the country. Thirty Three (33) or about 87% of these incidents were reported as significant incidents. Reported in this dataset is an explosion and fire at a major natural gas pipeline; it occurred June 7, 2010 in Johnson County, Texas near Cleburne. The blast and fire killed one worker and injured seven others. It was caused by utility workers digging holes for utility poles. There was only one home within ½ mile of the explosion and fire, and it was not affected. CHEC recently converted some of this data from excel spreadsheets to comma separated values so that it could be displayed and visualized on FracTracker’s data tool:

[image removed]
A whitepaper produced by principle investigator Mark Stephens of C-FER Technologies under contract with the Gas Research Institute presents an approach to sizing ground area potentially affected by the failure of high pressure natural gas pipelines (Stephens M, 2000). It states that rupture of a high pressure natural gas pipeline can produce threats to both people and property in the area where the failure occurs. In this whitepaper an equation was developed relating both the diameter and operating pressure of a pipeline to the area that is affected in the event of a real world worst case failure incident. The model on which the hazard area equation is based depends on three factors:

  1. “A fire-based model that relates the gas release rate from the pipe to the heat intensity of the resultant fire,
  2. An effective release rate model that provides a representative steady-state approximation to the actual transient release rate, and
  3. A heat intensity threshold that establishes the sustained heat intensity level above which the effects on people and property are consistent with the adopted definition of a High Consequence Area.”
The equation given in the manuscript is as follows:

This whitepaper used actual explosions and fires to demonstrate the usefulness of their model. These incidents are excerpted from the manuscript to show the types of incidents possible and the damage and fatalities that can result.

Table - Pipeline Incident Reports


  • Understanding Natural Gas Pipelines and Rights of Way
  • Public hearing to be conducted for proposed natural gas pipeline and the article’s correction [links removed]
  • Natural gas pipelines – understanding the infrastructure development [link removed]
  • BINDER, S, 1989, Deaths, Injuries, and Evacuations from Acute Hazardous Materials Releases, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 79, No. 8.
  • Dey, Prasanta Kumar, 2002, An integrated assessment model for cross-country pipelines. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Volume 22, Issue 6, November 2002, Pages 703-721.
  • Stephens, MJ, 2000, A model for sizing high consequence areas associated with natural gas pipelines. C-FER Technologies, 200 Karl Clark Road, Edmonton, Alberta, T6N 1H2 Canada, C-FER Report 99086; GRI 8600 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60631-3362, GRI document number 00/0189.

For More Information

Mike Benard has written a blog post on some of the unanswered questions surrounding pipelines, as well as lessons learned from other shale regions. Read more.

Conservation department says no state forest lands are left for gas leasing

Reposted- Published: August 13, 2010


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

There are no unleased acres left in Pennsylvania’s state forests where Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling sites, pipelines and access roads could be built without damaging environmentally sensitive areas, according to a new analysis by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Nearly 139,000 acres of state forest have been leased for gas drilling since 2008 and money from those lucrative leases – a total of $354 million – has been used to help balance the last two state budgets. But DCNR Secretary John Quigley said the era of leasing large parcels of state forests for gas drilling is over. “We may do some little stuff here and there,” he said, “but in terms of large-scale leasing, we’re done.”

The department’s findings, demonstrated in a series of overlain maps on DCNR’s website, show the forests in northcentral Pennsylvania above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale crowded by leased land, parcels where the state does not own the mineral rights and places where development must be restricted.

Of the 1.5 million acres of state forest underlain by the shale, 700,000 acres have already been leased or the mineral rights under them are controlled by an owner other than the state. An additional 702,500 acres are in ecologically sensitive areas – places with protected species, forested buffers, old growth or steep slopes. Another 27,500 acres are designated as primitive and remote lands, 49,600 acres were identified through a forest conservation analysis as priority conservation lands, and the last 20,400 acres are so entwined with the other sensitive areas that they cannot be developed without damaging them. Read more.

Gas Well Explosion – Indiana Township, PA


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

On Friday a two-year-old shallow gas well exploded in Indiana Township (Allegheny County), PA killing two workers. According to sources, multiple parties are involved in the investigation, including the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Allegheny County fire marshal and Huntley & Huntley Inc., the Monroeville company that employed the workers. Read more>

This incident follows the EPA’s public comment meeting on Thursday, which was convened to gather citizen input on an EPA study that will assess the safety of hydraulic fracturing (and related issues) involved in Marcellus Shale gas extraction. Additionally, two hearings are planned today in PA. One will review emergency response procedures and the other will assess proposed state regulations. While Friday’s tragic accident did not occur at a Marcellus-depth well, it highlights why appropriate safety measures must be put in place as the Marcellus Shale play is explored further.

In an attempt to track and visualize the vital importance of drilling safety, CHEC is compiling a database of Marcellus incidents on FracTracker’s data tool. Additional organizations are participating in this process. If you have data that you would like to contribute to the dataset, please email ( or call us (412-624-9379).

[image removed]

Components of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid

Frac fluid containers - Image from:


This page has been archived. It is provided for historical reference only.

On June 30th, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection made public the fluids used to hydraulically fracture the ground in PA. You can find that list on the DEP’s site here. However, some controversy ensued due to a mix up between the DEP & the material safety data sheets. Diesel fuel, which is listed in the linked document above for example, is only stored on site for other purposes – not injected into the ground.

“The original list was a compilation of the chemicals identified on safety documents called material safety data sheets that hydraulic fracturing contractors must submit to the department, but he [Scott Perry, the director of DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management] did not realize that it included substances the contractors use both above and below ground on a well site, he said. The second list was winnowed by a DEP chemist, who recognized that some of the chemicals on the initial list are not among those injected underground during the fracturing process.” …

CHEC’s director, Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, said he understands that the department is trying to respond to an “absolute clamor out there to get this information,” but he said the list posted Wednesday is more an attempt to “mollify people’s complaints that they are not releasing information” than to provide data that citizens can use if they want to test their drinking water before & after drilling. “What to me is valuable is to get information on not only what goes down but also what comes up” from the wells in the form of salt & metals-laden waste fluids, he said. (The Times-Tribune)

The map below shows all of the public & private water wells in PA in blue & the Marcellus Shale wells drilled to date in black (as well as vividly demonstrates why we need to be vigilant of the potential impact that this industry can have on our quality of life). [image removed] 
In response to growing frustration over the lack of industry disclosure of these chemicals, Range and Chief plan to disclose the chemicals it uses to hydraulically fracture methane gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region.

September 9, 2010 Update: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has issued voluntary information requests to nine natural gas service companies regarding the process known as hydraulic fracturing. Read more.