As the forests beckon us to return to their paths now that winter has subsided (hopefully), let’s take a look at the reports we received over the winter for our Trail Logbook Project.
Reports came from several counties, but the majority of complaints focused on the impacts of drilling in Loyalsock State Forest.
Existing gas line
Shallow gas wells
Main Trails Affected:
Loyalsock State Forest trails
Eddy Lick Trail Loop
Minister Creek Trail
Impacts Reported (in descending order according to frequency):
Confrontation with gas company employees, contractors, security personnel
Potential degradation/contamination of a stream, spring, lake, or pond, brine in the water at ANF pump
Visual impacts (degradation of scenery)
Drilling has largely overtaken this tract of Loyalsock State Forest. I would say that drilling has completely eclipsed the recreational aspect of the tract. Indeed, the tract seems to have been transformed into an industrial forest. I came here for hiking and nature photography, but I felt as though I were a guest on Seneca-owned land, not a visitor to public land paid for by the citizens of Pennsylvania. I noticed no other visitors in the tract, too; everyone I saw was a Seneca employee. The scenic vista on Bodine Mountain Road (noted on the Loyalsock State Forest map) was less than scenic when I visited; many drilling pads (some near, some far) were seen. The noise from trucks and compressors also diminished the recreational aspect. I won’t return here until most of the drilling ends.
This stream, Minister Creek, is a “Safe” zone for Brook Trout. It now has areas of bubbles and a thin oil sheen on its surface in addition to the Brine taste at the pump.
While setting up campsite just off the Loyalsock Trail at the old CCC Camp on Sandstone Lane, I heard an approaching Crew Truck with a loudspeaker blasting radio conversation with supervisors. As the Lane had been damaged in recent storms, they tried to drive thru a meadow and right thru my Campsite. There was no opening in the trees wide enough to pass and I told them so. They went back to the lane and bored thru the rutted, flood-gouged lane past my camp…
Recommendations from Citizen Reports
Where roads are narrow, especially in forested areas, there are often checkpoints set up by the operators in order to control two-way traffic. Often signs are not sufficiently visible/present/clear, so motorists may not realize the new rules. In Loyalsock State Forest, this has been an issue. As such, below are recreationalists’ recommendations regarding ways to reduce or avoid the issues currently arising from gas operations in this and other public areas:
Seneca Resources Corp. and the DCNR should work together to better educate visitors on the need to stop at every checkpoint in this tract of Loyalsock State Forest (or in any forested area that is frequented by recreationalists).
At each of the two entrances (Hagerman Run Road and Grays Run Road) to the tract from Pennsylvania Route 14, post a large, prominent sign about the need to stop at every checkpoint for two-way traffic control;
Post clearly visible signs at every checkpoint; and
On the DCNR Web site in the Advisories section of the Loyalsock State Forest page, post information about roads affected by two-way traffic control and the need to stop at checkpoints. (Currently, information about such roads is posted on the Road Advisories page on the DCNR Web site, but accessing this page from the home page is challenging. Also, the Road Advisories page doesn’t mention that motorists need to stop at checkpoints.)
Visit the Trail Logbook Project landing page for more information about this initiative, our partners, and to submit your own report.
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As summer transitioned into fall, and as winter knocks on our doorsteps in PA, I would like to take some time to summarize the preliminary feedback coming in through our pilot Trail Logbook Project. The project, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a collaboration between Keystone Trails Association (KTA) and FracTracker Alliance. With the expansion of unconventional natural gas extraction into our state forests, we wanted to understand the experiences of people who are using those areas for recreation – and to document the change in those experiences as drilling continues. Most of the results of the project so far indicate that drilling is having a small, but notable effect on the traditionally tranquil experiences of hikers, bikers, and the like across the Commonwealth. The most common complaints are those of noise and degradation of scenery (see complete list ofLogbook reports below, or trail alerts on KTA’s website). Some people who entered information into the Logbook have noted that gas-drilling opponents have actually contributed to the degradation of the local scenery with graffiti and protest signs.
Given the number of hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts that frequent the Commonwealth every year, we need more people to report back to us in order to make a comprehensive and accurate statement about the overall impacts that drilling may be having on some of PA’s most beautiful natural resources. Perhaps there are no more issues to report, or perhaps people just don’t know who to tell. Regardless, we hope to expand our efforts to promote the project, which includes working with trail organizations in other states where shale gas activities may conflict with trail use.
