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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Come on Feel the Noise

Zee zee zee zum zum buzz buzz buzz buzz in the eardrum ~Wire

Friends, fracking is well, its loud. To get an idea of how loud visit this link: Hollenbeck Well Site Susquehannah County Pennsylvania

On July 12, 2013, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) interns Colleen Brophy and Franklin Wolfe made a presentation on noise, dust odor, and light to the Local Government Regulation Study Group. Link to audio here: Local Government Regulation Study Group July 12, 2013. The presentation is in part one.

Hydraulic fracturing operations are extremely noisy; equipment, heavy trucks on the site, drilling and other activities will result in “frequent to continuous noise.”  Additionally, the almost non-stop noise from heavy trucks (approximately 90dBA per truck passing by) will contribute to the noise level in affected communities. Drilling and flaring will generate the loudest sounds. Drilling activities can produce around 115 decibels (dBA) at the well pad. This is louder than a jackhammer or a helicopter. Drilling operations can go on up to two months; sometimes 24 hours a day.  The noise could exceed 55 dBA as far as 1800-3500 feet away. [1] Exposure to 85 decibels for over 8 hours at a time can cause hearing loss. [2]
Besides its effect on hearing, exposure to loud and continuous noise can “induce hearing impairment, hypertension and ischemic heart disease, annoyance, sleep disturbance, and decreased school performance.”[3]

Here are some highlights from the presentation. Link here Noise Abatement, Odors and Dust, Lighting:

  • Natural gas development involves significant amounts of noise, especially during the initial phases of well pad construction, drilling, hydraulic fracturing and site reclamation. These activities typically last two or three months per well pad, and involve heavy machinery, large trucks and generators that could impact nearby communities.
  • Any increase in decibels is actually experienced 10 times louder. For an example a 5 decibel increase is actually 50 times louder
  • Any noise greater than 75 decibels (db) is unacceptable in a residential area according to HUD guidelines
  • Composite estimates are from distance of 50-2000 feet from the operation (it was not clear in the audio I was listening to exactly where the starting point was, levels listed below will be at 50 and 2000 feet) .
    • Access road construction: 89-57 db
    • Well pad construction: 84-52 db
    • Horizontal air well drilling: 76-44 db
    • Hydraulic fracturing
      • Diesel pumper trucks (op1):99-67
      • Diesel pumper trucks (op2): 104-72
  • Some parts of the process can go on for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
This and other information is being considered to establish rules for setbacks, which according to current thinking among Commissioners, will likely be around 100 feet. When talking about the setbacks,study group Chair Charles Taylor said: "I think that's something we gotta look at as you look at Don Kovasckitz' model (see an earlier blog post), you've stifle the opportunity for industry to participate." Taylor went on to say that the 100 ft. number was not set in stone, but it was a place to start. Commissioner Charles Holbrook chimed in, "Right. I think its really important to do that." 

As usual, not much care and concern expressed for the neighbors of these operations, all the warm fuzzies are saved for the industry. 

From where I sit, we're going to need a lot of earplugs.

[1] “Oil and Gas Development Impacts.” Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse. Accessed 4 June 2013.
[2] Goines, Lisa RN, Hagler, Louis MD. “Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague.” Southern Medical Journal. 2007; 100 (3): 287-294.  Accessed 4 June 2013.
[3] Passchier-Vermeer, W. Passchier, W.F. “Noise Exposure and Public Health.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Accessed 4 June 2013.A presentation on noise, odor and dust given by interns with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources identified and estimated just how loud the process is.

Sunday, July 21, 2013



"DOE study: Fracking chemicals didn't taint water" 


Get ready for the ridiculousness.

How many times do you think this "landmark" study will be mentioned at next weeks Mining and Energy Committee meetings? I know my extended family pretty well, and I am fairly certain that it will be mentioned at least 10 times. The $64,000 question is, will anyone mention that these findings are from ONE site, and only from ONE year. It can also be assumed that Echelon, the owner of the well which allowed tracers to be used and some monitoring would not volunteer a problematic site. 

Cracks in the report:

The biggest fracture is that the study is confined to one site which was volunteered, additionally, study results are premature and give a skewed picture of the significance of the findings.

Dr. Rob Jackson from Duke University says:

"He called it a "useful and important approach" to monitoring fracking, but cautioned that the single study doesn't prove that fracking can't pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation."

Where can the study be reviewed?:

I tried to find the actual results, and have not been successful. Industry tends to cherry-pick studies, kind of like picking your sins.

Little Information on the site:

No information on how long the well has been in operation, it could be too early to tell.

North Carolina's Shale Deposits Are Different:

The shale in North Carolina is not located as deeply as others. The Cumnock Formation is less than 3000 feet down in Lee and Chatham Counties. In some places it is above ground.
Link Here:

Ummm this is important?:

In some media accounts, this wasn't even reported on.

"Seismic monitoring determined one hydraulic fracture traveled 1,800 feet out from the well bore; most traveled just a few hundred feet. That's significant because some environmental groups have questioned whether the fractures could go all the way to the surface. The researchers believe that fracture may have hit naturally occurring faults, and that's something both industry and regulators don't want."

