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A natural gas drilling rig operated by Carrizo Oil and Gas from Texas in Washington Township, PA has spilled thousands of gallons of fracking waste-fluid in the surrounding environment. If you're experiencing any deja vu right now, it may be because the very same company was responsible for a fracking spill in the very same municipality in March. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had the company stop all fracking operations following the March spill, but then allowed them to resume less than a month later essentially "just because." It turns out - surprise, surprise - giving a fracking company that prioritizes profit over the environment the benefit of the doubt regardless of the environmental threat they present wasn't such a bright idea after all. This marks a monumental failure for PA DEP.

Fracking is the the commonly used term for hydraulic fracturing, which is a process used to extract natural gas that involves drilling as far as 10,000 feet underground and injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals to pressure rock into cracking and releasing the gas.

visualization of how fracking can contaminate water from the documentary Gasland by Josh Fox
visualization of how fracking can contaminate water from the documentary Gasland by Josh Fox
In April, I wrote about how several families in Washington Township, Wyoming County, PA had to be evacuated when a natural gas drilling rig had a blowout and over 200,000 gallons of fracking waste-fluid spilled on March 13. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had them temporarily stop fracking, but then allowed them to resume on April 5, less than a month later - for virtually no reason. PA DEP's own investigation of the incident was still underway, and while Carrizo claimed they'd be beefing up their safety procedures to facilitate the PA DEP decision, their announcement of the "operational changes" they were undergoing provided precisely zero specifics.

Before the month ended, on April 30, a hose on a tank of another natural gas drilling rig run by Carrizo Oil and Gas in Washington Township flew off and sprayed a total of over 9,000 gallons of dangerously chemical-laden fracking waste-fluid into the surrounding environment. The waste-fluid flowed across a street, soaking the property of a miniature horse farm, the farmhouse basement, and the garage. A second nearby home is also said to have been significantly damaged by the spill. Now they're digging trenches and using industrial vacuums to suck up what they can of the spilled fracking waste-fluid. Unlike the March spill, no reporting I can find indicates that PA DEP has told Carrizo they have to stop fracking this time. Like last time, Carrizo is doing everything they can to stay on the good side of the locals, including providing bottled drinking water and testing water for contamination. Unfortunately, it seems to at least be working on some people. Fred Kuntz, a farm hand at the miniature horse farm, said of the company's response to the spill, “They’re doing a dynamite job here. I give them my hat’s off to them.”

this was the March fracking waste-fluid spill in Washington Township, PA
But no matter how efficient they may be able to make their clean-up efforts seem, I'm disturbed to hear someone so personally impacted by the spill praising Carrizo Oil and Gas for a dynamite job. If they're having spills like this all the time, it doesn't matter how much free testing they do and free water they give away; I refuse to accept that our farms and forests can be destroyed by fracking disasters and the companies offering some perfunctory reparations makes it okay. We should be able to not have our environment destroyed at all. We should be able to drink our own water. Article I Section 27 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guarantees us that much, saying:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
We shouldn't be relying on the company to test water for contamination, we should have a government agency whose priority is environmental protection and not corporate profits doing that testing. Instead, the PA DEP is actively allowing this stuff to happen. If they hadn't allowed Carrizo to start drilling again before their investigation of the first spill was complete and the company proved it could do a better job, which seems like a pretty basic bar to me, this wouldn't have happened. Instead, this company is getting to run roughshod over this township with hardly any resistance from PA DEP at all. So much for environmental protection. This is one more example showing that we need a moratorium on fracking now, before this is allowed to happen to even more families across Pennsylvania.

Please take a few minutes to check out Counterpoint PA, my new Internet video newscast about Pennsylvania politics with progressive commentary.

Originally posted to ProgressivePatriotPA on Wed May 08, 2013 at 01:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Area Kossacks, Climate Hawks, DK GreenRoots, and Gulf Watchers Group.

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