On a side note, the lack of awareness about the Logbook and the state of drilling in popular recreation areas are key reasons why we are hosting a series of media tours this fall. The first was held on October 25th in Loyalsock State Forest due to the conerns of environmental concervation groups and residents about the communication barriers in existence between DCNR, the natural gas industry, and the public. If you are interested in participating in one of the next two tours, learn more here.
The full list of Logbook complaints to-date and the main areas impacted by unconventional natural gas extraction activity according to those reports are listed below:
Complaints from Logbook
Visual Degradation of Scenery
Anti-gas drilling graffiti
Flagging tape indicating seismic testing or road widening littered the area, called into question the “leave no trace” character of the trail
Intense construction activity and clearings for pipelines
Constant noise from compressor station
Construction and well pad noise
Seismic Testing: One hiker found 2 red wires with labels “Danger Explosives” portruding up from the ground
Seismic Testing: Equipment left right on the trail
Trail relocation (4 miles)
Flagging tape caused confusion regarding the direction of trail
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: firstname.lastname@example.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:
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By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, and Samantha Malone, Manager of Science and Communications
It’s so quiet you can hear moss squish underfoot and the tapping of a woodpecker a quarter-mile distant. These are the sounds of a lesser-known Pennsylvania Wilds, the lush woodlands and rock-studded beauty of the Loyalsock State Forest. Picture a pristine landscape of ferny grottos, expansive bogs, and blueberries ripe for the picking. The squeaky-clean air seems hyper-enriched, a photosynthetic side-effect of stands thick with maple, birch, hemlock, and pine. Currents of endless streams race impatiently. Rattlesnakes shy but leery, lie and rest.
Across Lycoming and Sullivan counties, the shale gas industry is leaving its industrial footprint, from the iconic Pine Creek Valley through Tiagdaghton State Forest to the Loyalsock and environs. Yet while Williamsport booms from the infusion of gas, many of the hidden, ecologically-rich spaces of the Loyalsock – from Rock Run to Devil’s Elbow – still whisper.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), of the 2.2 million acres in the state forest system, 675,000 acres are available for gas development. This includes 385,400 acres under Commonwealth-issued leases and 290,000 acres of where the agency doesn’t own the oil and gas rights. The latter scenario applies to 25,621 acres of the Loyalsock’s 114,494 acres where “severed” rights are owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and International Development Corporation.
Circa July 2012, there is ample evidence of the changes on the horizon. The oranges and yellows of seismic testing equipment (photo left) adorn the sleepy forest roads and the electric pink of ribbon markers decorates the trees and ground. The few leased cabins look lost and lonely, but soon they could have the steady companionship of hundreds of trucks rumbling past their doors carrying water, sand, and some not-so-benign chemicals and waste fluids. The narrow, dirt roads – bound to require widening and repair – are probably inadequate for such intensive use and potentially treacherous for heavy rigs, occasionally known to roll down steep embankments and spill their secrets. Heavy traffic and structurally-degraded roads can cause significant sediment pollution as suggested by the studies of the Penn State Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads. Sediment is the enemy of native brook trout, our handsome state fish, who adamantly require cool, clear water to survive. Currently, there’s an abundance of such good water within Loyalsock.
But traffic and roadway impacts are but one piece of the shale gas puzzle. Could well casings fail and methane bubble into surface waters (recent accidents in Bradford County and Tioga County are suspected of causing just such problems)? How much will air quality be degraded by diesel emissions from trucks, pumps, generators, drill rigs, and other equipment? How will floodlights and flaring affect star-packed skies or the incessant drone of compressor stations antagonize solitude? While off the beaten path, the forest sees its share of visitors, and recreational trails are a signature of the region. The 27-mile Old Logger’s Path (photo below) is a backpacker’s dream crisscrossing a world of palpable wonders and subterranean severed rights.
Hiking, a popular recreation, and the forest’s quality scenery are big components of tourism, consistently one of Pennsylvania’s leading industries. According to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, visitor spending across the Commonwealth totaled $34.2 billion in 2010. Comparatively, Penn State research (p.31) indicated that, “…the Marcellus gas industry increased Pennsylvania’s value added by $11.2 billon” for 2010. In the northeastern Pennsylvania, drilling is slowing due in part to the low price of natural gas. The ramifications for the Loyalsock are uncertain but the lasting attraction of idyllic open spaces is unequivocal.
