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Good work on compressor stations in Susquehanna County generates headlines

December 19, 2011

Protectors, your letters and testimony about compressor stations are making a difference. In “Citizen responses spur compressor hearings for first time,” published today, Times-Tribune staff writer Laura Legere describes a December 6th hearing, held because alert citizens generated a significant amount of public comment. The hearing gave Shirleen Adams, who lives next door to the site of the proposed compressor station, a chance to voice her concerns about pollution, noise, and traffic:

“I sure don’t think it’s fair that I have to live every day worrying about the air that I breathe,” she told the DEP officials hosting the hearing. “And I just wanted you to meet me and understand my worry.”

Legere, an excellent reporter on all things Marcellus, downplayed the actual harm caused by compressor stations. She described the atmosphere at the December 6th hearing in Montrose, held coincidentally on the same day as the press conference and water deliveries to Dimock. But she left out a key concern of residents, grassroots environmentalists, clean air and health professionals: the fact that loopholes allow fracked gas compressor stations to be regulated individually, rather than as an aggregate. That’s like pretending car exhaust is not a problem while only measuring the emissions of one car at a time, and concluding that car exhaust does not cause asthma or harm climate.

Legere also refers to emissions from compressor stations as “regulated” which might imply, to the logically-minded reader, that emissions from any one compressor station might be safe. But it is not safe for benzene, toluene, acetone and other poisons to be spewed into the air at all. Just ask Pam Judy, whose life was turned upside down when a compressor station was built 780 feet from her home, causing her and both her children, to become sick (details below).

But Legere did a good job reporting on the historic significance of the meeting in Montrose, on the citizen organizing which makes it possible to peel back layers of red tape and get involved, and on the significant impact even a few dozen emails and letters, such as those Protecting Our Waters supporters have written, can make:

In the long history of natural gas development in Pennsylvania, the meeting at Montrose High School on Dec. 6 was a first…

Dozens of compressor stations have been proposed or approved statewide in recent years by the Department of Environmental Protection but few have garnered even a handful of public comments…

Before the proposed Shields compressor station in Dimock Twp., none had ever gathered enough interest to trigger a public hearing, according to state regulators…

“Before now, the DEP only received maybe one or two comments on this type of equipment because people weren’t notified about these decisions,” community outreach coordinator Matt Walker said. Notice is published in a dense weekly publication of official state rules and actions called the Pennsylvania Bulletin that is “very difficult for the average citizen” to sift through, he said.

Congratulations to the local grassroots activists, who work hard and decline to be praised in public; as well as to Clean Air Council for helping to generate an unheard-of attendance of 150 people at the hearing. Congratulations to everyone who sent in their comments. Read the full story here. And a bit more about why this issue is so important here:

Pam Judy’s experience with one compressor station in Greene County, Pennsylvania, excerpted from her vivid testimony to the Murrysville Councilmembers in July 2011:

In April 2006 we built a new home on property originally belonging to great grandparents and a part of the family farm.  For three years my family enjoyed the peace and quiet of living in the country.  However, in the spring of 2009, that quiet way of life abruptly came to an end when a compressor station was built 780 feet from our home on an adjoining landowner’s property.

Due to the noise and the fumes from the engines and dehydration unit that settle in our yard we can no longer spend time outdoors. Shortly after operations began, we started to experience extreme headaches, runny noses, sore/scratchy throats, muscle aches and a constant feeling of fatigue.  Both of our children are experiencing nose bleeds and I’ve had dizziness, vomiting and vertigo to the point that I couldn’t stand and was taken to an emergency room.  Our daughter has commented that she feels as though she has cement in her bones.

In November of last year our son was out on our property scouting for deer in preparation for the opening day of the season.  Some of these areas were in close proximity to the compressor site.   Within one day of being out, he developed blisters in his mouth and throat, had extreme difficulty swallowing, and on Thanksgiving morning he went to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.

It’s important that the Times-Tribune acknowledged that compressor stations contribute to smog. But given the seriousness of health problems widely reported in association with fracked gas compressor stations, it’s key to understand the specific contaminants compressor stations are known to spew into the air. These toxins are known to cause respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological damage as well as cancer. Styrene and xylene, like benzene and toluene, are emitted by compressor stations and are well-studied.  You won’t find gas company executives living near one of these beasts — they know better.

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