Victory in protecting Allegheny River Headwaters in PA

After extended public outcry and oppositional activism over the planned construction of a gas-well fracking wastewater processing plant near the headwaters of the mighty Allegheny River (which was cleaned up enough 10 years ago to have a national bass-fishing tournament near to downtown Pittsburgh) the developer is dropping the plan. Great success for those of us who work to protect our rivers from reverting to industrial toxic waste sewers.

For those not familiar with it, the Allegheny is one of 3 major Mid-Atlantic rivers (the Youghiogheny, the Monongahela and the Allegheny) that flow together near and at downtown Pittsburgh to create the Ohio River which eventually flows into the Mississippi and thus to the Gulf of Mexico. Effluent dumped into the Allegheny (like fracking waste that contains hundreds of chemicals and also radioactive material) could have flowed all the way to the world’s oceans – think about it!

congrats on the victory, here in wv there seem to be continous threats to waterways. What’s tricky is striking a balance between jobs and environmental concerns. When it comes to fracking the wv legislature in their wisdom decided that the companies who frack don’t have to disclose what chemicals they inject into the ground, (and possibly the water table). Of course we’re the state a few years back that had politicians and public health officials declaring the “water was safe” after a chemical storage tank leaked into the elk river- never mind if some folks were getting sick, or the tap water smelled like licorice. Eventually, the officials changed their tune, brought in bottled water, closed schools, and admitted they didn’t know the real health effects from the spill. Incidently, the area hit was Charleston, WV, the state’s most populated area. We currently have a governor who owes millions to several states for unpaid coal reclamation taxes, and is making sure none of the state water standards exceed the national standards. While WV leads the nation in home ownership rates (yep, we own our doublewides!) many folks like me don’t own the mineral rights beneath our homes. The good news is that they already mined beneath where I live and the insurance agencies have special rates to cover you in case the ground gives way.

I feel you. We share some watersheds - I kayak the terminus of the Youghiogheny quite often since it’s less than 30 minutes from my house. I’ve been actively fighting the fracking war for nearly 12 years and my activism in the tri-state area goes farther back. In 1991 I joined actor Martin Sheen in a demonstration against the building of the toxic waste incinerator in East Liverpool Ohio near your northern panhandle. Martin let himself be arrested for trespassing (I was not).

Boggles my mind that here in PA, after so many decades of struggle and effort and billions in public expense we salvaged our mining waste-poisoned watersheds from the depredations of the largely defunct coal mining industry, yet people are in denial about the destruction that fracking creates in watersheds. I know mining engineers personally, including a very senior one who was working for Halliburton in the Middle East when they developed many of the fracking methods and materials that are being used all over the Marcellus now. He quit the gas industry in disgust after seeing how recklessly and irresponsibly both the large and small mining companies were conducting their operations, purely to increase profits. They lie about data and risks and routinely flout regulations.

I’ve hiked the woods and paddled the rivers and streams throughout fracking country for the past 10 years and I’ve seen first hand the devastation they can inflict on the landscape. Massive “produced water” empoundments left unguarded and leaking in State Forest sites, with dead wildlife around them that have drunk from or tried to swim in the chemical soups. 10 and 20 acre sites stripped of trees, full of abandoned equipment and trash, left to molder at “remote monitored” wellheads. Stinking, loud compressor sites with 24 hours burning flares (please tell me how burning off your product is productive??).

My engineer friend stated that the current methods waste nearly 50% of what is mined by burning off or releasing into the atmosphere. He believes that they should ramp down fracking until they can improve the technique to be less wasteful and polluting. Right now we are profligately wasting what could be an important resource once improved methods are developed.

But the short term bottom line on shareholders’ investments is all these companies care about and they manage to brainwash the state residents with false promises of economic “security”. Most gas site workers in PA have been out of staters – there is a brief boom economy while they build the lines and drill pads, then all of that vanishes once the gas flows. You can drive through North Central PA and see tiny towns where every yard has some fairly new boat, snowmobile or shiny dual axle pickup truck that the owners can no longer afford payments on since their 2 year job with the fracking companies went away. after all the wellpads were built.

here in Pittsburgh we are fighting to block a massive Shell ethane cracking plant on the Ohio near the WV panhandle – even though we have cleaned up the city a lot since the Steel Mill era, we still have higher air pollution in carcinogens like benzene than most other similar cities from the industries that remain and being downwind of a massive organic chemical complex will NOT be a good thing in any way. People tout the “1,000 jobs” but this city has been prospering in other more “green” economic areas like health care, higher education, high tech and tourism that could easily provide 1,000 or more healthier jobs than tending a gas plant.

I used to visit the WV panhandle and other industrial zones in the northern part of the state to do site walk throughs to estimate work for the electrical contractors for whom i worked. I saw the horrible conditions at those plants and the defeated looks of the workers who had to work at them. The Koppers coal tar plant in Follansbee, WV, was the most devastated post-apocalyptic looking landscape I have ever seen in this country, and I travel a lot. Weeds would not even grow around it. Our workmen’s boots and clothes would disintegrate in weeks when they worked there and they had to wear heavy sunscreen to keep from being sunburnt because coal tar vapors photosensitize you. HOrrible!

Willowleaf, that sounds quite grim : (

Speaking of wasteful methods, I had the chance to talk to someone who’s familiar with frac-sand mining not far from where I live. Apparently, our local sand (which is being shipped out east by the trainload) was not originally considered well suited for fracking, but they switched to this type of sand for one reason and one reason only. It provides a much faster recovery of oil than does the previous method. That sounds like a good thing, but it’s not. The downside is that the total volume of oil that can be recovered by the new method before the well essentially “runs dry” is much, much less. But by getting a small amount of oil very quickly, the oil companies need less time to recoup the cost of drilling, which is “enough” for the greedy bastards who then move on to drill another well somewhere else, leaving the original well completely useless and non-functioning but on ground which still has most of its oil left in place. There is NO desire among those in the oil industry to make the most of the resource because that, although it would be good for both the country and for their business in the long run, is not quite as profitable on a per-day basis. It’s perfectly clear that all they care about is the speed at which they can rake in money “right now”, and that they don’t care one bit about the future of the resource or the future of our country. A related point is, the fact that one of the pillars of an entire political platform is the idea that current drilling methods are good for our economy and for our future, is testament to the total dishonesty of power- and money-hungry politicians, and to the complete stupidity of their voters.

I’m anything BUT anti-drilling. I just get angry about the complete disregard for common sense (including common sense as it applies to protection of the environment) that invariably goes along with greed.

We are the hollow men
and our world ends
hallowed ground
hollowed in
greed to gravitas
and P.S. T.S.
from within
the collapsed well
echo still
the whimper

I would like to see all natural gas and oil deposits declared a “National Reserve” necessary for our longterm functional security and economic future – these resources should be classified as the property of the commonwealth of the citizens of the US, not something that any profiteering company could pull out of the ground and sell to the highest bidder, leaving an exhausted and contaminated landscape for the taxpayers to clean up. Extraction would be licensed on an “as needed” basis and the most efficient and safe and conservative methods would have to be demonstrated and adhered to. In fact, this should be the case with groundwater as well.

But the market capitalist system would scream bloody murder at such a “radical” concept.

@willowleaf said:
But the market capitalist system would scream bloody murder at such a “radical” concept.


As John Dawson of New Riders of the Purple Sage said: “We live in the Garden of Eden. I don’t know why they want to tear the whole thing to the ground.”