The Triassic basin is highly fractured and contains diabase dikes: "The groundwater system is composed of weathered regolith material at land surface (Chapman and others, 2005) and underlying bedrock sedimentary rock layers . Differential weathering along lithologic contacts and bedding planes may enhance permeability in the aquifer. Additionally, secondary features including faults, joints, and diabase dikes may enhance permeability through openings, associated fracturing, or weathering near these features. The presence of diabase dikes suggests potential "cooking" of the natural gas, but can often be a boundary for subsurface flow and "pooling" of groundwater." USGS

Link Here:

From where I sit, I wonder if I can throw one of those flags every time I hear somebody crowing about this very limited study. You know the flag...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

GASLAND Part II Official Trailer, Premieres July 8th 2013 on HBO - YouTube

GASLAND Part II Official Trailer, Premieres July 8th 2013 on HBO - YouTube

Listen, do you want to know a secret?

Last week's Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) meetings were even more like a family reunion than usual, including the squabbles. Despite the humorous events on Thursday (ask me about hairballs) it was pretty darn prickly on Friday.

Commissioner George Howard: "Little red flags go up when we say we're going to have the strongest chemical disclosure rule in the nation."
Hmmmm, this seems to be an about face, Commissioner Howard keeps crowing about the MEC developing the strongest this and that, lets see what happens with set-backs and the baseline water testing. I digress.

Several in the audience probably got tired of the chorus that myself and another attendee kept repeating every time we heard "best", ""strongest", "farthest reaching" mentioned with resulting attaboys all around. Almost in unison we would say, "For Now."  These utterances were prompted by the North Carolina Senate's attempted pre-emption of the draft chemical disclosure rule. This drew fireworks from several MEC members- with one noticeable exception (who will be revealed later in this post), and resulted in a memorandum being sent from the MEC to Senator Phil Berger, President  Pro-Tem, and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Here's an excerpt:

"This one simple change has reinvigorated anti-drilling fervor
across the state; an outcome the MEC has worked tirelessly to avoid. The introduction of this language at a late stage in the legislative session--as an insertion into an omnibus environmental bill rather than into the draft energy bill--and its introduction without any coordination with the MEC circumvent the rulemaking process and erode the confidence among many commission members that their work is appreciated."

Link to complete memo below:

DISCLAIMER: While I wrote as fast as I could, some of what was said will be paraphrased, and if any errors in my interpretation are found, please contact me and I will correct them.

Now, for the fun part. The heated discussion began with Commissioner Charles Taylor. Taylor expressed that he thought the MEC had reached consensus on trade secrets/chemical disclosure, and that he was surprised by H94 and its language. Taylor said, "I think [events have] diminished the role of this Board significantly. [Its an] insult to staff and to this Board." Taylor stated that all members of the Commission were equal. He went on to say that it was a "gross injustice to deviate from this process." Commissioner George Howard, visibly upset and very defensive, responded to what was a thinly-veiled reference to his possible involvement in the controversy. Howard is a former colleague of North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary John Skvarla. DENR has been adamantly opposed to holding the confidential records. Howard and Womack got into it several times, interrupting one another and Commissioner Charles Holbrook even admonished them to talk one at a time. If Howard did not want those assembled to think he had any part in the end-run on the Commission, he did a poor job.

The Senate amended H94 on the floor July 2 which makes a worse bill bad, reflecting their sensitivity to the Mining and Energy's concerns. Here's where some of the problems lie:

  • The initial draft rule did not go far enough, even though it was pulled from consideration by MEC Chairman Jim Womack (ironic, isn't it?).
  • There is no process for the MEC or DENR to object to or challenge claims of trade secret protection identified in the amended bill. 
  • Former DENR Assistant Secretary Robin Smith points out that: "State regulators could see information on fracking chemicals,  but could not receive the information in writing and keep it on file with other information on the fracking operation. While that approach may make the industry more comfortable, it will make it very difficult for  DENR staff to have the information needed  to provide adequate oversight for drilling operations– a problem that would be compounded over time by staff turnover.  Allowing a DENR staff person to see the  list of  fracking chemicals  when fracking begins does not ensure the availability of that information to staff five years later."
  • FracFocus has come under criticism for information that is full of errors, information that is incomplete, and information that is not provided in a timely manner. Commissioner Ken Taylor pointed out that one of the problems with FracFocus was that it takes too long, and that the information is needed up front, not after the fact.
Repeat after me: the molecule does matter. Vendors have refused (and will continue to refuse to ) disclose information to medical providers and emergency responders resulting in treatment delays and hampering adequate and appropriate response to spills, fires and accidents .Databases are not kept current; layers of bureaucracy and lack of accountability will continue to result in increased risk to the public and emergency personnel. 

Here's a quote for you that pretty much sums up a recent conversation with someone in fire service. Among other things they told me that if it is not known what they (first responders)  are dealing with, the volunteers/personnel will be pulled off the scene:

"If you're not going to release to us what it is we're not going to handle it." 

So, what's the real issue? From where I sit, industry is scared to death that the general public will be horrified to find out exactly what and how much of what  is being injected into the earth. It does not bode well for North Carolina when the industry has this much power before one horizontal well is drilled. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Stay Tuned...

New posts coming soon!   

Link to the next meetings of the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission: