Chesapeake, Schlumberger fined $22,000 each in cows’ deaths
By Vickie Welborn • firstname.lastname@example.org • March 25, 2010
KEITHVILLE – Chesapeake Energy Corp. and its contractor Schlumberger Technology Corp. each must pay $22,000 for violating state law in connection with the deaths almost a year ago of 17 cows at a natural gas well site.
Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality mailed identical letters spelling out the settlement agreement with both companies on Tuesday. Each was informed that it must advertise the agreement and invite public comment.
Both companies deny the material discharged from the natural gas well site killed the cows, deny violations were committed and neither makes an admission of liability, according to the settlement document signed by LDEQ Assistant Secretary Paul D. Miller. Included in each fine is $1,300 in enforcement costs.
In a joint statement from Chesapeake’s Kevin McCotter and Schlumberger’s Stephen T. Harris, both companies acknowledged today entering into a proposed settlement agreement.
. . . . .
Citizens noticed the dying cows April 28 in a pasture owned by Cecil and Tyler Williams on state Highway 169 near the corner of Keatchie-Marshall Road in south Caddo Parish. Witnesses reported hearing them bellowing and seeing them bleeding before they fell over dead.
At the time, Schlumberger, as a contractor of Chesapeake, was performing routine fracturing of the natural gas well. LDEQ determined during its investigation that fluid leaked from the well pad then ran into an adjacent pasture after a rain.
Read full story at:
Guest post by Maura Stephens, originally published at Reader Supported News
“Update: PEMA urges residents to prepare now for possible flooding.”
“DEP directs gas drillers to replace water.”
“Man killed by fall off Towanda drilling rig.”
I read these three stories in that order. The first two were in the Pike County [Pennsylvania] Courier, the third in the Binghamton [New York] Press & Sun Bulletin. The headlines of the first (get ready for a flood) and third (a man died in a gas-drilling accident) are self-explanatory. The second, about “replacing” water, went like this:
“The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) . . . ordered Schreiner Oil and Gas Co. to provide a permanent solution to water supply issues at two homes the company’s drilling activity impacted near Hedgehog Lane, McKean County.
“DEP previously determined that the company, based in Massillon, Ohio, was liable for affecting the water supplies of homes. . . . among the contaminants identified were total dissolved solids, chlorides, manganese, iron, dissolved methane and ethane gas.”
Does this not terrify everyone who lives in the huge gas-drilling and potential gas-drilling region? (The Marcellus Shale encompasses large swaths of New York State, almost all of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and parts of Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. A total of 31 or 32 states have deposits of so-called “natural” gas, more properly termed “fossil-fuel gas.”)
Here are some facts:
1) The horizontal, slick-water hydraulic fracturing process of gas drilling (“chemo-fracking”) uses and releases numerous toxic chemicals — carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, naturally occurring radioactive materials.
2) Accidents happen.
3) People make mistakes.
4) Floods occur.
Anyone who has ever experienced a flash flood knows that you’re going to run for your life and your loved ones’ lives first, and for your most expensive and/or most precious possessions next.
Even if gas companies had our best interests at heart — and you’d have to be a total naïf to think they do — there is simply no way to protect us from all these toxins that would go streaming into our water systems in the event of a flood, let alone the inevitable accidents and mistakes that will occur.
Because they will.
In the cases where the gas companies have to “replace” water, what are we talking about?
You can’t “replace” water that has been contaminated with poisons. You can bring in huge “water buffaloes” with 300 or 500 gallons of “fresh” water from elsewhere (and who is monitoring that water? Where does it come from?) to resupply a family with drinking, cooking, and bathing water, but the ground is still contaminated.
The vegetables and flowers and shrubs in the family’s garden are still reliant on that water for survival. The squirrels, bunnies, and raccoons . . . the chickadees, warblers, and woodpeckers . . . the frogs, fish, and turtles . . . the crickets, bees, and peepers . . . the family cat and dog . . . all drink the water from that contaminated ground. Toddlers in sandboxes eat the dirt. Kiddie pools and grown-ups’ pools, bird baths, ponds, streams, rivers, and lakes . . . all can be contaminated from just one spill.
