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Lebanon, Madison County (WSYR-TV) – For the second time in just three months, a huge gas rig has caught fire in southern Madison County.

It happened in the town of Lebanon, near the Chenango County border.  Two workers suffered burns from the fire that lasted for hours Thursday.

Cleanup efforts have carried over into Friday, when crews had to go deep into the fields to reach that rig owned by Nornew, a subsidiary of Norse Energy.

The fire was so far in, there was no real danger to anyone living around there, but Lebanon town supervisor Jim Goldstein worries about what would happen if it were on a rig closer in.

“I think there should be a moratorium on drilling in this area until we get to the bottom of what’s causing these problems and what has to be done to remediate them,” Goldstein says.


It is the second fire in three months, but Holbrook says his company makes safety a top priority.
Still,  Goldstein is worried this gas rush may come at too great a risk.

The DEC says about 100 to 200 gallons of diesel fuel were released from equipment at the rig.  A spokesperson says the spill is contained and most of the diesel has been padded up.

There are also barriers in place to prohibit it from reaching a nearby stream.

That part of southern Madison County may just be sitting on huge reserves of natural gas, which energy companies see as a potential gold mine.

“We are in an area that some people have estimated is the largest gas well plate in the history of the United States, and there’s a right way to do it and the wrong way to do it.  We have an industry that I think is moving far too fast that cannot be tracked,” Goldstein says.

A handful of companies have come and gone — especially now, as the state reviews regulations for companies wanting to drive through the Marcellus Shale in an attempt to find that natural gas.

But one company has stayed; Nornew says it sees a goldmine in the Herkimer sandstone formation in the area.


In the town of Lebanon and the neighboring town of Smyrna, Nornew has about 100 gas wells already drilled.

“I have huge concerns about their ability to track when this Marcellus slate drilling starts where the water’s going to come from — where the waste is going to go,” says Goldstein.

Goldstein worries just what toll the search for the next big energy source will take on his area without proper controls.

Some geologists say there is enough recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale to supply the entire United States for about two years.

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Hydrofluoric acid is a gas extraction stimulation fluid:
- http://www.onemine.org/search/summary.cfm/ProducingEquipment-Methods-and-Materials–Hydrofluoric-Acid-Stimulation-of-Sandstone Reservoirs?d=305ECAF73DBA21C942E1F42B94FBA2CC8919EC34772E7F46B2154E42EC8AF57526874

All lanes on Route 33 now open; truck with hazardous spill has been cleaned up



Aerial photo of tanker on its side on Route 33 this morning, slowly leaking hydrofluoric acid. The area has been evacuated.

David Kidwell/Pocono Record
March 21, 2009

All lanes are now open on Route 33 South.

Route 33 was closed in both directions from Saylorsburg exit to below Wind Gap. Officials removed an overturned tractor trailer carrying a hazardous chemical.

A leaking valve has been repaired and crews had to safely upright the truck and remove it, said Guy Miller, Monroe County emergency services director.

The truck wrecked at about 3 a.m. this morning between ½ and 3/4 mile south of the county line.

Northampton County spokesman John Conklin says the truck driver was treated for injuries and released. There were no other immediate reports of injuries.

Conklin says hazardous materials teams managed to stop the slowly dripping liquid. He says not enough of the chemical leaked to create a toxic cloud.

Hydrofluoric acid in low doses can irritate the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. Inhalation can be fatal.

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Another example of gas company drilling PR damage control.  Read between the lines:

Gas well explodes in nearby Lebanon


Tyler Murphy, Sun Staff Writer
Published: March 20th, 2009

LEBANON – A gas well in the Town of Lebanon exploded early Thursday morning, less than five and a half miles from Chenango’s border with Madison County. The explosion injured two workers and jolted nearby residents from their beds.

“Two well operators that were on site were both treated for burns, one to his face and arms and one with burns to his face. They were treated for the burns and released within hours of the incident,” said Norse Energy spokesman Dennis Holbrook.

