Our thoughts and opinions about gas extraction and related topics

Pitt School Of Public Health, PA Dept Of Health Abruptly Pull Out Of Public Meeting They Helped Convene

Our statement regarding the University of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly dropping out of a public meeting on their own environmental health studies.

Staff Spotlight: Ashley Kosak

As part of FracTracker’s staff spotlight series, learn more about one of the newest member of the FracTracker team, Ashley Kosak, and what she’ll be working on with us.

Time with FracTracker: Three weeks

Education: Rochester Institute of Technology

Title: Research and Program Fellow


Spotlight Interview

How did you first get involved working on oil and gas issues / fracking?

Fracking was a huge issue in the town where I grew up. I saw a lot of signs all over encouraging others to vote on legislation about fracking, and as I grew older I better understood why it was such a big issue. Over the past couple years I’ve learned the dependence on petroleum was one of the biggest issues we currently have in our path forward for a more climate friendly future.

What will you actually do in your role?

Color image of Ashley Kosak

Ashley Kosak, Research and Program Fellow. Read bio

I’ve been working on a project to help us establish a process flow for ongoing mapping! I really hope to make a system that allows us to be flexible with the work we do as a team. With how quickly things change and comment periods arise, I want to help this team keep track of the technical backlog and keep all the data organized. 

I hope to have completed a research project by the end of my fellowship as well regarding the impacts of the oil industry here in California.

Previous Position and Organization

I used to work for SpaceX where I was an engineer building their rockets and dragon space crafts. While I was there I created their Sustainability Initiative which has blossomed into a company wide effort. 

I also sit on the steering committee for SoCal350 in Los Angeles!

What is one of the most impactful projects you are excited to be involved in with FracTracker?

I’m a big tool maker type of person so I really hope I can help automate a few day to day tasks for the team so they can really focus on their research and advocacy. I feel like it’s something very simple but it will help everyone in the team.

New Film Tells Story of Community’s Fight Against Fracking Waste

“Hellbent,” a new documentary slated for release in August 2022, tells the story of a small town in Pennsylvania and a species on the brink of extinction that are unlikely allies in the fight for a clean, livable environment.

Staff Spotlight: Erika Ninos

As part of FracTracker’s staff spotlight series, learn more about one of the newest member of the FracTracker team, Erika Ninos, and what she’ll be working on with us.

Time with FracTracker: Almost 2 weeks!

Education: Slippery Rock University (MS), University of Pittsburgh (BA)

Office Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Title: Program Manager


Spotlight Interview

How did you first get involved working on oil and gas issues / fracking?

I’ve had a lifelong interest in the environmental and social issues related to the extractive economy in western Pennsylvania. I am originally from Fayette County, Pennsylvania and have seen first hand the impacts of coal mining and fracking on communities, the environment, friends and family.  I feel deeply connected to the land and communities of western Pennsylvania and my hope is that through my work with FracTracker we can assist local communities in their efforts to resist and fight the damaging effects of oil and natural gas development in this region and to find a new path of just transition towards an economy that works for ALL people and respects the land.

What will you actually do in your role?

Erika Ninos, Program Manager. View bio

I like to think of my role with FracTracker in terms of capacity building!  What does that mean? It means assisting the FracTracker team to ensure that all of our staff have the resources they need to work efficiently, collaboratively and that they can continue their amazing work within the communities and the regions we serve.  Specifically, I will be working in the strategic, programmatic, operational, and fundraising spheres.

Previous Position and Organization

Prior to joining FracTracker Alliance, I worked in a number of roles in the Pittsburgh sustainability and environmental community.  Most recently, I served as a Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh with a focus on community programs and student facing sustainability.  I have also worked at  Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, Pennsylvania Resources Council and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

What is one of the most impactful projects you are excited to be involved in with FracTracker?

One of the first projects I’ll be working on is the 2022 Sentinel Awards!  I am incredibly excited to lift up and honor the voices of frontline and fenceline communities who are the backbone of the movement resisting oil and natural development and rethinking energy and economic systems.

Staff Spotlight: Sarah Carballo

As part of FracTracker’s staff spotlight series, learn more about one of the newest member of the FracTracker team, Sarah Carballo, and what she’ll be working on with us.

Time with FracTracker: Three weeks

Education: University of North Carolina at Asheville

Office Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Title: Communications Specialist


Spotlight Interview

How did you first get involved working on oil and gas issues / fracking?

An early experience that increased my awareness of oil and gas issues was visiting friends in Susquehanna County, Pa., at the beginning of the shale gas boom. That summer in Pennsylvania, I experienced firsthand how the encroaching industry was disrupting the lives of longtime residents. I recall talking on their porch and having to raise our voices to be heard over the incessant din of gas wells being drilled nearby. We split firewood, watched lightning bugs, and played ladder ball late into the evenings basked in the glow of lights on heavy machinery. Worst of all, we were forbidden to drink the well water, which reeked of sulfur as a result of new fracking operations on adjacent property. The close proximity to some of the direct effects of fracking made a particularly powerful and lasting impression on me, and that experienceand many others sinceconstantly remind me of the importance of working on these issues.

