Flaring at Mountain View

The day after Thanksgiving, five wells overlooking my elementary and high schools were flared. In an odd twist of irony, the wells are on the property of the school board president. I took some pictures.

On a related note, there’s another compressor station going up in Dimock! At what might be Pennsylvania’s first-ever public hearing about a compressor station, about 30 people came forward to oppose the station or demand better emissions controls. I am excited about the response to my testimony (and I was cut off for running over the time limit), so here it is.

My name is Kelly Finan, and I was born and raised in Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania,
about five miles from Dimock. My parents bought their ‘little piece of heaven’ in
the 70’s, and spent the next several years building a stone house together. The
house overlooks a small pond, where I’ve spent many a summer day swimming and
paddling with my friends.

I attended Juniata College, famous for its science departments, where I studied
environmental science and was groomed to love the concept of natural gas as
a “transition fuel”, or a bridge between fossil fuels and renewable energy. Juniata
is also the home of chemistry professor Paul Schettler, who used his enormous
understanding of physical chemistry to assist the US Department of Energy and
Columbia Gas Corporation in predicting the movement of natural gas deep below
the surface of the earth. This was a 30-year study which, I’m sure, had no small
implications for the development of hydraulic fracturing. When my parents asked
my opinion regarding a lease on our land, I said “sure, why not?” That’s when my
romance with natural gas ended.

Flash forward a couple of years. I’m watching a 40-foot-wide gash being chewed,
fern-gully style, across my neighbor’s land in order to accommodate a pipeline.
There’s a flare down the street that lights up the sky so vividly that, while driving
home one winter night, I worried that my house was burning down. And now, there
are several compressor stations being permitted within just a few miles of my front
door.

Tree-hugging and cosmetic ugliness aside, there are some serious health risks
to this industry’s guerilla attack on Pennsylvania. Although I could spend
hours criticizing every aspect of the industry, today I will address only the issue
of compressor stations, using examples of deteriorating air quality which is
threatening human health in towns across the US.

Sublette County, Wyoming, is a rural area subjected to a booming gas development.
The area contains at least 5 compressor stations. For 13 days last winter, ground
ozone levels there were deemed unhealthy by federal air quality standards.

Dish is a town of approximately 200 people and 11 compressor stations. It is located
in Denton County, TX., directly above the Barnett Shale. Independent air analysis
performed in the Town of DISH “confirmed the presence in high concentrations of
carcinogenic and neurotoxin compounds in ambient air near and/or on residential
properties. The compounds in the air indicate quantities in excess of what would

normally be anticipated in ambient air in an urban residential or rural residential
area. Many of these compounds verified by laboratory analysis were metabolites of
known human carcinogens and exceeded both Short-term and Long-term effective
screening levels (ESL) according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
regulations. “ (Wolf Eagle Environmental).

Compounds that exceeded both short term and long term effective screening levels
include:

Benzene: Anemia leading to bone marrow damage, leukemia and death.

Xylenes: “are absorbed readily in the lungs and GI tract and quickly distributed to
tissues through blood flow. There is evidence that chronic occupational exposure to
Xylenes is associated with neurological effects.” (Wolf Eagle Environmental)

Carbon disulfide: “At high concentrations may be life-threatening due to its
central nervous system suppression. Physical signs of milder exposure may result in
nerve damage to the lower-lateral leg and foot resulting in foot drags or mild limp.”
(Wolf Eagle Environmental)

Dimethyl disulphide: “Health factors associated with exposure to Dimethyl
disulphide include irritation of the respiratory system (nose, throat) as well as
eye and skin irritation. Dimethyl disulphide is known to cause nausea and overall
weakness. Vapor or air mixtures of Dimethyl disulphide above 24°C may be
explosive.” (Wolf Eagle Environmental)

Benzene isomers: Trimethyl benzene, Diethyl benzene, Methyl-methylethyl
benzene, Tetramethyl benzene, 1,2,4-Trimethyl benzene: “They are also
identified as hazardous and may contain similar adverse effects on humans as
benzene.” (Wolf Eagle Environmental)

Ethyl pyridine, 2-Methyl pyridine, and Diemethyl pyridine: “Effects of acute
pyridine exposure include dizziness, headache and nausea. It is currently being
evaluated as a possible carcinogenic agent by government agencies.” (Wolf Eagle
Environmental)

Ethyl, methylethyl disulfide, Dimethyl trisulfide, Ethyl n-propyl
disulphide: “Known eye, skin and respiratory irritants” (Wolf Eagle Environmental)

Now I will apply this information to the planned Shields Compressor Station in
Dimock. Some expected pollutants from the Shields Compressor Station include
VOCs (common VOCs include Benzene and Xylene, listed above) at a level of 47.49
tons per year, when the EPA limit is 50 tons per year. It’s obvious that this company

isn’t using best management practices to reduce its emissions to protect the
environment and human health. Rather, it is polluting as much as it possibly can
without quite breaching the Clean Air Act.

It is obvious to me that the Department of Environmental Protection is not doing
its job in monitoring the natural gas industry, which forces citizens to do its job for
it. There are several people in this room who have been robbed of their peaceful
retirements, and instead patrol the backroads of this county all day, every day
looking for violations that the DEP continually overlooks. Thanks to the negligence
of the DEP, my own father has been forced to purchase a FLIR Gasfindir camera,
which costs more than my 4-year college education did.

Also, it has come to my attention that North Central DEP Region as a matter of
routine allows a half hour question and answer session with the public before each
DEP public hearing. However, we in the Northeast DEP Region do not get that public
discussion. Why?

I don’t understand exactly what made the DEP conclude that the water in Dimock is
safe to drink, because it doesn’t take a water expert to prove that the water coming
out of many of those faucets is brown and cloudy. It seems like common sense that
water exhibiting that kind of turbidity wouldn’t be acceptable for drinking., even if it
wasn’t laced with methane or a cocktail of drilling chemicals.

It’s been a few years since I first realized that natural gas is not the miracle fuel
that I had initially been taught about in school. Today, I like to go running on my
road and take my dog for walks in the woods, but these activities are frequently
interrupted by the roaring of nearby gas wells being vented or flared, or the sounds
of heavy machinery chewing its way through the woods. The other day, I turned
around mid way through my morning jog when a loud release from our neighbor’s
gas well startled me and made me think hard about the air that I was laboriously
sucking into my lungs. Every time I fill a glass of water, I instinctively inspect the
water for bubbles, discoloration, or odor. I dread the day that our water turns
brown, or worse, the day that it becomes contaminated but doesn’t change visibly. I
dread the day our air quality makes it impossible for me to run in the morning.

I demand actual protection from the DEP. Stop making citizens do your work for
you, increase and actually enforce air quality regulations regarding compressor
stations, and for the love of God stop allowing every natural gas related permit to
fly-by-night into your “approved” pile.

Kelly Finan
4450 SR 2002
Hop Bottom, PA 18824

Sources:

Dr. Paul Schettler:

http://www.juniata.edu/services/library/friends/friendsnews/
FOLNewsletterSpring09.pdf

http://www.onepetro.org/mslib/servlet/onepetropreview?id=00017070&soc=SPE

Sublette County, Wyoming:

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/wy/information/NEPA/pfodocs/
jonah.Par.3636.File.dat/52app-g.pdf

Dish, TX (including list of emissions):

Wolf Eagle Environmental: http://townofdish.com/objects/DISH_-
_final_report_revised.pdf

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120043996

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One comment

  1. Kris Neiss

    Awesome report Kelly.As I was reading it I wondered at what point you got cut off. It all was important… right to the end. I pray your water stays clean and the air will one day be clean again.

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