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Aug. 7th, 2012

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July Garden

Molly's garden is in full summer glory. The work Molly did in May paid off and we've been enjoying the garden's bounty almost every day.

    The tall pole beans in the background were planted by Molly in May. Just in front of the beans is a yellow crook-necked squash plant and closer still is the corner of the large bed.
  This photo shows some of the basil plants molly planted in the large bed. She also has basil growing in a smaller bed outside the fenced garden.

Molly makes fresh pesto every week. The aroma fills the house.
  Yellow crook-necked squash flowers.
  This is an acorn squash in the large bed.
  This is a French melon in the large bed. The hoops used in the winter to support plastic were also useful for the summer garden. Here a cloth cradle for the melon is tied to the hoops.

We've had good luck this year. The fence has been successful, so far, in keeping out deer. The herb bed Molly started outside of the fenced area is filled with basil and other herbs. We did have a problem with deer eating the Jerusalem artichoke foliage and Molly constructed a barrier. And she's having a problem with something munching her tomatoes when they're just ripe. The critter is small, maybe a ground squirrel, and doesn't eat much.
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Two Wells in Upshur County

I gave a presentation at the West Virginia Sierra Club's Marcellus Academy on the last day of June. On July 1 a group of us went to look at two well sites in Upshur county, south of Buckhannon.

One site's pad had two horizontal Marcellus wells. Drainage from the site was orange, apparently from iron in the soil.

The other site appears to have been a Marcellus well that had been drilled then plugged in order to hold the lease. The operator appears to want to come back and finish drilling a horizontal well on the site. There were a number of problems at this site, including this drill pit with torn liner and downed fencing that was left open.
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Gas Well Workshop

In May the West Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club held a Gas Well Workshop. We created training videos and documents to help train others to look at gas wells in this state to see if they comply with basic regulations and if there are environmental issues.

There were three weekly sessions where participants viewed and read materials and attended the conference calls.

We have all the materials available on our website, including the online well report form and links to the videos on YouTube.

May. 11th, 2012

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Drilling Industry Videos

YouTube has a large number of videos related to oil and gas exploration. Some are from the concerned environmentalist (ShaleShock) or surface owner (WVSORO) perspectives. It didn't take industry long to realize the public relations potential. We'll take a brief look at two industry leaders' videos in this post.

Chesapeake Energy has a set of 6 videos which describe the steps in drilling a well and producing natural gas. There are truly educational moments, such as the description of laying a pipeline. Viewers of these videos, though, should remember that this is advertising, that facts are being withheld, and that certain elements of the process are not shown at all.

    Drilling site selection. Note that there are many disgruntled leaseholders and in some areas the leaseholders don't even live in the same state where drilling is actually taking place.

    Preparation and drilling. Cementing and casing are not automatically protective. These processes have to be done properly and with care. Blowout preventers fail about 5% of the time. One good thing to note is the dike around the perimeter of the pad. There is also a drainage area that can be sequestered in the case of a spill. These are two elements of pad construction we want to see in West Virginia regulations, whether the pad is for a horizontal or vertical well.

    Natural gas well completion. Gel fracture fluids can have about 6 gallons of a solvent per 1,000 gallons of water. The solvents can be extremely toxic.

    Natural gas well production. This has the segment on laying a pipeline. Note that in this state condensate storage tank secondary containment regulations include a rainwater drain requirement not shown in the video.

    Aqua Renew water recycling. We would like to see, at a minimum, a dike around the water recycling facility. Any spills will adversely affect surface and ground water. The recycling of flowback "water" is commendable but is not done everywhere.

    Well site reclamation. In West Virginia, proper well site reclamation after drilling can require a court order. That's what a surface owner near us had to resort to.
These videos are worth watching but they aren't telling the whole story.

Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation has some notoriety because of its activities in the Dimock area in NE Pennsylvania. Their videos are a public relations effort geared especially for residents in that area where the company is currently active in the Marcellus region.

I'll mention just a few videos here. Again, these are advertising and don't tell the whole story.

    Well pad tour. This video is good for explaining the purpose of some of the production equipment on a horizontal well pad. Note that fracture flowback (why else is there a sand trap?) is called “water” and that condensate storage tanks shown in the video have no secondary containment at all.

    Constructing a well pad. The average horizontal well pad is 5 acres. The disturbed area is usually much larger. This video does show the scale of the construction activity. There is a dike around this well pad also, though it isn't as plain to see as in the Chesapeake video.

    Road repair. No repair by the state or Cabot was done to Harmon's Creek Road here after a number of wells were put in a few years back. There are sections, which once were surfaced, that are now “repaired” periodically by the state by dumping fresh gravel.

    Cabot and clean water in Dimock. Cabot still refuses to admit that poor casing and cementing have adversely affected drinking water. This shows the EPA test results for one water well affected by Cabot drilling in Dimock. Note the extremely high arsenic concentration, many times the federal Maximum Contamination Level.
More soon!

May. 6th, 2012

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The Garden in May

Our garden survived winter and some of the things Molly planted last year are still producing, such as the snow peas and lettuce. This spring Molly has been getting the garden ready for summer.

