‘Dimocked’ Again!

I’m not the only one wondering how well public water wells will serve to provide clean replacement water to the citizens of Dimock, especially when the PA DEP just re-opened the area to drilling and fracking. The Republican Herald/Scranton Times published this December 14, 2022 editorial:

Editorial: DEP Professes Unwarranted Faith In Shale Gas Drillers

(This editorial was first published in the Republican Herald and the Scranton Times on December 14, 2022)

Anyone wondering why the Delaware River Basin Commission doesn’t trust the natural gas industry to drill safely need look no further than the adjacent Susquehanna River watershed.

Pennsylvania’s government long has been outmaneuvered by the industry. Many members of the state Legislature have been lap dogs for industry interests for more than 15 years. 

And that has been reflected in the state Department of Environmental Protection’s accommodating oversight of drilling.

The DRBC regulates water distribution and exercises some environmental oversight for the Delaware River watershed, which provides water for about 13 million people. Its members are the governments of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and the federal government.

The agency has precluded drilling in the watershed, and recently voted to preclude dumping drilling and fracking wastewater anywhere in the watershed, while making it more difficult for drillers to extract water for fracking operations.  [Read more here.]

All of those restrictions have drawn howls of protest from the industry and some landowners have protested that they cannot extract value from their land through drilling leases.

Meanwhile, the DEP makes it hard to argue with the Delaware commission’s decisions.

The agency was woefully ineffective in the early days of the industry’s arrival. 

After residents of the tiny crossroads of Dimock, Susquehanna County, filmed themselves lighting their tap water on fire soon after Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. began drilling, the agency finally placed a moratorium on drilling around the village.

The state attorney general’s office did not criminally charge Cabot until 2020. Recently, Cabot’s successor, Coterra Energy Inc., pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Streams Law for the migration of methane into Dimock’s residential wells. 

It agreed to pay $16 million for a municipal water system and to pay residents’ water bills for 75 years.

Now, remarkably, the DEP has lifted the moratorium on horizontal drilling for gas under Dimock, while insisting that the decision was not related to the plea deal.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the governor-elect, was critical of the DEP during his gubernatorial campaign. 

Reinstating the moratorium would be a good place for him to start making the agency an aggressive guardian of the public interest.

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Then we come to find, that while industry can begin drilling and fracking right away, residents may have to wait 5 years for their new water system! …and even the December 31, 2027 date is “subject to change.”

“In the 2022 COA, Coterra is required to take specific actions at the Subject Water Supplies list in the 2022 COA both before and after any public water system is operational, which could potentially take at least five years.”

Jennifer W. Means, Environmental Program Manager, Eastern Oil and Gas District, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
November 29, 2022 Consent Order and Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection and Coterra Energy Inc.
Excerpts from COA

Page 7 CC. Based upon the results of the testing and monitoring described in Paragraphs W,X,Y, and Z, above, the conditions contained in Paragraph 4, below, are appropriate mitigation measures to allow Coterra’s new drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and production of wells with laterals that traverse under the Dimock/Carter Road Area.

Page 9 3a. Within 90 days after the date of this Consent Order and Agreement, Coterra shall fund, by a one-time payment of $16.29 million dollars to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, a community water well system and water distribution system constructed and operated by Pennsylvania American Water Company, which provides or makes available water to each owner of a Subject Water Supply (“Public Water System”). Coterra’s one-time payment of $16.29 million dollars to fund the Public Water System shall include, connecting the Subject Water Supplies to the Public Water System, and a credit of $50,000 applied to each of the Subject Water Supplies, being the estimated cost to purchase water for 75 years from the date the Public Water System is available to service the Subject Water Supplies.

3b. It is expected that the Public Water System will be completed and potable water will be available to each Subject Water Supply on or before December 31, 2027, however the ultimate completion date is subject to change. In the meantime, Coterra will offer interim water treatment to the Subject Water Supplies.