You can’t “replace” bad water with good. Period.
There is not enough recompense in the world to mitigate this kind of permanent damage to a person’s home and property or to our surrounds, or to our own health and our children’s health.
It is up to communities to decide if the risks are worth the riches that will go to the gas companies and to a few members of the communities.
Let’s think about these risks for a moment: Someone in my community will die because of fracking. It’s inevitable. The man who was killed on a gas rig in Towanda, Pennsylvania, has a name: Greg Allen Henry. He was from Athens, Tennessee. He was 31 years old and was killed when he fell from a rig and suffered massive head trauma.
Are the risks worth the reward? How many lives are worth how many dollars? The job (of the many promised to Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers) came, no doubt, with pretty good pay to bring a Tennesseean so far from home. But was it enough for Greg Henry’s family? Will it help ease their grief?
Will you be getting free energy for life, if you lease your land and it’s fracked? Will you ever feel safe drinking the water? Will the royalty fees cover the loss of your home’s value? Where will you go if you are forced to leave your valueless home? What will happen to the investments of time, equity, sweat, and tears—let alone cash—you’ve poured into it? How much money is enough?
Is a Tennessee man’s life worth as much as a Towanda child’s life? If your child drinks contaminated water today and develops cancer in five years, will a gas company come forward to help you pay for your child’s chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and hold your hand while you wait for the latest medical test results that will tell you if she will live or die?
Are the risks worth the reward?
Whose risks? Whose reward?
Are the risks worth the reward?
Every community must come up with its answer.
See also Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Well, never let it be said that the energy industries won’t find a way to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear:
It’s tough to put a positive spin on the massive eruption of mud that has displaced more than 12,000 people and buried a large swath of eastern Java in roiling, putrid sludge. But PT Lapindo Brantas, the Indonesian mining company widely blamed for releasing the reservoir of pressurized mud following a drilling accident last May, has come up with a novel form of damage control: sponsoring a sinetron, or Indonesian soap opera, on Surabaya TV station JTV. The 13-part series, Gali Lubang, Tutup Lubang (Digging a Hole, Filling a Hole), is a love story set among refugees left homeless by the mud volcano. “We wanted to show a real story about human interest,” says JTV executive producer Awi Setiawan, who adds that Lapindo paid about $3,300 per episode.It may cost Lapindo far more to dig itself out of this particular corporate hole, however. On Nov. 22 at least 11 people were killed by a gas pipeline explosion caused when a dike built to contain the mud flow collapsed—the latest in a string of public debacles for the company, which is part of a conglomerate controlled by the family of Aburizal Bakrie, the country’s influential Welfare Minister. In the past two months, Lapindo’s corporate parent, PT Energi Mega Persada, has unsuccessfully attempted to unload the beleaguered mining business twice: first, to another Bakrie Group subsidiary for the princely sum of $2; then to the British Virgin Islands-based investment firm Freehold Group. The latter deal collapsed last week after a public outcry, with many Indonesians fearing that the sale might prefigure an attempt by a new owner to declare Lapindo bankrupt, potentially leaving the government to pay for a disaster that one environmental group estimates has already caused $3.6 billion in damage.
Thus far, the soap opera hasn’t been enough to dispel that worry, or polish Lapindo’s befouled image. But with the mud still erupting at a rate of 120,000 cu m per day and all efforts to stanch the flow failing, there may be plenty of time for a sequel.
And what has the natural gas industry done to DISH, Texas, that it will also do here? Here’s an excerpt from an October 14 article:
The wind blows through pretty freely now, however, since most of the trees have recently died.
“After the explosion and what happened to my horses, all my boarders took their horses out of there,” said Burgess, now 56. “Who could blame them? This was going to be my retirement, but now it’s valueless.”