  This is shot from outside the garden toward the east side of the fence. A lawn is slowly appearing on the former forest floor outside the fence.
  Molly is preparing to plant pole bean seeds where the tomatoes were last year.

This is the north bed of the garden. The south bed is still partially filled with vegetables planted last year.
  Molly started seeds in late winter. Each day she's been setting the plants in the garden to acclimate before transplanting.
  Molly brought back two 60 gallon barrels from a visit to Daria and Jeannene in Ohio. They're both filled with water now and have screens across the top to prevent mosquitos from laying eggs.

These are for water during dry periods.
  This winter Molly transplanted some Jerusalem Artichokes from our neighbor, Wanda Lane. Wanda's large patch is filled with tall plants with pretty yellow flowers in October.
    Molly also transplanted some horse radish of Wanda's. Both are doing well, though the deer appear to like the Jerusalem Artichokes.

More soon!

Feb. 19th, 2012

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The Garden in February

We've had a bit of snow twice so far this year, not much. The conduit hoops have done well to support the plastic covering under the snow's weight. We've begun making plans for summer's garden while still picking greens from the winter garden. Yummm!

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Gas Well Study, 2011

We've completed our Gas Well Study report for 2011. We completely changed the layout of the report and how we organized the material. We think it's a lot better looking and the presentation makes the material more accessible. The report can be downloaded from our website and we have pages on the website that provide more information and photographs.

We've already begun our work for 2012. We've had domestic water supply samples from three locations near wells tested by a laboratory. Each test result is helping us better understand the possible (and actual) negative effects of gas well drilling and fracturing.

Jan. 1st, 2012

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Winter Garden

Our first attempt at a winter vegetable garden is going well. Molly was able to harvest greens, carrots and radishes on New Year's Day.

The cats normally aren't allowed in the garden. Molly let them in while she was cleaning up the tomato bed for next summer. Kitty Boy explored the winter vegetable bed.

The beds are 16 feet long. This one is 8 feet wide. The winter bed is 4 feet wide, with metal tubing hoops bent to support the plastic cover. We keep the bed covered with plastic when the temperature drops below 35 degrees. When it is very cold (below about 25 degrees) we also cover the plants with spun row cover. When it gets extremely cold, Molly will cover the plants with leaves, then row cover and finally the plastic over the hoops.

It's not all work in the garden. Here Molly is texting while gardening. She's wearing a blaze vest because hunting season didn't end until New Year's.

More soon!

Nov. 24th, 2011

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Bobo's Passing

Bobo passed away quietly early Tuesday morning, October 11th. He was in his spot between us, his head on a pillow. He's been such an important part of our lives since 2000 that it's hard to write this, even a month later.

He made it through last winter and even at the end had an amazing spirit. This photo was taken on Sunday when we were out in the "old" garden. We miss him.

The other cats have reorganized their lives without him relatively painlessly. Little Peach Blossom has discovered a new place to go to in the house. She likes to walk from the loft, on the beams above the kitchen, to either the bookshelf above the sink where Molly keeps some of her cookbooks or to a child's chair hanging high overhead.

Before we started this version of Sootypaws News it was entirely on our website. You can still see the old pages from years ago. There are lots of photos of Bobo, too.

More soon!
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Gas Well Study Updates

I've fallen behind in our updates so I'll combine everything into one post.

First off, there's a great article from the New York Timesthat we highly recommend: "The Fracturing of Pennsylvania" by Eliza Griswold. The article appeared in last Sunday's Magazine. It's about the problems some people who have leased their minerals have experienced with Range Resources in southwest Pennsylvania. The health issues are similar to those we've heard about occurring in this state and elsewhere. The company's run-around is also typical.

We've posted a couple of new videos on YouTube (www.youtube.com/GasWellStudy).The most recent is You Get Used To It. We include more of our recorded interview with Paul Phillips (a Kanawha county resident) in this video and for that alone we believe it's worth watching.

In September we presented our comments to the state for the proposed new regulationcovering horizontal natural gas wells. We're disappointed with what the Department of Environmental Protection has come up with. What's happening in this state is that while members of the legislature are attempting to create new regulations for oil and gas, industry and the political establishment (e.g., the governor) are blocking it. What we're getting instead are regulations written (more or less, more than less) by industry that do nothing to protect the health and safety of the state's citizens or the environment. Our comments have the state's proposed regulation appended.

We've created a document called ThirtyWells that tabulates the problems we've seen in our area with regulatory compliance and environmental issues such as contaminated drinking water supplies. Industry's awful compliance record in our area is nothing unusual. It's sad that it's these people who get to write their own regulations in this state.

And we've written an interim report titled Fracture Gel's Possible Synergistic Influence for Chloride's Effects on Vegetation. Last summer we made some trial applications on vegetation of fracture gel we made using kerosene, guar gum and water. Those applications with the gel alone showed no adverse effects. When we added 5000 mg/l chloride the adverse effects were much worse than we'd expect from chloride alone. It's possible that fracture gel enhances the negative effects of chloride. We'll be looking at this again next summer. The report discusses the types of organic solvents used in making fracture gel (such as kerosene, diesel, and 2-BE). In West Virginia fracture flowback (including gel) is land applied, except for Marcellus wells.

More soon!

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