Related Articles This Week:

— Better Path Coalition: 65 Organizations, Businesses, 2,700+ Individuals Petition Gov.-Elect Shapiro To Ban Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater  [PaEN]

— DEP Consent Agreement Allowing Shale Gas Drilling To Resume Under Dimock, Susquehanna County Sets New Drilling, Water Supply Protection Standards, Imposes $444,000 Penalty  [PaEN]

— DEP Assesses $600,000 Penalty For Illegal Disposal Of Over 1,800 Truck Loads Of Oil & Gas Waste Drill Cuttings In Fayette County  [PaEN]

— DEP Issues Notice Of Violation To Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County For Air Quality Violations In Sept. – Oct.  [PaEN]

— Bloomberg: A Massive Natural Gas Leak In Pennsylvania Is Adding To Climate Scrutiny

— Presentations Now Available From Shale Gas & Public Health Conference In Nov. Hosted By PA League Of Women Voters & University Of Pittsburgh Graduate School Of Public Health  [PaEN]

— EPA Accepts Final DEP Oil/Gas Facility VOC/Methane Emission Limits Regulation For Review, Stops Imposition Of Federal Highway Funding, Other Sanctions  [PaEN]

— Ohio River Valley Institute Decarbonization Pathway Relies On Zero Emissions Resources, Energy Efficiency, Increased Electrification Is Less Costly Than Natural Gas, Carbon Capture Options  [PaEN]

— CNX Unveils Appalachia-Focused Vision For The Future, Promoting New Natural Gas Development, Use – ‘Produce It Here. Use  It Here – First’  [PaEN]

[Posted: December 16, 2022]  PA Environment Digest | Source

More blogs:

The Story Behind ‘Fracked Water Wells’ in Dimock, PA

Fracking & Flaring BLOOPERS 2009

LANDMARK LAWSUIT: Latkanich v Chevron, EQT, PFAS Defendants

Comparison of the Delaware River Watershed to the Ohio River Watershed 2008-2012

SPECIAL PROTECTION WATERSHEDS: Victims of Repeated Abuse and Lingering Pollution in PA

News:

Pa. lets polluter resume drilling in protected zone, outraging Dimock residents in fracking’s ‘ground zero’
January 3, 2023
– On the same day that the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office reached a plea agreement with an energy company on charges of environmental crimes dating more than a decade in the town of Dimock, state regulators quietly signed a consent order allowing the company to drill beneath an area that had been subject to a 12-year moratorium on such activity. The decision has outraged residents who’ve lived with the pollution tied to Coterra Energy’s previous fracking activity and endured more than a decade in which they’ve lacked access to clean water for their homes. On Nov. 4, 2009, the DEP signed a consent order tying drilling by Coterra — then called Cabot Oil and Gas, prior to a merger with Cimarex Energy Co. in 2021 — to household water pollution, banning the company from drilling new natural gas wells in the area entirely. Following the new consent order, Coterra will now be allowed to drill horizontally underneath the nine-square-mile protected zone, as long as the top hole of a well is drilled outside of it.

Residents Fear New Methane Contamination as Pennsylvania Lifts Its Gas-Drilling Ban in the Township of Dimock
December 23, 2022
– Residents of a Pennsylvania town famous for its flammable tap water fear another round of methane contamination after state officials lifted a 12-year ban on drilling for natural gas beneath their feet. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection signed an agreement with Coterra Energy, allowing it to restart harvesting natural gas from a nine-square-mile “box” beneath Dimock in northeastern Pennsylvania, where the company’s predecessor, Cabot Oil and Gas, was ejected in 2010 after contaminating numerous private water wells with methane. After initially welcoming the AG’s plea deal, some residents were skeptical or outright hostile in response to the DEP’s decision to allow the resumption of gas drilling in a town that became a poster-child for the human impacts of hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—for natural gas when one resident memorably ignited the water from his kitchen faucet. The incident was widely broadcast in the 2010 Netflix documentary “Gasland.”