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Fracking & Light Pollution in PA

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#51 George N

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 10:24 AM

Perhaps some of you will be gladdened by this. I was.

http://opinionator.b...les-a-ban-on...

Dark skies.

Jack


Andes NY is a cool little Catskills mountain town that finds it self sitting over massive natural gas deposits. The area outside of town is mostly forest, with some remaining farms.

Hopefully this law will also help protect this dark sky area, just an afternoon’s drive from New York City. I believe that the sky is darker there than the ‘blue zone’ that satellite maps show.

However the gas industry and “land owners’ associations” are not sitting on their drills about this. They are challenging all such laws in court, and have won against the city and town of Binghamton, NY. Other cases are still in the works.

I’m not sure about the situation in Pennsylvania. I’ll have to check, but I believe there is an actual law banning local governments from regulating fracking – or maybe it is just something the governor has proposed? Anyone know?

#52 t.r.

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 11:40 AM

One thing is for sure, the line is drawn in the sand, apparently at the NY/PA border! It will be interesting to see which way this goes...

#53 richard7

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 02:27 PM

It seems like Andes isn't the only one to try banning it.
Ft Collins Colorado.
Keep an eye on this one.

#54 neilson

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 04:20 PM

Hi,
This fracking has ruined my skies. I live in the Eagle Ford Shale Play. Thats the name of the new big oil and gas fields here. I live on a small ranch outside of Pleasanton, Tx. south of San Antonio.
I had very dark skies. I could see the milkyway pretty good as well as some star clusters and nebulas without my telescope.

First Frac tech built a big sand plant with bright spotlights on top of their towers pointing in my direction about a mile away south. I wrote emails to their headquarters. They actually turned them off and put dimmer lights lower down pointing in a different direction. That helped alot. Around January 2012.

That month the oil companies sent a man to pressure the next ranch over in the West to sell his property. He didn't need the money and refused many times. But that slick developer from the oil company kept after him every few days with more and more money. Eventually they offered so much that he couldn't refuse. They even let him keep the mineral rights.

Immediately they built a bunch of oil field support businessed. Including a huge parking lot for a big fleet of oil tanker trucks. They put up football stadium lights. The lights point sideways instead of down with no shielding. The same thing across the street from them is Louisiana crane company. They built a huge parking lot for their huge cranes. With the same lighting. Next to them another huge lot full of double wide trailers for oil field offices. Same lighting. There are about 10 other new oilfield support businesses with big lots behind them all lit up. The oil company developer last year told us they were building a big area for a Boy Scout camp. What a lie that was. I wrote and mailed hand written letters to each company and each builder and electrician company. I also sent emails to all of them.

The worst over lit place is the trucking company. Their manager and wife came to my ranch and told me they were a "Green" company. He told me he has been told by their headquarters Enterprise oil co. LLC. in Houston Tx. to replace all the bulbs with dimmer ones, and to put shields to prevent the light from going up. And to point the lights down instead of sideways. And that they would set the timmer to turn half the lights off until midnight or 1AM. That was last May and they never did anything. I have sent more emails and letters last Fall but no one will cooperate.

I explained all about light pollution and Astronomy and Imaging. I told them about all the people with kids who came out here all the time to look through my telescopes and some bring their own to set up here. I have a nice wide paved driveway.

I'm out there almost every night but it's not the same with all the light pollution. Its been almost a year since anyone else has come out here. They are building more businesses comming closer. Their about 1/4 mile away and the sky is washed out to the West now. There were no businesses on our road before. They keep all the lights burning bright all night even though they are all mostly closed then. Their oil, they can afford to waste electricity.
The Milky Way is somewhat washed out now. Its still somewhat dark in the East.

Neilson Shepard

#55 George N

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 04:41 PM

Hi,
This fracking has ruined my skies. .......
Neilson Shepard


Sad story.

#56 mountain monk

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 05:54 PM

Neilson,

I am very sorry to hear that.

Dark skies.

Jack

#57 herrointment

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 06:03 PM

It is an all to familiar tale.

I wish you the best of luck....

