Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Hello World Family,
Today, the City of Pittsburgh, lead by an ordinance drafted by Councilman Doug Shields, took the unprecedented step to ban unconventional horizontal gas drilling in the city limits of Pittsburgh, PA, becoming the first city to do so.

Citing obvious concerns about the environment, safety, and public welfare, President of Council Darlene Harris was quoted as saying that the jobs that would be brought to the region wouldn't be high paying jobs in the gas drilling industry, but " funeral homes and hospitals. Is it worth it?" she said.

Falcon and Dove would like to applaud the 9-0 decision by council, recognising the risks far outweigh the benefits. Bromides recently detected in the water from the Monongahela River that cannot be removed by current water treatment plants in the region demonstrate that concerns for public welfare are legitimate. Bromides cannot be processed with chlorine, a much more dangerous water treatment with chloramine must be used that is a huge health hazard for people with certain health predispositions. Only through a complete and total moratorium can this industry be studied in full and sensible, lucid, science with full risk analysis, including remediation can be put into place. It may well be that the risk far outweighs the benefit that only seems to help large land owners (who will eventually be the ones held liable if there are problems from gas drilling on their property), foreign investment in companies and the bottom line on the quarterly report for shareholders. The process is fraught with problems, high risk, accidents, and a lack of liability and tax compensation to the communities who need it most.

What's wrong with fracking? Well, it uses millions of gallons of fresh water, without any compensation to communities and cities. That water is NEVER replaced. The water that is recaptured from the fracking process, (about 20%) is contaminated with salts, chemicals, radioactive shale and metals, and possibly, migrating methane and gas. Well casings made with concrete can fail if not allowed to sufficiently cure. Replacing the spaces in the cracked shale with sand is insufficient to hold substrate and formations in place. We have to remember that this formation was made because it was highly pressurized on a fault line. With the legacy of old abandoned mines, current mines and land subsidence, it is foolish at best to think that this process would protect the environment and communities.

Then there is the surface risk. Water is rarely treated by the industry and is dumped in all sorts of places: rivers and streams, lakes, occasionally into abandoned mines (this has been documented) and in the winter, on roads in townships that have a general permit to dump frackwater as liquid salt! Imagine where that goes : groundwater, topsoil, runoff into sewers, yards, and underneath your automobile. This fluid is very acid and corrosive. That will compromise your vehicle, your infrastructure in your town; businesses who recycle water that work with road equipment like care washes, etc. Who issues those permits? DEP. How much frackwater is allowed on area roadways and where? Who knows? I have asked several DEP officials on many occasions, they cannot tell me how many permits and to whom they have issued. There seems to be no limit on when and where this frackwater can be used. Ah...this is bad.

Accidents: there have been way too many already. The industry has a 95% safety rating, which sounds good until you realize that one in every 150 or so wells could have big problems.

Leaks, blow outs, capture pond failure or overrun, migration of fluids and gases, etc. Our first responders in PA are mostly volunteers (80%). They are our first line of defense to protect us in the unfortunate instance of a disaster. They are not properly trained, equipped, or suited to respond to many of these well problems. Jobs that pay well are going to those from other states. The gas company will pay you $15 and hour to drive and truck and poison the air with diesel and haul frack fluids that are highly dangerous. Where's your gear? Guess what? You don't get enough. You should be in a HAZMAT suit. It you have a leak, that is exactly who will come to your rescue, guys in the suit. Let's not forget trains hauling iso-butane (we just had a leak in September in a railyard). Extremely dangerous. At this point, the gas industry is not liable: not for the spills, the hazards, the leaks, the damage to the roads, or if your water well blows up, or if gas runs into your sewer lines and blows a manhole cover off, or causes a massive subsidence in your backyard. If will never be their fault.

Pittsburgh City Council did the sensible thing. Bravo! Now if the short sighted industry that sees profit over people would begin to show just a glimmer of a conscience or a reflection, and dialog along issues of risk rather than hide behind severe misinformation (Falcon is open to a debate with Ms. Marcellus Shale Coalition anytime, but she keeps bailing out on engagements every time we get a chance for a sitdown), we the citizens of Pittsburgh and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be ready to listen. But we set the rules. After all, this is our land, and according to our constitution, you cannot have it or its resources without OUR permission. We did not give it.

Falcon and Dove

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