Norse Energy is the parent company of Nornew, which has an office located in The Eaton Center in Norwich.

The incident began at 5 a.m. Thursday when a fire was somehow ignited at the site, causing an explosion. The company flew in a response team and had the fire put out using foam and water by 2 p.m., explained Holbrook.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but the company said it ignited while operators were in the process of removing drill piping.

The closest residence to the explosion was a home along Lebanon Hill Road, approximately 300 to 400 yards away.

Don Johnson lives there with his family and was awakened by the sound Thursday morning.

“I was sleeping and the sound woke me up,” said Johnson, who described the noise as a loud concussion.

“It was one of those things you wake up and think ‘what the heck was that? Was I dreaming?’ I went back to bed and the next thing I hear is someone knocking on my door and that’s when you start to wonder ‘What is going on?’”

“They came knocking on the door, maybe 20 minutes after five (a.m.) and we were told by them that there was an ‘incident’ and to ‘pleased stay in your home and away from your windows for the time being,’” said Johnson, quoting Norse Energy personnel he recognized from the gas rigs down the road.

Lebanon Hill Road has three gas wells along it and two of them are within sight of the family’s farmhouse home.

Johnson said he’s used to having Norse Energy as a neighbor. “Nothing surprises me up here anymore,” said Johnson. “It’s just constant traffic,” he added.

Norse Energy flew in a response team to review the fire as it burned to evaluate how to terminate the blaze safely.

“We flew in our senior operations people. Vice President of Operations Daniel Steffy, who is located in Norwich most of the week but was in Pittsburgh for a meeting – and we flew in his boss, Senior Vice President Mark Williams, who works in Pittsburgh,” said Holbrook.

The company’s head of safety operations, Doug Stebbins, was also on site. “He was already in the area since most our activities right now are focused right here,” said Holbrook.

While the company scrambled a response, Madison County fire departments responded to the blaze within minutes of the initial explosion.

“We had a fire at a gas well and we’re standing by waiting for the company to decide how it want to extinguish the fire,” said Eaton Fire Chief Rick Stoddard Thursday morning.

“We’re not specifically trained to put out these kinds of gas fires and the company is bringing in its own response team. We are here to give them a hand if they need it,” he added.

“The property damage was limited to the rig and the property around it. We try to locate these wells a sufficient distance away from people and we anticipate the possibility of these sorts of things happening and have a plan in place,” said Holbrook.

He said that part of that plan was working closely with emergency services and notifying them whenever an incident took place.

The company is also in the process of trying to inform appropriate public officials in the region to help educate elected leaders and the public, explained Holbrook.

The Department of Environmental Conservation was also on site to address environmental concerns, which Holbrook said was contained to a diesel spill from one of the vehicles there.

“We have a contract with an environment cleanup agency for these things,” he said.

In a statement released Thursday, the company wrote that “minimal environmental impact is anticipated.”

“Obviously when anything like this occurs, we want to step back and make sure we are operating in the safest manner possible,” said Holbrook. The company also closed a nearby rig for inspection as a precaution.

“The most important is thing is the people, making sure we address public safety and then the environment and securing the location and putting out the fire. After that, we look at the cause – what occurred, why it occurred, and minimizing it from occurring again,” he said.


If any of that last paragraph was true, they just wouldn’t drill in the first place.

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Please bear with the intro commercial…

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“Cabot told my neighbor that they are running behind on royalties, and probably won’t start ours until sometime in April.  The 90 days were up in February sometime.   So they don’t even do that right.”



by Aaron Gifford

Thursday March 19, 2009, 3:39 PM

LEBANON, NY – Two people were injured Wednesday after a natural gas well explosion on Soule Road in the town of Lebanon, the second such incident in the area this year, authorities said.

The well, owned by Nornew Inc., was reported ablaze at around 5 a.m. The two workers had finished drilling at the site and were pulling out pipe when something ignited the gas, said Dennis Holbrook, speaking for Nornew.

