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Action in Susquehanna County: Testify about Toxic Compressor Station

August 23, 2012

Thanks to Poune Saberi, MD for writing this Action Alert. The two-sentence summary: Come to Susquehanna County with Protecting Our Waters next Tuesday, August 28th to confront the construction of a huge compressor station which will hurt our neighbors, emit toxic fumes, and enable lucrative exports of Marcellus Shale fracked gas overseas. Please also comment in writing on multiple compressor stations now set to harm our air and health, accelerating climate change.

When:  Tuesday, August 28th, 2012: Public Meeting, 6 pm (public asks questions of DEP, Williams)

Formally recorded public testimony at 7:30 PM

Workshop earlier in day at 2 pm

What: Public Hearing about Williams Central Compressor Station in Susquehanna County

(aka “Notification to Solicit Comments on Williams Field Service Company, LLC Central Compression Station Plan Approval Application No: 58-399-029”)

Where: Montrose High School, 50 High Street, Montrose PA, in Susquehanna County

Car rides: Contact Matt Walker at mwalker@cleanair.org (267 319-6726) or Iris Marie Bloom (215 840-6489).

Dear Protectors,

So often when we are faced with the crushing weight of some new oil and gas industry shenanigans, we feel unable to exert counterforce. The plot of extraction and profit seems much bigger than us, thought out years in advance, with legislation and enforcement already on its side. We stand and witness every beautiful corner of our planet taken up by parasitic machines, feeding the pockets of a few.

On Tuesday, August 28th we have a chance to pro-actively hold accountable those who fail to see the future fate of our communities and our precious natural resources beyond the next few years. Join Protecting Our Waters as we travel up to Susquehanna County, and in turn join the community of Brooklyn Township in giving public testimony and asking the DEP hard questions about the proposed permit for the Williams Central Compressor Station.

If you are unable to attend please consider sending in your written testimony.

This link will take you to a list of all the compressor stations lined up for permitting throughout Pennsylvania. The Williams Central Compressor station is one of the many slated to be constructed soon. Tomorrow these facilities will be the same as the aging coal-fire plants of today: too costly to update, should only be shut down, and yet are left to continue damaging our air and health.

What is a compressor station?

From Coryn: Here’s Chesapeake Energy’s introduction to compressor stations, in which they’re as intrusive to the landscape as a one-room schoolhouse–but, thanks to the lack of children, even quieter. Says our Bob the Builder guide, “Compressor stations can be an unobrustive part of the urban landscape.” No attempt to describe their effects on the rural landscape.

And here’s what a compressor station looks like when it bursts into flames and explodes from venting gone wrong, in Wyoming, 2011.

That wasn’t an isolated incident, though. In March, an explosion and fire at a compressor station in Susquehanna County blew the roof off the complex and sent clouds of black smoke billowing into the air. The inci­dent shook houses half a mile away. Here’s POW’s blog post on the event.  PA DEP failed to prevent the incident and failed to prevent Williams from starting up again immediately, prior to an incident investigation. Another compressor station explosion and fire, this one in Bedford County, PA in November 2011, rocked the community and forced families to be evacuated at midnight.

And, unfortunately, compressor stations are not a quiet addition to communities. This video taken in Ohio shows noise levels from the compressor reaching close to 90 dB–and these measurements are from a resident’s porch at a distance from the station. The video’s creator says that station workers usually warn them when they’re planning a noisy blowout or test, but had no warning or explanation this time.

The Shale Gas Outrage website has a more in-depth piece on the air and public health impacts of compressor stations on air quality and public health.

Now for background on Central Compressor Station:

“PA DEP provided notice that it intends to issue Plan Approval 58-399-029 to Williams for construction and operation of three compressor engine, one turbine, three dehydration units, a catalytic converter and an enclosed flare at the Central Compressor Station in Brooklyn, Susquehanna County. “ Below are just a few reasons for not trusting the industry to have our neighbors’ best interests at heart.

  • The permit review directly states that “there will be no controls proposed for particulate, carbon monoxides or sulfur dioxide emissions.”
  • The permit states that “failures that are caused in part by poor maintenance or careless operations are not malfunctions.” We agree with that statement. However, we go on to state that those failures are unacceptable and inexcusable. They result in loss of health, lives and property. The resultant release of benzene into the atmosphere increases the risk of developing leukemia for anyone in the vicinity.

The connection to Constitution Pipeline:

The pipeline is supposed to extend up to Maine and export the fuel as Liquified Natural Gas.

The Constitution Pipeline is proposed to extend up to New York, then down to places like New York and Baltimore, both port cities with the capability of exporting the fuel as Liquified Natural Gas.  We believe that it will be the back entrance for fracking in New York State.

From permit reviews, we find: “once the Constitution Pipeline is complete, Williams expects that the Central station will discharge to the Constitution to serve additional markets.”

You can watch the videos listed below where Brooklyn township resident Rebecca Roter explains how her calm and historic community (including Newton Hill Cemetery) is being torn apart by the advancing plans for pollution.

What can you ask?

The oil and gas industry has systematically confused the public by applying for different types of permits for the same station, and by giving different answers about whether or not this station would be the start of the Constitution Pipeline.  The projected pollution levels for this station are just under the thresholds for a stronger permit that would require more stringent technology standards, monitoring and record-keeping. Williams owns many other existing and proposed stations in the area, which are all permitted as “minor sources” of air pollution, rather than the very large source of air pollution that these stations actually emit cumulatively. This method allows for complying with less strict regulations reserved for smaller facilities, all the while spewing the same amount of pollution into the air as a much larger facility.

Protectors, in writing or in person, please demand this permit be denied and:

1. Inquire about whether other stations have been or will be permitted in the vicinity of this location.

2. As explained above, ask whether this station will be the start of the Constitution pipeline. You can demand to know whether  this station will be included in the FERC (Federal Energy Regulartory Commission) impact analyses since it will likely be part of the proposed Constitution Pipeline (which will be part of the FERC process).

3. Question whether this gas will be used as LNG for export to all the bidders worldwide.

4. Ask how this station will impact the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQs) for the region.

As a bonus, you can travel earlier in the day on Tuesday, August 28th to take part in a valuable training by Matt Walker of Clean Air Council (starting at 2 pm) on how to decipher the ins and outs of compressor stations and public hearings.

Please stay alert for notices in the near future about gas processing plants and compressor stations in Bradford County, and respond quickly if you are able with written comment. You are making a difference!

Thanks for all you do

Pouné, Iris, Coryn with guest contributions from Matt, Jay and Rebecca

5 Comments
  1. Allen M. Abrahams permalink
    August 24, 2012 8:19 am

    If there is any doubt of the potential for problems with this, google “sinkhole salt mine gas Louisiana” for just some of the scenarios that inform us that it is always “when” and not “if” something happens.

  2. Allen M. Abrahams permalink
    August 24, 2012 8:25 am

    Just look at this disaster and extrapolate for the potential of damage with a project on the scale of the Susquehanna or the even larger LPG projects attempting to be rammed through at the former Cargill salt mines under Senaca Lake in NY…. mind boggling.

    http://thewatchers.adorraeli.com/2012/08/16/louisiana-sinkhole-fears-of-radioactivity-and-gas-explosion-as-sinkhole-getting-bigger/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-buchanan/louisiana-sinkhole_b_1810972.html

    https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!msg/publiclaboratory/MLqpR6QJGJ0/3-HxC4aYxQ0J

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