You Better Knock on Wood
"And they was using up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer's station." -Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie
This post is not about Alice, or the restaurant. Its about how needed emergency management planning in the shale basins and elsewhere is being addressed. And, its not from where I usually sit at the various and sundry Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) meetings. The Local Government Study Group (LGSG) headed up by Charles Taylor met on June 7, 2013 at the same time the Trade Secrets Study Group met. So, this recounting of the high points of the LGSG meeting is from the audio recording.
The link is here: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mining-and-energy-commission/lgrsg-06-7-2013
Somebody knocked on wood. Really.
During a very tentative discussion around what emergency services and training might be needed in the shale basins, Charles Taylor described a gas emergency a while back in Lee County after a tornado. Taylor stated that emergency management had to be brought in from Charlotte and were on the site for "5 consecutive days." He seemed very impressed with their Suburbans and nifty equipment.
From the audio:
Toby Vinson (TV), DENR staff: (Disclaimer, I did not recognize his voice absolutely. I consulted someone who was at this meeting and was advised that Mr. Vinson was the speaker)
"I guess because one of the things I guess we don't know what the existing EOC (I took this to mean emergency operations center) response would be for this particular situation, I guess one of the recommendations we could look at or make would be to make sure that the county emergency management along with [the] state EOC or state Emergency Management Office, [within the Department of Public Safety (DPS)], make sure they have a coordinated response and know what the exisiting issues are that they might have to respond to."
He continued, " There might be other things like, uh, well blow-outs that we don't know if they're already prepared for, or not."
Commissioner Charles Holbrook (CH):
"I would like to say, though, that blow-outs are extremely rare."
Somebody could be heard knocking on wood.
At that point I paused and rewound.
After more discussion about how regional emergency management coordination is/is not happening it was still not clear how it will occur around this industry's many potential hazards.
TV: "You don't want to overwhelm them [volunteer fire and EMS] because they're dealing with limited personnel."
And limited financial resources. There was a question about who paid the costs for management of the Lee County gas emergency, Mr. Taylor stated he thought the landowner's insurance did.
MEC Chairman Jim Womack reported some time back that he had polled several counties in Pennsylvania and his impression was that they had things (emergency management) under control. I looked into that a bit. The American Public Health Association reported in 2012 that a study conducted by the Pennsylvania County Commissioner's Association showed that "the state was experiencing deficits in emergency management and hazardous materials response planning in drilling areas."
Here's a link to the report: Marcellus Shale Emergency Preparedness
From where I sit, in the murky and complex world of gas leases, the question of liability, if insurance will even cover such things and indemnification, it will be a bureaucratic and legal nightmare to get the bill paid. Emergency departments will be the ones left holding the bag.