#58 FirstSight

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 08:04 PM

Historically in the western U.S., extractive industries of all kinds have created a relatively short bubble of rapid population gsrowth and wealth in various locations, which dissipates as the resource is exhausted, eventually leaving towns that are mere shells of their former selves or sometimes outright ghost towns. So shall this pass in another two or three decades in western North Dakota and western Pennsylvania (even though that's not "out west"). In the meantime, bad for astronomy, and the longer term bad for the regional water supplies.

#59 MEE

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 12:58 AM

The light pollution that Neilson refers to can be seen as an arc of lights on the photo below running from NW of Nuevo Laredo to E of San Antonio:

http://www.blue-marb...ightlights/2012

#60 neilson

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 07:45 AM

Hi,
That arc from Laredo to East of SanAntonio use to be complete darkness and emptyness a few years back. That area is now littered with over a hundred well lit new camper trailer parks and man camps all full of oil field workers. And lots of well lit drilling rigs. There are over 5,000 oil men moved in the Pleasanton area alone this past year. Our 1,000ft water well had the best tasting water but last year they were fracing in the area now the water tastes nasty. We had to put a water filter system in and we now buy lots of bottled water. We had our first earthquake ever, last year. They had been doing heavy fracing that week. Guess where the epicenter was. Right below that fracing well south of Pleasanton.

Neilson

#61 d00d

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 10:30 AM

Neilson,

Sorry to hear about your plight. Let me ask this, has the drilling itself impacted your quality of life beyond that of the LP? I've read a number of pieces on the matter and many of them speak of the constant noise from the drills as well as the increased traffic from trucks and such.

Have you considered a light barrier of some sort? A gent from Georgia made one from the remains of a trampoline.

#62 neilson

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 03:33 PM

Hi,
The trucks are constantly going by in the day but that doesn't bother me too much. They capped the closest drilling rigs last fall but in December they signed leases on all the ranches connected to our little ranch, so they will probably be drilling very close soon.
The noise won't bother me too much. Its the lights. It's as though I live in town across from a Walmart now. I can actually see the stadium type lighting from down the road on that light pollution map. The light dome covers our property too. Just over a year ago it was pitch black. If they would just point the lights down. They have them pointing at almost a 90 deg angle on top of really high poles. Half the light is going upwards causing a glare. It washes out the stars. I use our house to block the direct lights.

My plans are to send out new emails to their headquarters offices again and the offices here in April. Then I plan to make personal visits. I will be reasonable and happy about any resolution that will reduce the light any amount. I think setting the timers on half the lights to not come on until midnight or 1 AM is reasonable, their not even open at night. The whole area is like daytime over there. The white caliche parking lots make it even brighter.

neilson

#63 richard7

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Posted 20 March 2013 - 04:03 PM

I sure hope that lighting gets straightened out soon. Living deep in a red zone myself I can sympathize with you.
If they aren't even operating at night then it would only make sense to use only a couple of security lights all night anyway.

#64 Gary Honis

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 10:32 AM

A new organization (CSSD) was formed this week comprised of the gas drilling industry and environmental groups that have reached agreement to create a system to set standards for reducing the effects of shale drilling. The article is here:

http://www.pennlive....ee_on_tough_...

According to the article, multiple states will be covered but it does not mention any outdoor lighting or flaring controls.

The CSSD has a comment page set up for receiving comments. If you are so inclined, please consider requesting that they include exterior lighting and flaring standards to address the problem of light pollution. The CSSD comment page is here:

http://037186e.netso...m/site/contact/

If they don't get comments from the astronomical community, I doubt lighting issues will be addressed. Below are the comments I provided:

...........................

My recommendation is the CSSD should include flaring and lighting requirements in its standards to avoid the problems of light pollution such as glare, light trespass, energy waste and skyglow. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) maintains a list of IDA approved shielded light fixtures and also has developed lighting codes jointly with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). See

http://www.darksky.org/outdoorlighting

Utilizing the IDA approved light fixtures and CSSD adoption of the IDA/IESNA lighting codes would address lighting problems for adjacent land owners. It would also avoid the light pollution as documented in the 2012 NASA Earth Observatory images showing wasted light and skyglow in North Dakota and Pennsylvania from gas drilling operations. See:

http://www.nasa.gov/...h-at-night.html

Having standards that limit flaring operations to daytime or during New Moon periods, as is being done in sensitive areas of PA, would help preserve our disappearing night sky resource.