Nevertheless, Anadarko and its partner seek the gas near the Old Loggers Path and vulnerable populations of forest interior birds. Such species require large unbroken tracts of contiguous forest. A recent study in Environmental Management authored by P.J. Drohan, Margaret Brittingham, and others reports that 26% of well pads in the Susquehanna basin are located in core forests (many on DCNR lands). The study quotes a DCNR paper: “further (shale gas) development on state forests is likely to alter the ecological integrity and wild character of state forests.” The authors believe other research supports that assertion.
The Loyalsock is a microcosm of the state forest-shale gas paradigm. As of a March 2012 DCNR presentation, 814 Marcellus well locations had been approved by the Bureau of Forestry on state forest land and 447 Marcellus wells had been drilled in the state forests including more than 80 well pads. The agency estimates a total of 3810 new Marcellus wells by 2018. With an average well pad size of about five acres, many miles of new and widened roads, even more miles of pipelines, plus intermittent water impoundments and compressor stations, it’s easy to wonder what our state forests will soon look like. And what about the legacy of silviculture cultivated by Pinchot, Rothrock, and other conservation pioneers? The Pennsylvania state forest system is certified by the Rainforest Alliance under Forest Stewardship Council standards ensuring that the products coming from these forests are managed in an environmentally-responsible manner. At what threshold of shale gas activity will this certification – which adds significant value to finished wood products – be jeopardized?
Since it is likely that Anadarko and its partner will pursue their claims, the fate of the severed parts of the Loyalsock may be shaped by the existence or lack-thereof of a surface use agreement between Anadarko and DCNR. Where DCNR has leased and controls oil and gas rights, a surface use agreement is entered into that steers the development activity in a more sustainable manner and away from especially sensitive forest features. In the case of severed rights, there is uncertainty about the applicability of surface use agreements. However, with little else to ameliorate the collateral damage of gas development in undeveloped surroundings, prudence would suggest it’s a tool worth using.
The stakes are high. DCNR’s own list of “challenges” posed by shale gas for state forest lands include: surface disturbance, forest fragmentation, habitat loss and species impacts, invasive plants, loss of wild character, recreation conflicts, water use and disposal. With the mission of the Bureau of Forestry to “ensure the long-term health, viability and productivity of the Commonwealth’s forests and to conserve native wild plants,” they have their work cut out for them, especially as more drilling tracts are developed.
In the months to come, the industry will be watched, technologies will change, activists will speak, parties will talk; meanwhile, the big, old rattlers, wise but weary, grow restless.
https://www.fractracker.org/a5ej20sjfwe/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/P1010321.jpg30244032FracTracker Alliancehttps://www.fractracker.org/a5ej20sjfwe/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Fractracker-Color-Logo.jpgFracTracker Alliance2012-08-31 17:49:462014-08-13 16:50:48Life and Times of Loyalsock
Violations issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) can be found on the Compliance Report. Each violations has many columns of data, including whether it was broadly categorized as either “Administrative” or “Environmental Health and Safety” (EH&S). This is a distinction that has caused no shortage of confusion, to the point where I have argued that the distinction is actually meaningless.
But don’t take my word for it! Take the words of the DEP field agents who entered the various codes and comments. On the link below, I have made a quiz where I give you the code description or comment for ten different violations, and you use that information to decide whether you think they should be categorized as “Administrative” or “Environmental Health and Safety”. At worst, you have a 50/50 shot at getting each question right, and you only need five out of ten to pass.
Summer is a time to vacation, barbecue, and enjoy the great outdoors. In case you have been partaking in summer fun and missed recent drilling news, information, and events, check out the summaries below compiled by the folks at FracTracker with input from many sources including Edward Kokkelenberg:
PA DEP Data Changes
Until June 2012, data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) Office of Oil and Gas Management had a Marcellus Shale indicator associated with various reports, including the permits issued report. These have all been replaced with an Unconventional indicator. Read more about the distinction from the PA DEP here (PDF). The following two visualizations show you trends with the unconventional wells drilled and permitted in PA using the new category:
Drilled Unconventional Wells in PA by Type
Unconventional Permits in PA by Year
In the News
The Math Behind the 100-Year, Natural Gas Supply Debate
When President Barack Obama said that the U.S. has a supply of natural gas that can last nearly 100 years, he was using a quick-and-dirty computation that is nonetheless rooted in recent geological research. How should natural gas supply data be interpreted for public consumption? Read more»
Natural Gas Production in 2010 by State
Shell Methane Migration Incident Under Investigation
Shell, a company who plans to build an ethylene cracker facility in western PA, is being investigated by the PA DEP for methane migration concerns in northeastern PA (Tioga County). The original incident was reported on June 21, 2012. Several families within a one mile radius of the site have already been evacuated temporarily. Read more»
Unconventional Wells in Union Township, Tioga County, PA
Health Network to Analyze Health Effects from Natural Gas Activities
Geisinger Health System, a nonprofit chain of hospitals in eastern PA, plans to use its database of patient records to determine whether natural gas drilling in the state’s Marcellus shale is harming residents. Read more»
Geisinger Health System
Worker Hazard Alert Issued
Based on NIOSH field studies, OSHA and NIOSH released a Hazard Alert on June 21, 2012 for gas drillers who are working on sites utilizing hydraulic fracturing due to the potential for them to be exposed to airborne silica during fracturing sand transport and mixing. Read more»
Mixing of sand on site
This unique and easy-to-read assortment of papers has been put together by the Paleontological Research Institute. Browse through introductory topics such as Why the Geology Matters or more intricate discussions of the water input required to hydraulically fracture a Marcellus Shale well – the quantity, additives, and risks. Read more»
PRI’s Marcellus Papers
Alert service available through Sunlight Foundation
With this online resource, you can: set up alerts and subscribe to receive updates from Congress, state legislatures; search through every bill and regulation in the federal government; follow and search bills in all 50 states, powered by the Open States project — And more»
Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us – By ProPublica
ProPublica article about deep well injection
The Sky is Pink video – By Josh Fox
https://www.fractracker.org/a5ej20sjfwe/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/FT-2010GasProduction.png210290FracTracker Alliancehttps://www.fractracker.org/a5ej20sjfwe/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Fractracker-Color-Logo.jpgFracTracker Alliance2012-06-26 08:55:222014-08-13 16:46:04A Mosaic of Recent Activity
“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:
https://www.fractracker.org/a5ej20sjfwe/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/TrailLogbook.png250610FracTracker Alliancehttps://www.fractracker.org/a5ej20sjfwe/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Fractracker-Color-Logo.jpgFracTracker Alliance2012-04-20 09:00:572020-03-05 13:19:28Collaborative Trail Logbook – Reporting Gas Industry Impacts on PA Trail Experiences
The Center for Healthy Environments and Communities has received a lot of inquiries regarding the various reports that CHEC’s director, Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH, is leaving the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. This is indeed true, but many of the reports are misleading as to why and what this means for FracTracker. Since Dan’s decision inevitably affects CHEC and FracTracker, we thought it best to post a blog discussion about it.
What’s next for Dan Volz?
PopCity, a fantastic and local e-magazine and website, recently interviewed Dan on the subject after hearing the news that he is not renewing his faculty contract at GSPH, and therefore can no longer serve as the director of CHEC. Here are some of the excerpts from their discussion:
Are you walking away from the concerns you’ve been raising about Marcellus Shale drilling and the dangers it poses to our health and the environment?
Not at all. My intention is to be more of an advocate for public health around the issue of Marcellus Shale.
I am leaving the university to work on these greater questions. It’s time that someone rose up and spoke out about environmental policy and how it’s not only playing out in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but the world…
Will you continue your work with FracTracker?
This has yet to be worked out. I’m leaving the university. FracTracker is a tool for citizens and environment organizations, as well as the industry and government, to look at the potential impacts of this process. It is managed by CHEC. The software license is owned by the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds… Certainly I will be participating as a citizen can on FracTracker. I may have a more formal arrangement in the future.
