No Fracking Way


by Dory Hippauf on October 10, 2013

frack fairy2The fracktivist community is all buzzing with the publication of an article entitled “Some anti-drilling activists change tactics, tone”.  It was written by By KEVIN BEGOS and MICHAEL RUBINKAM.  The appearance of Begos’ name should have been enough to send up the red flag and alert everyone to be a News Nanny.

I could go and dissect the Begos/Rubinkam article in detail, but Texas Sharon and Bob Donnan did that beautifully.


Regarding the use of the word “SOME”, it’s has become a way to lend credibility to a general statement which has little or no credibility.   WATCH: Outfoxed- Fox News technique: “some people say”.

The local group featured in the article is Breath Easy Susquehanna (BES).   Susquehanna is just one of a number of Pennsylvania counties which has experienced a blitzkrieg by the natural gas industry.  These counties are jammed packed with well pads, gathering pipelines, compressor stations, glycol dehydration plants and more.


BES is very concerned about air quality.  In February of this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a report indicating Bradford and Susquehanna counties led the state in the volume of air pollution released by companies producing and processing gas from the Marcellus Shale in 2011.  Granted the report is based on 2011 data, but if you consider the additional industrialization in 2012 to the present time, air pollution is getting worse.

BES realizes the emissions from NG infrastructures do not stop at property borders, and we are all downwind.   Members of BES include people who have NG leases and those who do not.  Their common ground is the air we all breathe.  While I applaud that Susquehanna residents have realized they are all breathing the same air, their approach to remedy the air pollution from NG infrastructure has some flaws.

Hate to break it to everyone, but there ain’t no such thing as a frack fairy who will wave his magic drill bit and make it all go away.


BES states on their Facebook page: (emphasis added):

MISSION: “To protect regional air quality and health of communities in Susquehanna County, Pa from potentially harmful air emissions released through the processes of shale gas extraction, production and transport.”

STRATEGY:” We will promote respectful dialogue between the natural gas industry and our Susquehanna County community. Although our members are bipartisan, we are non-partisan. We will publicly advocate industry to keep their promise to act as good neighbors and partners through voluntary use of best technologies and processes for lowest possible air emissions at every stage of shale gas extraction beyond regulations. Achieving the lowest air emissions possible will help to keep our air healthy to breathe, which will help protect the health of everyone living and working in our community.”

So everybody clap now.  BES is attempting to encourage the NG industry to use Best Technologies.  BES has been actively engaging the Williams Company to employ best technologies, so let’s see what Williams has to say about their commitment to the environment.

Williams Company on Environmental Stewardship:

williams environmental stewardship

Williams Company is also a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition which has issued Guiding Principles (emphasis added):

We, the members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, embrace and operate by the following guiding principles:

  • We provide the safest possible workplace for our employees, with our contractors, and in the communities in which we operate;
  • We implement state-of-the-art environmental protection across our operations;
  • We continuously improve our practices and seek transparency in our operations;
  • We strive to attract and retain a talented and engaged local workforce;
  • We are committed to being responsible members of the communities in which we work;
  • We encourage spirited public dialogue and fact-based education about responsible shale gas development; and
  • We conduct our business in a manner that will provide sustainable and broad-based economic and energy-security benefits for all.

We recognize that to succeed in business, we not only embrace these principles, we live by them each and every day. This will be our legacy.

Click HERE to download a printable PDF of the MSC’s Guiding Principles.

And the NG front group, NATURALGAS.ORG states:

….the U.S. natural gas industry is actively involved in international programs that serve to share ‘best practices’ with respect to environmental preservation.

According to the NG industry and their lobbying and front groups, the industry is already using or is committed to use “best practices and technologies”.

Is there technology out there already which will decrease air pollution emissions on well pads, pipelines, and assorted infrastructure?  Yes and a number of those technologies are relatively inexpensive.

So, why hasn’t the industry incorporated them into their activities?

One possible reason is public perceptions.  The NG industry has spent a significant amount of money to tell us their activities are safe and environmentally friendly.   Putting equipment on their facilities would indicate it may not be all as safe and environmentally friendly as they say.