DRILLCO LLC, a Nornew subsidiary, employs the workers. Holbrook said one sustained first-degree burns and the other first- and second-degree burns. Both were treated at a local hospital and released. Neither was identified.


Chris Lloyd, Eaton Fire Department’s deputy first assistant chief, said the flames and black smoke could be seen two miles away.

Firefighters from Georgetown and Smithfield also responded to the scene. Firefighters applied foam and then water to the blaze, which was contained to the well. It burned for about 10 hours and was extinguished by 3 p.m., Holbrook said.

“It’s not surprising that you could have something burning there, but we’re not sure what ignited it,” Holbrook said.

There are residents within a half-mile of the site but an evacuation was not required, firefighters said. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is currently investigating the incident and overseeing any clean-up work, along with Nornew’s insurance company and a third-party environmental company hired by Nornew, Holbrook said.

The drilling rig and other equipment was damaged in the fire, but company officials have not estimated the damage yet. Holbrook said the well would probably still be operational.

A Nornew well in nearby Smyrna, Chenango County, caught fire on Jan. 1. In that incident, investigators believe, a shard of rock broke a fluorescent light bulb, igniting the fire that burned for about an hour.

Nornew began drilling wells in Lebanon in the late 1990s and has accelerated its activity in neighboring towns in recent years.

Holbrook said Nornew has not had any well fires yet on other properties it owns in Erie County and in Oklahoma. He said employees are very careful to safeguard against accidents when they use new techniques and adjust to new landscapes.

“There are new challenges in each new region we explore,” he said.

According to DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino, such incidents are infrequent; the last rig fire occurred in March at a liquid propane gas storage facility in Steuben County.

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For Immediate Release: March 19th, 2009

For More Information:
Jennifer Goldman, Public Health & Toxics Campaign Director , 406-587-4473
Bonnie Gestring, Circuit Rider, 406-549-7361
Deb Thomas, Clark, WY, 307-645-3236

TRI highlights need for regulation of nation’s largest mercury polluter

Metal mining maintains position as nation’s #1 toxic polluter

Mar 19, Washington, D.C. — Today the Environmental Protection Agency published the most recent Toxics Release Inventory. Once again the nation’s largest polluter is the metal mining industry: of 4.09 billion pounds of toxics reported, 1.15 billion pounds were released by mining — more than 28% by just one industry.

Unfortunately, one of the most serious threats to our nation’s drinking water supply is left unknown. Oil & gas producers do not have to report under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to- Know Act (EPCRA), the legislation authorizing TRI.

“Due to increasing energy demand, drilling for oil & gas now occurs in 34 states including New York and Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Goldman, Public health and toxics director of EARTHWORKS’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. She continued, “communities nationwide are impacted, yet they’re in the dark because drillers don’t have to report the toxics they release.”

“My community’s drinking water is supplied by wells, some of which are now polluted by a gas well underground explosion,” said Deb Thomas, a community organizer from Clark, Wyoming. She continued, “at least twenty-five wells are in the path of a toxic groundwater plume as a result. It’s very challenging to address the contamination without any forewarning — what TRI provides — about the drilling toxics that we now know threaten our drinking water.”

The power of the Toxics Release Inventory has revealed the extent of the threat of mercury mining pollution. According the TRI, metal mining accounted for 90% of all reported mercury releases, 6.22 million pounds.

Although the mining industry is a significant source of mercury air pollution, there are no federal regulations that require mines to reduce mercury air emissions. A recent court decision requires the EPA to initiate a rule-making by August 15, 2009.

“It makes no sense that the mining industry gets a pass, when there are federal regulations requiring the other major industries to cut emissions to deal with the nation’s mercury problem,” said Bonnie Gestring, EARTHWORKS’ Northwest Circuit Rider.

EARTHWORKS is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of mineral development, in the U.S. and worldwide.

1612 K ST. N.W. / SUITE 808 / WASHINGTON, D.C. 20006 / P 202 887 1872 F 202 887 1875 / WWW.EARTHWORKSACTION.ORG

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