Letter sent to CHEC’s director, Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH:
Dear Dr Volz,
I am a resident of Susquehanna CO PA, ground zero for natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing. Oil and Gas were exempt during the Bush/Cheney administration from all environmental federal regulations for Clean Air, Water, the Chemical Disclosure Act, Superfund Act etc….via the HALLIBURTON Loophole. Halliburton developed fracking technology, and are one of the main drillers and also produce the chemicals used in the process. The industry does not have to reveal what toxic chemicals they are injecting into our ground through our aquifers… it is proprietary. I urge you to watch Josh Fox’s Sundance Winning documentary “GASLAND” if you have not already seen it. We have no rights to clean drinking water; the industry is counting on getting eminent domain to extract the natural resources from under our ground and criss cross our land with pipelines they will not inspect: we are Class 1 areas and our lives per Federal and State regs are not worthy of a safety or even a routine pipeline inspection plan as we are in rural sparsely populated areas. These natural gas transmission and gathering lines will not serve PA residents, but will export natural gas out of our county and country and sold on the open market for the highest profit margin. We have been invaded by multinational natural gas corporations who are contaminating our drinking water, polluting our air, making us sick, and the state is on their side. No one….not even the lawyers ultimately… have stood up for Dimock residents’ right to a source of clean drinking water. The bottom line is profit, not our health, our water, our lives. Cabot Oil and Gas contaminated the Dimock aquifer and got away with it. Tomorrow is a panel discussion in La Port, PA featuring Anthony Ingraffea, PhD in Rock Fracture Technology, Cornell Univ., and Terry Engelder, PhD from Penn State, who holds a PhD from Texas A&M in Geosciences. Dr Engelder stated publicly that Dimock was a “necessary sactifice” for progress, Penn State has done a lot of research funded by the Oil and Gas industry. Dr Ingraffea, has spoken the truth about the dangers of shale gas extraction using “fracking” techniques… injecting millions of gallons of fresh water with thousands of pounds of chemicals like benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene under high pressure 8000 feet underground to fracture the marcellus shale and capture escaping gases. We need your expertise and voice on the insight you may offer about the longterm cumulative health and environmental impacts to help us get a handle on the war being waged on our communities.
What Oil and Gas is doing in PA, WY, CO, WV, they have done for decades in third world countries: driven the indigenous people off natural resources they wanted access to . Well, my county has been invaded by corporations who are treating us like indigenous natives: we are the new native americans to be cleared from the land; drill rig workers have told us we are in the way. Seismic testing companies have started working on land where no gas leases were signed and when confronted they said we are oil and gas and we will do what we want. We are a third world country to Cabot, Halliburton, Chesapeake etc. PA Homeland Security with the FBI’s consent hired an Israeli surveillance firm, ITRR (Institute for Terrorism Research and Response) to spy on anti-natural gas drillers, “those fomenting dissent”, and shared the information with the natural gas industry. The Marcellus Industry Coalition hired former PA Governor, former Head of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, to do PR and lobby for them. They have portrayed the development of natural gas as a national security issue, and anyone who dissents is a terror threat. That means citizens trying to save their drinking water from contamination, citizens trying to educate their communities about the public health risks of drilling are terrorists. I attached a billboard we put up in our county that ended up analyzed in the Intelligence Bulletins. I am so sorry to ramble, but we need hope.
As a Pennsylvanian, if I litter on a state highway, e.g. throw a biodegradable banana peel on the road, I can be fined hundreds of dollars, yet the Halliburtons of the world…oil and gas….are polluting my air and water legally, and my state does not recognize my right to clean drinking water. We only have our own voices… we do not have millions of dollars to spend on lobbying so I am reaching out to you. Those of us living over marcellus shale, are the new native americans to be driven from their homes. We are the new third world population. The Susquehanna Watershed, the poor rural cousin to the wealthier more politically powerful Delaware Watershed, was allowed to be the guinea pig for marcellus shale extraction. But as the DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission) has unveiled its owns set of rules and regulation for drilling, it seems they are readying to lift the moratorium in the Delaware Watershed before the EPA concludes its new comprehensive environmental impact study of marcellus shale extraction. The last one done in 2004 under Bush/Cheney…concluded shale gas extraction posed no threat at all to the environment. If you be willing to be on a panel discussion about marcellus shale, please let me know. Perhaps Iris Bloom of Protecting Our Water, based in Philly, could interview you on her new radio show FRACTURED DEMOCRACY…which is to be aired on a new truly grassroots public radio station WFTE in Scranton PA. I will send you her pilot program. Thanks, and I hope to hear from you.
Dual resident Bucks/Susquehanna CO’s PA
Videos by another local citizen:
“Dogs became ill after drinking water near a previous gas well site”
“Chemicals used on well site”
“During Steckman Ridge Compressor Station accidental emergency release in 2009″
Thanks to Sandra McDaniel for sending these videos to us!
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FracTracker Alliance studies, maps, and communicates the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation.