Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shale gas fracking gets a new black eye: Illegal dumping

AP file photo

The natural gas drilling industry, under continued environmental criticism last week at public hearings in New Jersey and New York (see Related Stories below), suffered another public relations blow Thursday in Pennsylvania with the arrest of a truck driver who admitted dumping some 800 gallons of synthetic drilling fluid on state game lands.


The Morning Times reports that:
"a large pool of viscous black fluid was discovered on Pennsylvania Game Land 219 off Regan Hill Road in Warren Township by a neighboring resident. The pool was reportedly two-to-three inches deep and covered an area of approximately 2,100 square feet on the 5,691 acre hunting preserve."
Josh Foster
Police said that the driver, Josh Foster, 27, from Temple, Ga., admitted dumping the material and was charged with a third degree misdemeanor--“scattering rubbish”--by Pennsylvania State Police.

Drilling company took full responsibility
The only good news for the shale gas industry is that, when it learned of the incident, Talisman Energy Inc., the company operating the gas well from which the fluid apparently was trucked, notified police, determined the identity of the driver, and took full responsibility for the cleanup.

Talisman officials noted that Foster is not their employee but was working at the time for a local trucking company subcontracted by Talisman.

Pennsylvania needs to sharpen its dumping law

One obvious lesson from the incident is that state law needs significant tightening up.
The penalties for "scattering rubbish" can hardly be an adequate disincentive to such environmental crime.

Pennsylvania should consider imposing a manifest paperwork trail system like one
adopted years ago in New Jersey to track the shipment of hazardous waste.

Requiring the submission to the state of a manifest for each load of waste shipped or transferred helps assure that hazardous material actually ends up at the designated
disposal facility.

Tell us what you think in the opinion box below.  If one is not visible, click on the tiny 'comments' line.  We encourage signed responses but also accept anonymous submissions. 

Related Stories:

New York Delays Ruling On Hydraulic Fracturing Amid Controversy

Will New Yorkers Veto Cuomo's Fracking Guidelines?

New York Fracking Rules Won’t Protect City Water, Foes Say

N.J. Assembly panel approves bill banning treatment, disposal of wastewater from 'fracking'

Marcellus Shale Coalition President: Fracking 'safe, responsible' 


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16 comments:

  1. I bet that there was much more than one truck dumped around, and the company tracked down the dude most probably after they promised him some nice bucks if he tells the cops it was only one dump of his own initiative, thus the cops would not hang around too much to learn the truth!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Frank following this logic I thought you might be interested in this:

    The Convenience store industry gets another black eye.

    A convenience store in Plainfield's East End was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night.

    The store sits in a quiet block of East Second Street near its intersection with Berckman Street and across the street from the historic Lincoln School building, which currently houses the Barack Obama Green Charter High School.

    The gunmen made off with cash and cigarettes.

    Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact the Plainfield Police Division at (908) 753-3131.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a completely unfair characterization, Frank. There is no indication of which I am aware that "fracking" had anything to do with this. Hydraulic fracturing is a process conducted post-drilling to help extract gas. None of the stories I've seen suggest what was spilled was connected to that process. Perhaps I missed something? If you don't know it was fracturing fluid you have no business suggesting "fracking gets a black eye." You're falling into the trap of using "fracking" as a slang term to encompass all natural gas development and that's sloppy at best.

    More importantly, since when does the illegal activity of a contractor give a black eye to the industry? If my homebuilder violates a building code, does that give me a black eye? If my car breaks down because my mechanic failed to fix the water pump properly, does that give me a black eye? No, of course not. Talisman is the victim here and the only one who will innocently suffer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is a completely unfair characterization, Frank. There is no indication of which I am aware that "fracking" had anything to do with this. Hydraulic fracturing is a process conducted post-drilling to help extract gas. None of the stories I've seen suggest what was spilled was connected to that process. Perhaps I missed something? If you don't know it was fracturing fluid you have no business suggesting "fracking gets a black eye." You're falling into the trap of using "fracking" as a slang term to encompass all natural gas development and that's sloppy at best.

    More importantly, since when does the illegal activity of a contractor give a black eye to the industry? If my homebuilder violates a building code, does that give me a black eye? If my car breaks down because my mechanic failed to fix the water pump properly, does that give me a black eye? No, of course not. Talisman is the victim here and the only one who will innocently suffer.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Its very sad that the fall guy is the truck driver and the company only says that their sorry. I 'm not saying that what he did was correct, but however, its bigger than him. Its always the little guy who takes the fall always. The company denies him even working and even the comment about him getting big bucks. The only thing that he did was follow instructions of a boss. Subcontract or not it's still bigger than him. He gets put in jail and displayed all over, but where are the others that should be placed behind bars. But I forgot what kind of system this America the Great is all about.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Frank, I agree with Tom. Everyone has to be correct and exact in their description of the drilling process. Many uninformed people conflate drilling with fracking, but that is no reason why people who know better should do so. In fact, the fact that the uninformed think that drilling equals fracking is all the more reason why people like yourself have to be very correct. Did you know that fracking caused the water problems in Dimock? Everyone knows that, except that it's incorrect. The pollution occurred before the wells were fracked, it was faulty drilling that caused the problem, not fracking. Newspapers conflated drilling with fracking and it was off to the races for that misinformation.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is unfortunately not uncommon in most industries. In Ontario, the majority of Ministry of Environment court proceedings are for illegal dumping of wastes, be it from pulp mills, waste water treatment, and others. There are many each month and it makes me wonder how many go unnoticed?

