Stream disappearing underground

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Mar 29, 2023, 9:09:33 AM3/29/23
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From: Bob Donnan <>
Date: Wed, Mar 29, 2023, 7:31 AM
Subject: Stream disappearing underground

WVU researchers to study methane emissions at oil and gas sites

Mar 28, 2023 – MORGANTOWN — Over the next three years, researchers with the West Virginia University Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions will try to gain an understanding of where and why leaks of methane and other gases happen — and their effects on local air quality and global climate. With the support of $5.5 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding, the project, led by Derek Johnson, associate professor at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, will focus on methane emissions from liquid storage tanks across West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

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WVU Mountaineers stadium   MARCELLUS AIR

“Tank emissions and leak rates have been highly variable for methane and other volatile organic compounds, so we need a better understanding of their activity. Then we can improve models for predicting emissions and ultimately develop solutions to mitigate them. WVU will leverage the expertise of partner Aerodyne Research in plume sampling,” Johnson said.



W.Va. Supreme Court Revokes Former Circuit Judge David Hummel’s Law License

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court on Friday annulled the law license of attorney David Hummel, who late last year resigned as a judge in the state’s Second Judicial Circuit. Hummel’s resignation and the formal loss of his law license came after the state’s Judicial Investigation Commission lodged several complaints against him — including that he improperly used public dollars meant for court treatment programs, that he belittled children who came before him, and also that he violated his own rules concerning handguns in the courtroom.

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Hummel, again according to the JIC, violated his own administrative order regarding firearms in the courtroom. His 2013 order directed that all circuit court judges, family court judges, Supreme Court Justices and senior status judges that carried a firearm in a courtroom “take reasonable measures to ensure that any firearm he or she may possess on the aforesaid premises is concealed such that the same is not displayed.” During a 2022 hearing in a civil case, Hummel took out the gun he was carrying and displayed it for all to see, the JIC said.

“It is incredulous for a judge to violate his own administrative order, but that is what (Hummel) did when he pulled out a gun and showed it in the courtroom,” the JIC wrote. “It is no wonder to this Commission that his conduct resulted in nationwide publicity. He not only humiliated himself, but he also caused great embarrassment to the court system as a whole and is admonished for his actions.”

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Excerpt from July 19, 2022 story (recommended reading with this tune playing in the background)
From Due to concerns with her legal team’s safety during the trial, Varnado hired a private security contractor to protect her while in the area. According to an affidavit Varnado provided to the Judicial Investigation Commission, Hummel presided over a pretrial hearing with his judicial robe unzipped and his holstered handgun openly displayed. During the trial, Hummel had scheduled a Saturday evidentiary hearing, and allegedly prohibited Varnado’s private security guard from attending.

During the hearing, Hummel allegedly told Varnado that the courtroom security officer, and Hummel personally, would be enough security for her team, according to Varnado’s affidavit. Hummel allegedly said that his guns were bigger than the guns of her security personnel before drawing his holstered weapon, pointing it at the defendant’s table where EQT’s legal team was waiting, and then at the podium where Varnado was stationed. Hummel then allegedly laid his weapon on the desk before deliberately rotating the gun so that the barrel was pointing directly at Varnado, she said.

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Read the Supreme Court’s order to annul the law license of David Hummel



U.S. renewable electricity surpassed coal in 2022

Electricity generated from renewables surpassed coal in the United States for the first time in 2022, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced Monday. Renewables also surpassed nuclear generation in 2022 after first doing so last year.

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Photo: One clear advantage is the ability to remove snow cover, since as little as one-inch can eliminate solar energy production. 

Growth in wind and solar significantly drove the increase in renewable energy and contributed 14% of the electricity produced domestically in 2022. Hydropower contributed 6%, and biomass and geothermal sources generated less than 1%.


By Lisa C. Lieb | The Revelator | March 27, 2023

The Place: 

The Allegheny Plateau is a lower-lying portion of the Appalachian Mountain Range that extends from southern and central New York to northern and western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern and western West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky.

Why it matters: 

The plateau consists of areas of gently sloping hills in the north and west of the region as well as rugged valleys in the south and east. It overlies the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale, sedimentary rock formations. The region is rich in natural resources, including hardwoods, iron ore, silica, coal, oil and natural gas.

The abundance of these resources supported development in the region and were integral to the local steel, glass, rail and extraction industries.

Prior to widespread logging between 1890 and 1920, the area hosted old-growth forests containing red spruce, eastern white pine, eastern hemlock, sugar maple, black oak, white oak, yellow birch and American beech.

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Cook Forest giants 

But the forest’s makeup is now different, favoring oaks, maples, hickories, American beech and yellow birch. Though fragmented and much less mature than the old-growth forests, today’s forests continue to play a vital role in ecosystems, serving as habitats for the federally endangered Indiana bat as well as locally endangered or at-risk species such as little brown bats, northern flying squirrels and blackpoll warblers.

The region hosts the Ohio River watershed and confluence, the Allegheny National Forest in New York and Pennsylvania, and the Wayne National Forest in Ohio.

The threat:

Unconventional oil and gas development has boomed in the region over the past decade. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Marcellus and Utica shale plays contain approximately 214 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, making the Allegheny Plateau a lucrative location for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Already more than 13,000 unconventional wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania. Fracking itself is a resource intense process, requiring between 2 and 20 million gallons of water per well. A 2014 study estimated that in Pennsylvania, 80% of the water used for fracking comes from streams, rivers, and lakes, thus potentially altering water temperature and levels of dissolved oxygen. This water is combined with sand and a mixture of hazardous chemicals, which may include methanol, ethylene glycol and propargyl alcohol.

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Hydraulic Fracturing aka 'fracking'   MARCELLUS AIR 

Between 20-25% of the water that is injected into the well returns to the surface. This flowback water often has higher salinity and has been known to contain barium, arsenic, benzene and radium. While recycling of flowback is becoming more common, other methods of disposal include underground injection, application to road surfaces, treatment at public waste facilities, and discharging it onto rivers, streams and lakes.

Near fracking sites in West Virginia, elevated levels of barium and strontium were found in feathers of Louisiana waterthrushes, native songbirds who make their home in brooks and wooded swamps. In northwestern Pennsylvania, crayfish and brook trout living in fracked streams were found to have increased levels of mercury. Fish diversity is also reduced in streams that have been fracked.

Fracking consumes land, too. Each fracking well requires 3-7 acres. In Pennsylvania over 700,000 acres of state forest land are leased or available for gas production. Well pads, pipelines and other fracking infrastructure fragment forests, alter their ecology, and reduce biodiversity. Appalachian azure butterflies and federally threatened northern wild monkshood — purple-flowering herbaceous perennials found in New York and Ohio — are both sensitive to forest fragmentation.

In addition to the direct impacts of fracking, the availability of natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays attracts petrochemical development to the region. Shell Polymers Monaca initiated operations in November 2022 at a newly constructed 386-acre petrochemical complex in southwestern Pennsylvania, along the Ohio River.

The plant manufactures virgin polyethylene pellets, which will be largely be used for production of single-use plastic products. In addition to releasing hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter, this ethane “cracker” plant will emit 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.

The plant’s existence will also fuel fracking in the region; it is anticipated that it will require between 100 and 200 new wells each year in order to supply natural gas for its productions. Other petrochemical companies, including Exxon, PTT Global and Odebrecht, have reportedly been considering building similar complexes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

My place in this place: 

I was born and raised in the area, and my family’s roots in southwestern Pennsylvania go back several generations. Some of my most cherished memories involve Pennsylvania’s forests, rivers and streams. As a child I loved my family’s summer pilgrimages to our cabin, a rustic building that had been converted from a one-room schoolhouse in the Pennsylvania Wilds. At “camp” we fished for yellow perch, smallmouth bass and walleye in the Sinnemahoning Creek and caught crayfish by hand. We sunned ourselves on the rocks along the river bank when the water was warm. In the evenings we walked on quiet, narrow roads in hopes of spotting an eastern elk in a grassy field.

I now live in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, one mile from the Shell cracker plant. I can observe the plant’s flaring from my kitchen window, which often creates an ominous orange glow in the night sky. To me the plant doesn’t symbolize job creation or a rebounding local economy, despite the assertions of local and state politicians. I see the plant as the perpetuation of a hopeless dependence on fossil fuels and corporate profit at the expense of ecological integrity. I worry that fracking and an associated petrochemical buildout will destroy already fragile ecosystems throughout my home in the Allegheny Plateau.

Who’s protecting it now:

There are a variety of environmental groups located in the region. No Petro PA is an organization that resists fracking and pipeline development in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. More locally the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community in western Pennsylvania opposes fracking and seeks to protect local community members from its harmful effects.