Watch these video:


The second flaw in BES’s approach is support for stronger regulations.   Regulations are permission to poison us with “X” amount.  It’s a limit, so where the limit is “X” or “Y”, it’s still poisoning us.

Regulations are also minimum standards which the NG corporations need to meet.   There is nothing in the regulations which says a NG Corporation can’t do better than those minimal standards.

NG Corporations chose not to do better.  In fact they are lobbying hard to eliminate or otherwise gut existing standards, and those they cannot cut or gut, they find loopholes and use weasel words to get around them.  Additionally, according to the NG Industry and their trade/front groups, Pennsylvania already has the most stringent regulations in the country.

Marcellus Drilling News (MDN) website, which is an ardent supporter of the NG Industry, has the talking points out already to pooh-pooh the notion of cumulative pollution sources.

MDN asks :Should processing and compressor plants that are connected by pipelines but not directly next to each other be considered a “single source” when it comes to the pollution they emit? The argument comes down to the concept of adjacency–what does the word “adjacent” mean in the federal Clean Air Act? Does it mean “directly next to each other,” or “in the same general vicinity” (up to X miles away)?”

(To see entire article FREE – run a Google search on the article title “Should PA Compressor Plants Miles Away be Considered “Adjacent”?”)

Air pollution is air pollution and we are all downwind breathing it all in no matter how far away you are from a “single source”.

In a nutshell, the NG industry says it is already using best practices and that Pennsylvania has the most stringent set of regulation in the country – so what’s left to “improve”?  Look for improvements in their PR ads and talking points when they exploit BES’s cooperation.

Perhaps when Breathe Easy Susquehanna realizes nothing has changed except for the talking points they will not be breathing so easily.

©2013 by Dory Hippauf


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Berndtson October 10, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Is there anything stopping landowners in and around production sites (wells, compressors, etc) to install air quality monitoring stations? Well, except maybe the obvious – money. A monitoring station could be as simple as setting a stake in the ground and hanging a device that collects air samples over an extended period of time. Or taking a grab (instantaneous) sample of the air using an evacuated canister. Samples would be sent to a lab. Whether a qualified lab with traditional certification will do the analysis is another question. (and probably the most important one)

The reason I ask is that even though it’s assumed a property owner can do what it wants on it’s property, that doesn’t seem to be always the case in shale gas country.

Anyway, technical know how isn’t an issue. In PA/NY alone you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an environmental consultant. Costs for sampling equipment, materials and laboratory analysis would have to be covered. There’s a couple routes for example: (1) apply guilt to wealthy philanthropists promoting bootstrapping environmental capitalism for funding and (2) Kickstarter/crowd funding.

Or a resident of a shale area could birddog the State’s and industry’s air sampling and monitoring efforts at every point along the process: planning, sampling, analysis and reporting. I think that would fall under “transparent.” This is the old…oversee the overseers with plenty of oversight.


Lynn October 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Yes I agree with you Michael; citizen action is going to be the way to go. Sampling can be done by residents. In fact BESC, which is actually the correct acronym of the group which stands for Breathe Easy Susquehanna County has coordinated two Picarro SURVEYOR Webinars to educate public officials and citizens about existing technologies to monitor air quality in gas-fields. One webinar was for the BESC steering committee and the other was attended by ten state and federal legislators. Picarro SURVEYOR is cutting edge technology to detect and monitor fugitive emissions at upstream, midstream and downstream locations. Also Picarro recognizes the methane is a carrier for volatile organic compounds and has the science to extrapolate concentrations.
This webinar has been offered to Dory and other concerned citizens in other counties. It was offered in the context of the Dallas, PA pipeline leak because of public health and safety concerns about infrastructure near schools. No response has been received. BESC is reaching out to local school districts and offering this webinar opportunity to them.
BESC has also partnered with an international group called Global Community Monitoring to generate 10 air samples from PA. This was part of a national study whose findings will be released in a peer reviewed scientific journal. Currently BESC is working with a major university to participate in an evolving citizens science air project. BESC’s mission is about advocating for the use of the best possible practices and technologies. What BESC wants is for industry to go beyond the current regulations and to implement the most protective equipment available like the zero emission dehydrator, a technology that virtually eliminates all chemical emissions associated with health risks. BESC will work to educate the general public about the technology that currently exists for closed completions without flaring, for better noise and emissions controls and so on. BESC has chosen to focus on air quality issues. Of course like you said, all of this is expensive. BESC aims to make it even more expensive financially, politically, and socially for the oil and gas industry to ignore the health of communities.