Thanks for your consideration of this request.

Gary Honis, P.E.
GHAAS
........................

#65 Glen A W

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 02:56 PM

I live in that black spot on the map, which is central West Virginia. It is still dark here. I have seen some light from the wells, and a man was killed in an explosion at one on the same morning the meteor came down over Russia - some thought the boom was a meteor hitting here!

However, all things considered, the wells are nothing compared to the development in the I-79 corridor west of me, especially around Clarksburg. One infamous big-box store in particular caused a whopping increase in light pollution.

I used to live in town and could still see M31 naked eye in 1990, along with the Milky Way. Now, that might happen on some rare crystal clear 2am Winter morning, but barely. I am glad I live in the country now but realistically, my site will be screwed up within 15 years. That also means that Spruce Knob will be very seriously damaged, and it's the best sky I have ever seen this side on New Mexico.

>>>>>I think Spruce Knob should be made a focal point by the IDA or whoever is handling this now. Glen

#66 richard7

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 03:42 PM


>>>>>I think Spruce Knob should be made a focal point by the IDA or whoever is handling this now. Glen


I can sympathize with you. The last few years, since the downturn in the economy, LP has remained pretty steady. Bad but steady.
Now that things are picking up again you know more LP is coming.
While I don't know how big Spruce Knob is it really doesn't matter much how much effort you put up to save it if everything around it goes downhill.

#67 Glen A W

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:57 PM

They were turning off lights through Clarksburg on route 50 back in 2009, I think it was, to save money. There were times I had a pretty decent sky from in town, well after midnight.

On the fracking - there are so many making money on it around here that minimizing the damage is the best that can be hoped for. We get a double whammy in West Virginia because we have mountaintop removal, too. It may not be progress but I guess we need the energy.

I believe Spruce Knob is threatened by distant light domes and also by development right there at it. They pave the roads into it a little more each year, it seems like, and vacation cabins are going up along the newer paved road which comes in from the east. Besides LP, the natural feel of it is liable to take a beating. Glen

#68 darber99

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 04:38 PM

Here is a copy of the email I sent to the CSSD... I hope all will copy and send as well. Our dark skies are too important to just give up to industry...

To whom it may concern:
When developing a program for sustainable shale development, I hope you would consider standards for exterior lighting and flaring as it pertains to astronomical observations and light pollution. The Marcellus Shale has some of the most pristine areas for viewing the night skies and it still can be by employing low cost light shields, which will focus light towards the ground and not allow light to escape into the atmosphere. This increases sky glow and decreases amateur astronomers ability to view deep sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae. Metal casings could also be made to contain flaring while still allowing the heated gases to escape.
Natural gas drilling is going to be an important aspect of PA's economy in the near and distant future and I hope that during development of this natural resource, your center takes appropriate steps to safe guard the environment for all who enjoy it.

Thank you for your time.

Brad Lukach.

#69 darber99

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 04:41 PM

Whoops... That was my 1st draft... Here is the real one...

Letter to Center for Sustainable Shale Development

When developing a program for sustainable shale development, I hope you would consider standards for exterior lighting and flaring as it pertains to astronomical observations and light pollution. The Marcellus Shale has some of the most pristine areas for viewing the night skies in the Eastern US and it still can be by employing low cost light shields that are approved by the International Dark Sky Association, which will focus light towards the ground and not allow light to escape into the surrounding atmosphere. Existing lighting increases sky glow, light trespass and decreases amateur astronomers ability to view deep sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae. Flaring could also be limited to daytime hours or during full moon periods as to not disrupt evening, dark sky observations.
Natural gas drilling is going to be an important aspect of PA's economy in the near and distant future and I hope that during development of this natural resource, your center takes appropriate steps to safe guard the environment for all who enjoy it.

Thank you for your time.