    I also agree that the penalties are not strict enough. For instance in one proceeding from my region, people who dumped pulp mill sludge were fined only $120,000 or so - a fraction of the $27 million waste hauling contract! Maybe if the fines were raised more enforcement could be afforded.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't think you guys get it. I doubt that Talisman told anyone not to do the right thing. The driver is not a fall guy, he's just a working stiff who wanted to quit early and got caught. However, there is no doubt the industry gets a black eye here, because the native population, the NIMBY's and their legislators are just waiting for these types of missteps to paint the whole enterprise as incompetent and irresponsible.

    ReplyDelete
  9. First, this incident is an indicator of poor environmental management on the part of Talisman. Their internal controls should require manifesting, even if the state doesn't. The local population is justified in wanting to be protected from careless, illegal, and otherwise dangerous operators. When this type of incident comes to light, the NIMBY's and their representatives use it as a brush to tar the whole industry. I doubt that Talisman gave this one driver orders to dump illegally. More likely the guy wanted to knock off early and took a short cut. Exactly the kind of thing a manifest system would prevent.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I disagree with both Anonymous #2 & Emil Pop. Just because the driver was caught doesn't mean the drilling company had already been illegally dumping. Most companies contract out tranportation and to assume the drilling company had something to do with it is beyond innocent until proven guilty. As an employer of Waste Management, we have countless situations of tranportation companies bringing in waste into our landfill that are improperly manifested, improperly secured or downright the wrong waste. Luckily, before it reaches the working face or the solidification pit, we have the most competent gatehouse attendants in the industry to check the loads prior to entering the facility. But, we can't control the transporter themselves. And with my experience with inexperienced transporters, I would happen to agree that the driver did this solely on his own or by order of the tranportation company he works for. About the only thing the drilling company may be guilty of is going ith the least common denominator. In other words, you get what you pay for. Background checks on transporters should be apart of contracting out to transportation companies, especially when it deals with potentially hazardous waste.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Why isn't there a manifest document to go with the waste, as is the practice with other hazardous materials? It seems to me a fairly simple regulatory fix to track the wherabouts of waste material, cradle to grave.

    ReplyDelete
  12. If a Pepsi delivery truck rear ends someone, that is a traffic problem, not a soft drink problem -- even though the truck would not have been on the road if there was no soft drink industry.

    Whenever any problem occurs relating to the oil and gas industry, whether it is a blowout, spill, or casing or cementing failure, I've seen some people blame hydraulic fracturing. That is unfortunate because it is very rare for a problem to be caused by the fracturing process itself (rare enough that I am not aware of any). Thus, the debate about the safeness of hydraulic fracturing is distorted.

    Further, blaming hydraulic fracturing avoids the discussion that we should be having after an incident. When a problem arises from a casing or cementing failure, we should be asking questions such as: Why did it occur? Are our well construction standards adequate? Is enforcement adequate? Was the casing or cementing failure an aberrant event that occurred despite good standards and enforcement? Similarly, blowouts should raise well control questions and spills should raise spill prevention and control questions. Perhaps the rogue dumping incident could raise questions about manifesting and tracking of waste.

    Frank, I think you're right that some opponents of hydraulic fracturing might point to the rogue dumping incident as a "fracking" problem, but it will be regrettable if they do. It will be unfair to the debate about the safety of fracturing, and it will unfortunately avoid other questions that should be asked.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The truck driver made this decision to dump these materials. The truck driver made this decision to violate the law (and the rules of common decency). Unless someone can show evidence that he had gun (literal or figurative) pointed at his head, it's time for the truck driver to take personal accountability for his actions. This is simply a criminal act that has nothing at all to do with fracking or the natural gas industry.

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  14. Neither, fracking fluid which it was not, nor synthetic drilling fluid is a "HAZARDOUS MATERIAL" by definition. As regrettable as this incident was, it was a small quantity of material, and the owner of the material took responsibility for the clean up. No drilling company would ever tell a driver to dump drilling fluid, It would create a liability for them. And the loss of the fluid which usually gets reused on the next drilling operation.

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  15. Unfortunately there is a lot of speculation here and opinions but no real facts. A contracted driver suddenly dumps fluids from a well site. Did he just decide to do this or was he told to dump it? If the company was not responsible why would they offer to clean it up? Historically most companies would not pick the tab for something they were not responsible for.
    I've followed the fracking issue since Bush and Cheney signed the Haliburton loop hole allowing natural gas exploration to include the use of toxic carcinogenic waste chemicals. thousands of gallons of toxic waste have been pumped into these wells. They served no purpose,did not contribute to productivity or the end result and yes have caused pollution of many water supplies.
    Years ago water was used to get to the gas and sand filled the hole to allow the gas to escape
    Senate investigations on the fracking industry proved the so called fracking fluid was a mix of many toxic waste chemicals.

    ReplyDelete

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