The words “valueless” and “worthless” come up a lot in conversation with people from DISH.
Read the entire article:
More from DISH’s mayor:
The news that I continually get makes this nightmare worse and worse. I have yet another twenty something young lady who has undiagnosed neurological problems that started when she moved here. She has been shipped out of state for testing on a number of occasions, and they have been unable to diagnose the problems she is having. I am having difficult time in know what the next move should be. I wonder if there is a medical doctor out there who may come to help us here? Maybe there would be someone who could perform toxicology tests on the citizens. Please give me any input you may have, and if you know of anyone who may be willing to help, please let us know. Maybe you could post something on your websites or blogs soliciting help. Together I know you reach thousands of people. Thanks.
Mayor, DISH, TX
“Downstream Strategies, the company I used to analyze the water forwarded the WVDEP report to me and they said that all of their questions were not answered from the WVDEP which they requested under the FOIA. The just sent a second FOIA request to get the info they originally asked. Sen. Rockefeller’s office out of Fairmont called me last Thursday (I sent a letter and pictures to him in D.C.) and said they wanted to make sure the Governor had responded to me (he did) and that I had received the answers I had been seeking. After I found out they had to do a 2nd FOIA request I called them back and left a message, suggesting a phone call from them to James Martin would be helpful.
“The creek cleaning consisted of the drilling company spraying the rocks and gunk downstream into cachment areas and then being vacuumed up. My concern was the high orange marks in the sandy soil going up the banks and being imbedded into the soil. I don’t know if they addressed that or not, they may not have even seen that. Also they had pulled the used filters out of the creek and had left them on the soil for some time also. Those were recently picked up though. I am coming back from Colorado and will be there Wednesday for a week and will spend some time going up and down the creek looking closely. I guess the lack of rain and low water has hindered the process. My new beef is that if a drilling company, the ones who produce this toxic waste, will be cleaning up their own mess, they really need to know what they are doing and have a plan in place. According the report from officer Scranage, per the DEP report I just read, he found that a new crew was on the job the second day and was going about it backwards. If the water is low and there is a lack of rain to help move the water down into cachment areas, they need to be doing something else, rather than waiting for rain. For the first 2 weeks the creek languished with oil covering the water and smelling acrid. I believe they improperly ‘limed the area’ on our property. When I questioned the inspectors and also asked James Martin about all the lime put down along the stream banks, changing the ph of the water, he only said ‘there won’t be any more liming’.
“Thanks again for the support.”
Copied with permission from http://sootypaws.livejournal.com/
In late August the pit holding fracture flowback “water” for natural gas well 47-017-05815 was breached near Sherwood in Doddridge County (the north central part of the state). The pit was constructed within feet of Buckeye Creek (the state has no requirement for a minimum distance between ground or surface water for pits — see our Pits post) so the “water,” at least 2500 gallons, went into the creek.
The red gelled liquid has had a negative effect on wildlife. People were told “it was ‘just oil’ and hadn’t killed any fish and okay to be in” — kids swim and play in the Creek. Already, before the spill, a decline in fish and mussels had been noted by residents and some of the fish had raised nodules on the skin.
Here are some photos:
Buckeye Creek was a good place to fish for bass and muskie. The contamination is plainly visible from fracture flowback chemicals and formation material (the color may be due to high iron) from a Marcellus well.
Gels are created by chemicals which can include diesel fuel or ethylene glycol, neither of which is good to swim in.
A similar fracture gel release in Pennsylvania caused a fish kill.
A high chloride concentration is a feature of fracture flowback but we don’t think chloride killed this muskrat near its den.
High chloride will kill fish and other aquatic organisms.
Two ducks were unable to fly.
Louanne (who furnished these photos and information) has a letter she wrote to Governor Manchin available online. The last I’ve heard, the gunk has been skimmed from the Creek but is lying in piles beside the Creek.
Please visit Sootypaws at http://sootypaws.livejournal.com/
From The Shreveport Times:
The ‘stuff’ killed the cows, sheriff says
• Prator questions whether drilling company has reported incident.
