Our thoughts and opinions about gas extraction and related topics

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Paid Data & GIS Internship Positions Available

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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

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Staff Spotlight: Shannon Smith

As part of FracTracker’s staff spotlight series, learn more about Shannon and her passion for environmental justice and public health that led her to FracTracker

Staff Spotlight: Shannon Smith

Time with FracTracker: I just started in May 2019!

Education: BA in Cultural Anthropology from Reed College in Portland, OR

Office Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Title: Manager of Communications and Development

What will you actually do in that role?

FracTracker’s mission is to “study, map, and communicate the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation.” I’ll be focusing on the “communicate” part of our mission!

This is my very first post for FracTracker, but I will be writing many more in this role. I’ll also be maintaining the website, acting as a media liaison, managing the internship program, and supporting the Executive Director with fundraising efforts.

Essentially I will be learning as much as I can about ongoing issues around fracking, regional oil and natural gas projects, and FracTracker research, and then sharing what I find in educational, useful, and compelling ways. I’m very excited to get started!

Previous Position and Organization

During the past five years, I worked with several environmental public health nonprofits in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. I primarily worked as the Marketing Adviser for SOIL, an R&D organization that operates fecal waste management services and is globally recognized for their work in urban ecological sanitation. More recently, I was working as a Communications and Development Consultant for Second Mile Haiti, an organization that collaborates with Haitian public health institutions and provides research-based holistic medical services for families who face severe food insecurity and malnutrition in rural Northern Haiti.

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

It’s part of my personality to be concerned with justice —  even in elementary school, I was writing letters to my school principal concerning issues that I found to be unfair to the student body. And I grew up spending a lot of time outside in a rural area in Northwestern Pennsylvania. So I think my passion for environmental justice came together naturally at a relatively young age.

Before my time in Haiti, I was a environmental justice activist in the Pacific Northwest. The group I worked with was largely focused on preventing companies from obtaining permits to turn the beautiful bioregion into a fossil fuel corridor that would lead to a series of coal export terminals. The movement against these coal export terminals was quite successful, which inspired me and opened my eyes to a world of possibilities for futures that are more firmly grounded in ecological sustainability and social justice.

I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from community organizers and activists in the Pacific Northwest who come from a long lineage of inspirational environmental and social movements. I’m also thankful for my peers who helped me to connect the dots between structural racism, settler-colonialism, employment and housing issues, public health, and climate change.

Fracking is an issue that can be found in these intersections, so when moving back to my home state of Pennsylvania after over ten years of study and work, it was on the forefront of my mind. Climate change and our relationship to fossil fuels are fundamental issues that define this period of time on Earth, and I want to be part of the solution.

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

Together, the FracTracker team has an astonishing level of expertise around fracking. I’m excited to learn from my fellow staff members and to make all of that knowledge accessible to others who want to take action in their own communities.

Fracking is dangerously under-regulated and therefore unaccountable. FracTracker is creating tools, maps, and knowledge to equip individuals, local organizations, and communities with more power to hold industry accountable. I am excited to network with people who find FracTracker’s work useful and see how we can create powerful synergies and alternative futures.

By Shannon Smith, FracTracker’s Manager of Communications and Development

One in a Million

Help Us Celebrate Our Visitation Milestone with a Gift Today

FracTracker was launched in June of 2010 as a website managed by the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities at the University of Pittsburgh. As we approach our ninth birthday, we are pleased to announce quite a milestone: FracTracker.org has reached over one million users! As of April, 2019, the website has experienced over 1,375,041  visits with more than 1,055,171 users.

That’s a lot of people learning about the detrimental effects of extraction – advocates, researchers, community leaders, politicians, journalists, concerned residents. Many are inspired to take action, utilizing our maps, data, and images for positive change.

The FracTracker team is tireless in their efforts to illuminate issues and aid communities with data-driven resources. Sustaining and coordinating the work can be tiring and financially draining. GIS costs, investments in personnel, improvements in our technology, strategic planning, continuing education…the list goes on but so do our services, day after day.

In honor of our ‘one million’ milestone, please consider a donation to FracTracker Alliance. We’d be ecstatic with a $1 million contribution (I might pass out from sheer joy) but we’ll be thrilled by whatever support you can offer – whether it’s $100, $10, or $1.