Dory Hippauf October 12, 2013 at 6:00 am

Who writes the “best practices”? The industry does. Best is a relative term, best compared to what?
Regarding the “best”technologies available, these have have been around for a number of years, if the industry is really sincere about using “best technologies” then why aren’t they already using them?

I’m waiting for the industry ads to come out and say they are working with concerned citizens to reduce air pollution through the use of even more natural gas.

“Natural gas is ready now to play a greater role in helping reduce air pollution in communities across the country. Natural gas represents the only clean energy option of adequate scale today to start now to make meaningful improvements over the next 10 years in our air quality. So breathe easy, America. With natural gas, our clean energy future may be closer than we think.”

See, they are already reducing pollution, they say it right there, in black and white, so what’s the problem?

About the webinar, have seen it. It’s nice, but according to the industry they are already using best practices and techonologies.


Michael Berndtson October 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm


Another solution may be to have state and federal government do their jobs to keep everyone on their toes. I realize this is old school environmental protection. The new citizens environmental protection movement seems like another nonprofit scheme to put money in the hands of a few executives and have the work performed under the auspices of do good volunteerism. News reporting of late has indicated many of the non profits executives are pulling in 7 figure salaries off the backs of low paid workers and concerned citizens. Those executive’s aren’t making that kind of bank from low dollar donors.

Because citizens are having to take this on, just explains how broken the system is. Is it pre environmental protection agency 1969? Well, probably it’s post loophole closed door energy development 2013.


Mary Sweeny October 12, 2013 at 7:43 pm

“Because citizens are having to take this on, just explains how broken the system is.”


I mean, really, what’s next? Should we form citizen groups to pave the highways? Maybe we could raise the money for the necessary equipment by having a few bake sales or putting on a show out in the barn, and then, instead of sleeping, we could work all night on the highways! We could even form special crews to inspect the bridges! Sure, the crash courses in engineering will be expensive and time-consuming, but hey, we can manage to fit all of that in somehow!

The above paragraph is obviously ridiculous–just as ridiculous as it is to think that local citizens’ groups can somehow form do-it-yourself, local departments of environmental protection and conservation and go out and singlehandedly make the gas industry a better neighbor. Ultimately, it ain’t gonna work. In the meantime, it’s providing some nice PR for the industry.

I certainly have no objections to citizens’ efforts to monitor the air and water in an effort to document the effects that shale gas development has on the environment. But anyone who thinks the gas industry is going to voluntarily and consistently adhere to a set of “best practices” is just kidding themselves. This is the same industry that has managed to negate critical environmental laws at the federal level!!!! And anyone who thinks those “best practices”–even if followed to the letter by the industry–would be sufficiently protective of the environment and human health has not been paying attention to problems such as industrialization of rural and residential landscapes or to unsolved technical problems such as the finite lifetime of the cement in the well bores.


Mary Sweeny October 12, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I want to point out that Picarro Surveyor™ really seems to be pitching its advertising toward the gas industry, not those who are harmed by the gas industry.

Here’s some rhetoric from the Picarro Surveyor site:

“Bring new levels of safety to the community you serve and underline your corporate social responsibility credentials.”

“Natural gas is our cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Let Picarro help you keep it safe for your employees, your customer and your business.”

Here’s the link to the Picarro Surveyor site:

(P.S. The Picarro site shows a picture of a cute car driving along a highway with a little detector attached to the top of the car. So now I’m trying to figure out how they would “Simply drive the grid” (to quote from their web site) with their Picarro Surveyor system when in our part of the country the pipeline runs for miles through forests and up and down rugged hillsides.)


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