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With the rise of the Shell cracker plant, the group also formed Eyes on Shell, a community organization that aims to hold Shell accountable for its activity and advocates for the surrounding communities’ health and safety. These are just three of the many grassroots organizations working to protect the air, soil, water, wildlife and communities in the region.

The national organization, FracTracker, also provides extensive data on oil and natural gas wells, pipelines, legislation and environmental health.

What this place needs:

Ideally Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will follow in the footsteps of New York and institute a ban on fracking in light of the environmental and health risks associated with unconventional gas and oil development. However, given their strong ties to the fossil fuel industry, it is unlikely that this will occur. Banning fracking on public land in the region, such as in state forests and county parks, in a practical first step in combatting forest fragmentation and pollution.

At a regional level, regulations should be put in place to protect the water quality of the Ohio River. The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, a multistate organization working with the federal government, could ban fracking in the Ohio River Basin in order to protect the river and its watershed. The Delaware River Basin Commission has successfully prohibited fracking within the Delaware River Basin; the rules developed by the commission could be adapted for use by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.

Additional government oversight would help to protect water quality in the region. Presently fracking is exempt from the Safe Water Drinking Act and therefore isn’t regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ending this exemption could increase water quality and safety within the Allegheny Plateau.

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Increased transparency from oil and gas companies is also required to protect the region’s water. As of July 2022, California is the only state in the country that requires full public disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking. Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio must implement policies that require full public disclosure of chemicals used in all phases of the fracking process.



Report: Texas fracking is exacerbating the PFAS crisis
A "staggering volume" of PFAS are being injected into fracked wells.

As their use grew, researchers started to link PFAS to a range of health problems, including birth defects, cancer, and other serious diseases. The chemical doesn’t break down, and can persist in water and soil, and even human blood, and has acquired the nickname “forever chemical.” 

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A new report by the Physicians for Social Responsibility documents the wide use of PFAS in oil and gas drilling and calls on Texas to follow the lead of some other states in restricting use of the chemicals. The group criticized state regulations that allow energy companies to withhold information on the use of chemicals they deem to be proprietary. 

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Over the last decade in Texas, oil and gas companies have pumped at least 43,000 pounds of the toxic chemical into more than a thousand fracked oil and gas wells across the state, according to the study.

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Let's call this one: Pennsylvania without the hills in another 20 years



EPA, New Mexico oil driller reach $6.2 million settlement over pollution leaks

(Reuters) - Oil and gas company Matador Production Co has agreed to pay $6.2 million after federal inspectors said they discovered pollutant leaks at nearly 20 drilling sites on portions of the Permian Basin in New Mexico. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of New Mexico announced the proposed settlement with the Dallas-based company on Monday, the same day a complaint was filed in New Mexico federal court. Matador did not admit liability in the proposed settlement.

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The government agencies said inspectors first discovered the company was leaking ozone-causing pollutants four years ago at 19 of the company’s oil and gas production sites in New Mexico. The proposed settlement, if approved by the court, would require monitoring and upgrades to make sure all of the company's 239 well pads in the state comply with pollution regulations.


Going down…

Sub-$2 Natural Gas Futures Seen in Play for April Contract as Forecasts Warm

March 28, 2023 – Natural gas futures continued to grind lower in early trading Tuesday, weighed down by warmer-trending late-season forecast maps. The expiring April Nymex contract was down 4.0 cents to $2.048/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET. May was off 3.5 cents to $2.180.

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“Bearish influences, however, suggest testing south of $2 is possible within the next two days,” according to EBW Analytics Group analyst Eli Rubin. Updated forecast maps from Maxar’s Weather Desk Tuesday showed warmer-than-normal temperatures blanketing eastern portions of the Lower 48 for much of the 15-day projection period.



News from ‘Terry Greenwood country’…

Sinkhole from abandoned mine swallowing Pike Run in Daisytown, PA

By Mike Jones | Observer-Reporter | March 28, 2023

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Photo: A DEP worker uses an excavator to drop large rocks into a sinkhole in an attempt to stop the water in Pike Run from flowing underground into an abandoned mine.

A sinkhole caused by an abandoned mine in Daisytown is swallowing Pike Run.

Underground mine subsidence below the stream is believed to have occurred Thursday morning, forcing water to gush into the portal and causing a section of Pike Run to go dry.