By Vickie Welborn • email@example.com • June 25, 2009
That’s Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator’s assessment of what contributed to the deaths of 17 cows in late April near a natural gas drilling location south of Spring Ridge.
Until now, none of the state agencies involved in the ongoing inquiry into the incident has stated what caused the cattle to drop dead in Skipper Williams Jr.’s pasture on state Highway 169.
The deaths were reported at some point after a liquid leaked from the well, which was in the completion process, and pooled into a low area accessible to the cows. The substance later was determined to contain elevated chlorides, oil, grease and some organic compounds.
But no state agency took responsibility for testing the animals. Results from a necropsy performed by Williams’ private veterinarian are unavailable.
On Wednesday, Prator gathered representatives of his and Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott’s offices, the Caddo Commission, state police and the state Environmental Quality, Natural Resources and Agriculture and Forestry departments in one room to review all the reports connected to the incident.
“We went over for an hour exactly what everybody’s response was, and everybody’s response and cooperation was really good,” the sheriff said. “We responded to the scene well. When everyone found out about it we all worked together very well.
“We have determined — although no one agency except me will say this — by piecing everything together, there was a spill from the site that ran off of the site and that was ingested by the cows and that’s what caused the cows to die.”
State veterinarian Michael Barrington confirmed the cows’ deaths were neither natural nor caused by disease, a release from Prator’s office states.
. . . . .
Still undetermined is whether the spill was reported and, if so, whether it was reported in a timely manner. “We contend it should have been reported. And the timeliness of it we’re investigating,” Prator said.
. . . . .
State police, the sheriff’s office and Environmental Quality still are looking into the timeliness of the reporting. Findings of the sheriff’s office and state police will be turned over to Scott for review. Environmental Quality will move its report through its channels.
Environmental Quality was notified via its hotline when Chesapeake Energy learned of the dead cattle. And over the next 72 hours, the company worked with Schlumberger, the sheriff’s office and other agencies involved to investigate the incident, McCotter said.
. . . . .
“While Chesapeake, Schlumberger and others have conducted water and soil analysis, Chesapeake and Schlumberger have not had access to the cattle owners’ necropsy and toxicology reports and have, therefore, been unable to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the cattle deaths,” McCotter said.
. . . . .
“If at the time it happened proper notification had been made, there are chances cows would still be alive right now,” the sheriff said. “In this case, this was cows. How unfortunate. But what if it was children?”
For an important post on gas drilling’s effects on livestock and farmers, see also:
Update On Dead Cows In Caddo Parish
by Erica Bennett
Thursday, May 7, 2009 @06:16pm CST
“The scene of a cow pasture in south Caddo Parish Wednesday was calm, uneventful and peaceful. But, that was not the case a week ago. A spill from a natural gas well caused at least 20 cows to drop dead.
. . . . .
“C.C. Canady is head over the United Neighbors for Oil and Gas Rights in south Caddo Parish. Canady says other animals have died near this site before, and they’ve had problems with the oil and gas companies for quite some time.
“Tammy Sepulvado’s 3 day old calf died the same day the other cows did. She says she has alot of money invested in her animals, so she can’t afford anymore problems from the nearby drilling site.
. . . . .
“Early tests by the Department of Environmental Quality revealed high levels of chloride in and adjacent to the cow pasture. DEQ representatives tell us Chesapeake Energy or Shlumberger are responsible.
“‘The only thing that we’re really waiting on is something definitive of who it was - somebody did have a release. After that we will take some kime of enforcement action,’ Otis Randle with the DEQ said.”
“We asked Chesapeake Energy if it was responsible for the spill and a representative sent us this response. ‘All results are preliminary and inconclusive, so it would be innappropriate at this time to speculate on the cause of death and responsible party.’
“The DEQ is expecting their results back sometime Wednesday or Thursday. Once they’re in, they’ll know what exact chemical killed the cows and who is responsible.”