We don’t ask incessantly, but occasionally we must and this seems like a proper occasion. Help us celebrate our expanding reach with a donation today. We lament the necessity, but know that someday our work, and the collective activities of individuals and organizations around the globe, will yield the ultimate payoff: a healthier energy future for all. Thank you for caring!

Well Pad

Sow Love and Hope with FracTracker

FracTracker Alliance celebrates February, the “month of love,” as we do most months – by striving to help people and the planet. A few weeks ago, we sent checks to four organizations who were recipients of our December “spreading the cheer initiative,” receiving half our online donations that month in honor of the four winners of the 2018 Community Sentinel Award.  The beneficiaries included Redeemer Community Partnership (Los Angeles, CA), SkyTruth (Shepherdstown, WV), League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans (Erie, CO), and Clean Air Council (Philadelphia, PA). Thanks to our December donors for providing a total of $860 to these important groups.

Our care extends beyond our nonprofit brethren to directly address Mother Earth. Less than 120 miles north of my office, Pine Creek flows to the Susquehanna River, draining nearly 1,000 square miles and encompassing one of the highest concentrations of exceptional value and high quality streams anywhere in the Keystone state. The creek’s breathtaking 47-mile gorge is known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

Photo of Pine Creek Gorge by Nicholas Tonelli, Flickr

Unfortunately, the Pine Creek watershed has been inundated by hundreds of unconventional and conventional natural gas wells and the pipelines, compressor stations, impoundments and access roads that accompany oil and gas development.  It is estimated that in the watershed’s Tiadaghton State Forest, more than 1,000 acres have already been disturbed by gas operations.  Much of this degradation has occurred in the last 10 years. With wilderness in the balance, FracTracker – with support from the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds – is examining what a decade of drilling means for this treasured landscape and its beloved woods and waters.

Over the next few months, we aim to construct a digital atlas – ripe with vivid, detailed maps and data – to tell the story of the changes in this emblematic place. The capstone will be an extensive field documentation tour using staff and volunteers deployed with cameras and the FracTracker mobile app. With the help of groups like the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club, Save Pennsylvania Forests Coalition, Responsible Drilling Alliance, Middle Susquehanna RiverKeeper, LightHawk, and others, images from the ground and air will be collected and included in the atlas project. The final product will be an invaluable tool to educate diverse audiences about the risks of natural gas development on Pine Creek, the Susquehanna watershed, and our public lands.

Near and far – for people, the planet, and precious watersheds like Pine Creek – there’s so much to do. Please consider becoming a FracTracker recurring monthly donor. Your gesture warms our hearts, nurtures our work, and sows hope –with invaluable information, tenacious solidarity, and the unstoppable spirit of love.

By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

For Persevere Post

Please give to FracTracker Alliance in 2018

Fracking has made a real mess of things – sullying our air, befouling our water, disrupting communities. Ethane and other hydrocarbons feed plastic production, accelerating the global plastic pollution crisis while the planet warms out of control.

It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment.

Last week I traveled to Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, a quiet town along the Susquehanna, the mother river to the treasured Chesapeake Bay. Around Wyalusing, fracking consumes the landscape, and a planned 265-acre natural gas liquefaction complex promises more madness: around the clock trucking of volatile cargoes. Imagine watching a field behind your home morph into a sprawling industrial site with hazardous emissions. That story is real. Enough is enough – we need your help.

FracTracker works to illuminate the incursions of this rogue industry. Our maps, data, and analyses support the mounting pushback on infrastructure – from sand mines to pipelines, production wells to waste injection wells. The spectrum of harms is daunting, but our team is motivated to highlight risk and injustice wherever they arise, giving the public the tools and information they need in these David vs. Goliath battles.

Wyalusing is a Native American word meaning “home of the warrior.” Like the people standing their ground in that place today or the army of organizations across America with whom we collaborate, we’re all warriors fighting for a healthy future near and far.

Please give to FracTracker this holiday season. Your donation offers us hope and strength, powering actions that aid, inspire, and facilitate victory. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

FracTracker will soon eclipse one million unique visitors to our website, underscoring that we are and shall remain a valued resource for advocacy, education, and research until the glorious day fossil fuels fade into history. Until then, on behalf of our staff and board, thank you for your ongoing support and warm wishes for a safe and joyous holiday season.

