Stop Marcellus Shale drilling at Powdermill Nature Reserve [UPDATED]

Please send this letter to the Director of the Carnegie Museum.

Dr. Samuel Taylor, Director
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
4400 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Dear Dr. Taylor,

I am writing to protest the Carnegie Museum’s contemplation of Marcellus Shale drilling at Powdermill Nature Reserve, which is part of the Museum of Natural History.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article of November 6, 2010 quoted you as saying that the Carnegie joined a group of land owners in Ligonier Valley that would “like to dictate the terms…” of gas leases especially regarding well and road placement, well-site monitoring, and accident response. This suggests you believe that drilling, under certain conditions, would be environmentally safe. Yet this differs with the opinions of independent researchers, including some of Powdermill’s research associates, that indicate the environmental consequences of drilling are uncertain “at best” and that, “right now, it is still too risky”. You also acknowledge that when one company made an offer to the landowners, they rejected it because it was “too low”, implying that the landowners group and the Carnegie would accept a higher offer.

I am astounded that the Carnegie would consider drilling at the Powdermill or any other property it owns, whatever the monetary gain or specific terms of the lease. Our water supplies, environment, and natural beauty are too precious to be bartered away. As many independent scientists recognize, given the current technology and practices, the environmental consequences of Marcellus Shale drilling are uncertain and possibly disastrous, and the dangers to the water supply and environment are potentially too devastating to permit such drilling under any circumstances.

To say that drilling would be acceptable if your terms were met is just plain wrong. The number of “accidents” so far, and the potential consequences of those accidents, make drilling unacceptable even if there are significant economic advantages to the Carnegie. Moreover, the degradation to the environment, the natural beauty and pristine quality of an area such as the Powdermill as the companies truck in millions of gallons of water and use numerous chemicals including known carcinogens in the fracking process should make it off limits even if it could somehow be certified that drilling would not pollute the water supply.

The Carnegie’s leadership role and its responsibility to the Western Pennsylvania community make its position on Marcellus Shale drilling particularly unfortunate. As the Post-Gazette reported, many landowners are looking to the Carnegie for leadership in this issue. Were the Carnegie to say, in accordance with the views of many of its scientific experts, that drilling is now simply too risky to permit, that position would have an important effect on others. So too, would a Carnegie statement that no amount of money should allow the Carnegie or any other landowner to accept a lease that may have dangerous effects on the environment, a position that you pointedly did not take in the Post-Gazette article.

The Carnegie’s responsibility is not only to gain operating revenues. It is also to the people of Western Pennsylvania which you serve, to ensure that our water supplies are not polluted and our environment is not trampled upon. You need not travel outside of Pennsylvania to witness how Marcellus Shale drilling has negatively affected people’s water, environment, scenic beauty and peaceful enjoyment of their property, parks, and neighborhoods. Indeed, both the scientific evidence and people’s own experience with drilling has led the City Council of Pittsburgh to unanimously vote to ban all drilling within the City’s limits, a move you should support.

I am requesting that the Carnegie clearly state that it will not sign any leases for Marcellus Shale drilling, at least until an independent scientific study affirms that such drilling would be safe and not degrade the environment. I know of no such independent study not tied to the gas industry that has reached that conclusion. The Carnegie should commission such an independent, transparent study, the results of which should be made public.

Finally, I request that the Carnegie take a leadership role in urging both other landowners and the State and County governments to follow the example of the City of Pittsburgh, and prohibit Marcellus Shale drilling.

Yours truly,

[insert name]


Fracking Wastewater Truck Explodes, Killing 1, Injuring 1

How many more have to die? Gregory Bish, 26, dead at the hands of the reckless fracking industry. An avid fisherman and hunter from the mountains of rural PA, he could have been me. This could have been me or any of my high school buddies taking jobs in the industry. Fracking will be stopped, or I will die trying. Gregory Bish, RIP. For more on Gregory and Ford City, see this piece from October.

-Alex L

One killed, one injured in Armstrong County explosion
Friday, December 10, 2010
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

One man was killed and another injured in an explosion Thursday morning at West Penn Energy Services Co. in Plumcreek.

Authorities identified the victims as Gregory Bish, 26, of Ford City, who was killed, and Jeffrey Riggle, who was transported to a local hospital. Both men were employees of West Penn Energy Services.

State police in Kittanning said the explosion occurred at 8:35 a.m. and is being investigated by police and representatives of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Mr. Bish and Mr. Riggle were attempting to unfreeze a pipe fitting at the rear of a water truck. Using a propane torch both Mr. Bish and the co-worker were applying heat to the pipe fitting when an explosion occured. Bish was struck with a plate as it tore away from the tank, causing Bish to become airborne over a 7-foot fence for a distance of 62 feet.

West Penn Energy Services provides services to the oil and gas industry. President Michael J. Zentz said the fatal accident is the first in the company's history and that he had spoken with family members of both men.

Mr. Bish, who was interviewed for a story in the Post-Gazette in October, worked from gas patch to gas patch as Marcellus Shale drilling picked up. A native of Ford City and an avid hunter and fisherman, he said he couldn't imagine moving his family from the mountains and river he loved.

First published on December 10, 2010 at 12:00 am

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