Brad Lukach

#70 Gary Honis

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 05:22 PM

Hi Brad,

Thanks for preparing and sending your comments to the CSSD. I have heard from many others that have sent comments and that is encouraging. I drafted a Performance Standard No. 16 to address Light Pollution and I sent it as a follow-up comment to the CSSD with a recommendation that they consider adding it to their existing 15 perfomance standards:

....................................

LIGHT POLLUTION PERFORMANCE STANDARDS
Performance Standard No. 16

1. Beginning on January 1, 2014, an Operator must install only light fixtures that are fully shielded so that no light is emitted at or above a horizontal plane drawn through the lowest light-emitting portion of the luminaire. No light fixtures located on any drill or operation site are to be directed in such a manner so that they shine directly on public roads, adjacent property, the night sky or any property in the general vicinity of the operation site. All lighting will comply to standards of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Electrical Code. Illumination Levels for all support facilities shall have illuminances, uniformities and glare control in accordance with the recommended practices of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES).

2. Beginning on January 1, 2014, in order to minimize the visual impact of flaring at night and to avoid the creation of skyglow, an Operator shall schedule any nightime gas flarings to take place during the two weeks each month outside of the New Moon period. Sending gas to a flare outside of that period is acceptable only for safety reasons. Operators must document the extent of additional flaring and reasons requiring flaring outside of that period.

..............................

I haven't heard of anyone that subitted comments receiving a reply from CSSD yet. Hope to see you at CS soon.

#71 darber99

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 02:29 PM

Thanks Gary,
I really hope that the CSSD pays attention to what we are saying and adopts the new performance standard that you drafted. I haven't heard anything back from the CSSD myself concerning the email I sent but you never know...

Brad Lukach

#72 Dan G

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Posted 03 April 2013 - 08:41 PM

I added my 2 cents. Thanks for the link Gary.

Dan in NY

#73 richard7

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 08:35 PM

More bad news for LP in the Dakotas and Montana.

#74 George N

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 12:15 PM

The following is what I gleaned (assuming my memory is working) from listening to Chip (Cherry Springs State Park Manager) at last week’s Cherry Springs Star Party:

Note: Thanks to Chip’s efforts on getting Cherry Springs designated a ‘gold standard’ dark sky park by the IDA, he has been asked by the IDA to take part in a review of the rules for all such IDA designations. The IDA is about to change “the rules”, to include a continuing monitoring of a designated park’s sky conditions, with the possibility of losing or changing the designation if conditions change. The IDA is also researching possible anti-LP reguations for the gas industry in PA (there are currently none). Chip said that he likes the reguations currently in place in Texas, at least as a starting point for PA.

According to Chip:

The shale bed in Potter Co is very thin, and this has inspired the gas companies to reduce drilling activity and even to abandon some existing gas wells (not so to the east in Tioga Co). The low price of gas right now has resulted in a significant reduction in frack’ing activity. The main frack’ing impact so far has been from new gas well flaring (burn-off of the first gas produced). The gas companies have been very willing to not flare on dark weekends, and have even called the park to ask “Can we flare now? What is the best time so that we won’t cause you problems?” As pipelines are installed, there will be less and less need to flare a new well, or a re-fract’ed one.

On the other hand, equipment storage sites, pump sites, etc, are having ‘security lights’ installed, and the frack’ing fluid trucks are greatly increasing night-time traffic.

With IDA help, the park is looking into installing a permanent sky brightness monitoring system, with data available on-line. The same is being considered for all IDA dark sky designated parks/areas.

Bottom line: Cherry Springs may be permanently impacted by increased light from the conversion of rural PA into an “industrial zone”, and the park may lose it’s IDA “gold standard” rating if anti-LP regulation of the gas industry is ineffective.

#75 John Vogt

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 02:39 PM

Hi George,

Thanks for the update. Was there any mention of working with the gas companies to install night sky friendly fixtures with motion control at the various sites to minimize their LP impact? Enacting LP regs. would certainly help but the time frame to get them enacted in the current climate would take quite some time. I think the horse will have left the barn at that point, assuming it hasn't already.

John






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