What will you actually do in your role?

Sarah Carballo, Communications Specialist. View Bio

I’ll be supporting FracTracker by helping to communicate the risks of oil, gas, and petrochemical development. My role includes managing social media, writing the monthly newsletter, creating digital content, and maintaining our website, among other responsibilities.

Previous Position and Organization

I was most recently the Communications Specialist with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, but have worked with numerous nonprofits across Central and Southern Appalachia in various capacities since 2015.

What is one of the most impactful projects you are excited to be involved in with FracTracker?

I’m very excited about the opportunity to use our data and analysis to help tell stories of impact through multimedia. But most importantly, I’m excited to continue supporting the movement in any way I can.

Lycoming oil and gas infrastructure captured by fractracker alliance

Water at Risk: In response to Marcellus Shale Coalition

FracTracker expresses concerns over the disingenuous methods the Marcellus Shale Coalition uses to misrepresent available O&G data.

Internship Opportunities Button

Paid Data & GIS Internship Positions Available

This application is closed

Data & GIS Internship | FracTracker Alliance

Job Title: Data & GIS Intern
Internship Period: February 1, 2021 – April 23, 2021, three months
Application Deadline: November 20, 2020
Compensation: $12/hour, 10 hours per week
Locations: Two remote positions available in collaboration with either the Pittsburgh, PA office or the Cleveland, OH office.

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 two paid internships from February 1 through April 23, 2020 in collaboration with the following offices: Pittsburgh, PA and Cleveland, OH. These positions are expected to be 100% remote depending on public health conditions. See where we work.

 

Learn more about FracTracker’s internship program and explore the work past intern projects.

Responsibilities

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:

  • Data mining, cleaning, management, and GIS mapping
  • Limited spatial analyses using GIS software
  • Translation of data into blog posts
  • Communications support, including website development, content creation, and other tasks as needed

 

Qualifications

PREFERRED SKILLS:

  • GIS/mapping; Experience with ArcGIS
  • Writing and editing; Experience with Microsoft Word
  • Public speaking
  • Citizen science
  • Research
  • Data management; Experience with Microsoft Excel
  • Website development; Knowledge of WordPress
  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work independently
  • Communication and adherence to deadlines

MINIMUM EDUCATION/QUALIFICATIONS:

  • 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.
  • Interest in the mission of FracTracker; Familiarity with environmental justice issues
  • Knowledge of environmental and/or public health concerns or other issues of relevance to understanding the implications of oil and gas extraction and climate change

 

Application Process

To apply for one of our spring 2021 paid data & GIS internship positions, please submit the following materials 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 smith@fractracker.org.

Deadline to apply: November 20, 2020 at 5:00pm EST.

Interviews will be conducted during the period of November 30 – December 11, 2020, and a decision made by December 18, 2020. All applicants will be contacted regarding the outcome of their application.

About FracTracker Alliance

Insights Empowering Action

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.

Learn more about FracTracker Alliance at www.fractracker.org.

 

This application is closed

 

Questions? Contact Shannon Smith at smith@fractracker.org.

Testimony to PA DEP on Control of Methane & VOC Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Sources

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).

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Happy Earth Day

What difficult times. The pandemic is beyond our common experience. Deadly and pervasive, it afflicts our physical wellbeing and our economy. The virus exposes and exploits the inequities in society, with harsh, disproportionate burdens on those most marginalized. The suffering sickens us to the core.

Hope is an essential nutrient manifesting in different, often unassuming, forms. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day, while dampened by our current troubles, reminds us of the tenacity and resiliency of the human spirit.

A small idea, sparked in 1970, blossomed into a global observance. People mobilized by the thousands to testify to the defilement of the planet and to demand bold action. In the story map below, take a tour through 50 years of technology, protest, economics, and policy that shaped the country’s energy landscape. Witness the power of people bringing dramatic changes to our energy system, despite forces working to preserve the status quo.

The 50th occurrence of Earth Day presents a ripe opportunity to honor the dedication and sacrifice of those who help keep our lights on and celebrate the bravery of those fighting to build an energy system that ensures environmental and economic justice for all.

Physical gathering is a bad idea but intellectually, virtually, we can elevate the dialogue and plant good seeds, literal and figurative, to accelerate restoration and cool our climate. The constraints of COVID-19 reveal the virtue of simplicity, the conservation bounty of taking the slower road, where every milepost matters.

Plug in however, wherever you can. Look for local chances to engage. Check out the Earth Day Network for digital events near and far or plan your own action.

Make a statement, take a stand, and write the future.

Wishful thinking? Maybe, but as a wise-old band once sang, “Don’t Stop Believing.”

 

Explore the Story Map

Explore this story map full screen

Staff Spotlight: Rebecca Johnson