Appreciatively,

Brook Lenker
Executive Director

 

Re: Falcon ethane pipeline project

Falcon Pipeline Moves Forward Despite Unresolved Concerns

Pittsburgh, PA – Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced their decision to issue a permit for the construction of Shell’s Falcon ethane pipeline project in southwest PA. FracTracker Alliance is extremely disappointed that DEP is allowing this project to proceed despite heavy opposition from the public and unaddressed concerns for the safety and well-being of nearby residents and the surrounding environment.

The past year has seen countless issues from the construction of new pipelines in the Commonwealth – from hundreds of “inadvertent returns,” (spills of bentonite drilling mud) along the path of the Mariner East II project to the catastrophic explosion of the week-old Revolution Pipeline in Beaver County. These reoccurring and serious incidents make it clear that oil and gas midstream companies are rushing to put infrastructure in place, and DEP and other regulatory agencies have been failing in their mission to adequately supervise the process.

According to data from the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, there were 108 pipeline incidents in Pennsylvania between January 2010 and mid-July 2018, resulting in 8 fatalities, 15 injuries, requiring over 1,100 people to be evacuated from their homes, and causing more than $66 million in property damage. This track record, which does not include the Revolution Pipeline explosion in September of 2018, is frankly unacceptable.

Certainly, the Commonwealth has invested heavily in the Shell Ethane Cracker facility, offering steep tax subsidies and even paying the global petrochemical giant $2.10 for every barrel of ethane it consumes from Pennsylvania wells, equivalent to $1.6 billion over the next 25 years. It appears to FracTracker that these business arrangements have made the continued extraction and exploitation of hydrocarbons the priority for DEP, not protecting the environment and health and safety of Pennsylvanians, as the mission of the Department suggests is their focus. DEP’s decision also traces an unfortunate pattern of opaqueness and poor timing by announcing unpopular decisions right before the holidays.

Fundamentally, oil and gas companies like Shell exist to make profits, and will therefore make decisions to maximize earnings and limit their costs, if left to their own devices. This approach is often directly at odds with public safety, so Pennsylvania entrusts DEP to oversee the operations. FracTracker feels that with their decision to move forward with the project on December 20, 2018, DEP brushed over dozens of substantial concerns regarding the Falcon ethane pipeline project, and therefore failed in this mission. We remain unconvinced that the “appropriate construction techniques and special conditions” required by DEP will adequately protect the environment and health and safety of residents along the Falcon pipeline route.

Dec. 21st Update: After this article was written, FracTracker learned that Ohio’s EPA issued an air quality permit for the cracker plant in Belmont County, Ohio on December 21st. The short public comment period and the rush to issue permits again illustrates that significant public health and environmental concerns are given minimal importance versus corporate wishes and political expediency. The regulatory paradigm is broken. The public has been ill served by the agencies entrusted to safeguard their interests. A collective regional voice should be raised in protest.


About FracTracker Alliance

Started in 2010 as a southwestern Pennsylvania area website, FracTracker Alliance is now a national organization with regional offices across the United States in Pennsylvania, Washington DC, New York, Ohio, and California. The organization’s mission is to study, map, and communicate the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation. Its goal is to support advocacy groups at the local, regional and national level, informing their actions to positively shape our nation’s energy future. www.fractracker.org


Learn more about FracTracker’s coverage of the Falcon ethane pipeline project by exploring the posts below:

Gift holidays free image - Spread the cheer

Help us spread the cheer this holiday season!

Dear Friends,

Can you believe the end of the year is almost here? How time flies when you’re busy…

We are reaching out to you today to ask if you could help us spread the cheer this holiday season. For any donations FracTracker receives in the month of December, we will share half the contributions equally amongst four worthy organizations selected by this year’s Community Sentinel Award for Environmental Stewardship recipients.

Any time you give to FracTracker you help us support frontline oil and gas communities and organizations with pivotal insights and resources to protect what they hold dear. With just $100, we can provide a custom map to a community fighting the environmental and health impacts of the oil and gas industry.

And in December your money will go even further! In the spirit of the Sentinel Awards, help us spread the cheer by donating before January 1st.

With Much Gratitude,

Brook Lenker
Executive Director and Sentinel Award Coordinator
FracTracker Alliance