A crew from the state Department of Environmental Protection was at the site Monday with an excavator and track loader dropping gravel into the collapse site to serve as a temporary repair in order to restore the stream’s flow. Once that initial step is complete, the specialized DEP crew based in Cambria County planned to pour concrete in the area to permanently plug the hole.

The water from the stream apparently is traversing the abandoned mine and coming out of a hillside about a half-mile away, which is flooding Pike Run Drive near Ventura’s Tavern. The water is re-entering the stream through a nearby storm drain, which appears to allow Pike Run to flow normally from that location as the stream heads east to the Monongahela River.

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A state Department of Transportation spokesperson said a section of Pike Run Drive near Ventura Drive in California Borough will remain closed through at least the end of the week until the DEP crew is able to restore the stream’s normal flow and stop the water from resurfacing on the roadway.

DEP spokesperson Lauren Camarda said the breach is thought to be from the abandoned Vesta No. 4 Mine operated by the Vesta Coal Co. before 1920. She added that the DEP crew hopes to finish its work by the end of the week.

“DEP will temporarily divert the stream in order to backfill and seal off the sinkhole and stabilize the stream bed,” Camarda said. “Work was delayed Friday and over the weekend because of heavy storms that caused the creek and underground mine pool to rise.”

The sinkhole in the middle of Pike Run created a buzz in Daisytown that had local residents talking about the unusual sight of a stream disappearing underground.

John Stone, who lives on Pike Run Drive near Daisytown Road in West Pike Run Township, noticed the problem Thursday afternoon when he went to care for his neighbor’s geese, which have a pen along the stream’s banks. He was flabbergasted when he looked to where the stream would normally be flowing and instead saw water cascading into a hole.

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“Where in the heck did that waterfall come from?” Stone thought when he saw water pouring from the stream into the abandoned mine. “Where did the bottom of the creek go?”

He contacted authorities, although efforts to fix the problem were hampered by heavy rain Thursday night and again over the weekend. But that rainfall did help to restore the waterway’s flow farther downstream and also seemed to push more water through the abandoned mine so it could re-enter Pike Run a half-mile away.

Waterways Conservation Officer Jonathan Stark of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission said the subsidence did not appear to affect trout stocking efforts upstream and downstream from the site. He said a weekend youth fishing event in other areas of Pike Run was not affected. 

Yellow caution tape was wrapped around the area to keep people away from the area as crews worked around the swirling pool of water descending into the mine. Several dump trucks brought gravel to the area Monday for workers to unload into the sinkhole as part of the restoration efforts. 

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More: Guide to the CONSOL Energy, Inc. Mine Maps and Records

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INCOMING:  Letters to the Editor regarding Whitetail Deer information yesterday…

Kate shared this information: 

I like your blog about deer damage & list of "deer like and don't like." 

Alas, most things deer don't like are alien. Two on the list attracted my attention because they were recently been banned in PA: 

Barberry (tick magnet lant)


I'm not sure when/if Russian olive (and other species I don't have time to look up) was banned:

Wondering which came first:  Were these plant always super-invasive or did they become more so because deer don't eat them?

Kate St. John, Pittsburgh
Visit my bird/nature blog at


D.B. also shared some great information, but likely missed the point that Peters Township primarily does ‘deer culling’ to reduce vehicle/deer collisions. In fact, just last night, a neighbor told us her car got ‘T-boned’ by a buck, that plowed into her driver’s side door…

Peters Township might be interested to know that deer ticks are mostly spread by deer mice, not deer. The mice don't groom the ticks off of themselves and one mouse alone can be carrying 300 ticks. The answer isn't to kill the mice, but to turn each one into a tick killing machine.There's a company that makes no-kill mice boxes that work like this: mouse goes into box to get peanut butter bait. As he goes in, his back is brushed with a mouse-sized dose of the same chemical that's in Frontline. Mouse leaves box. All ticks that bite mouse die, the ones on him when he goes into the box, and any more that pile on him as he scampers through lawns, gardens, and woodlands. (The amt of Frontline is so tiny, btw, that it doesn't harm anything that eats the mice - cats, owls, hawks, etc.)

They did research on this and they reduced the number of deer ticks in an area by 97%. The things used to be very cheap when you could buy them from the inventor. A company bought him out and now it costs $50 per box. You need to have multiple boxes per property and you need to have them professionally placed - probably because this company has a monopoly on them. 

Truth be told, they could probably be made at home. The challenge will be getting the Frontline dose correct.

Anyway, Peters won't eradicate them by going after the deer. 

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