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NEWS - December 13, 2012 - AGWT Shale Gas Forum

Shale-Gas in Massachusetts?
American Ground Water Trust Information Program, University of Massachusetts – Amherst – December 2012

The Hartford Basin was identified by the United State Geologic Survey in a June 2012 report as one of several Mesozoic-aged geologic basins along the Atlantic coast with potential to host reserves of shale gas.  The Connecticut River Valley encompasses much of the geologic terrane of the Hartford Basin.  On Thursday December 13, the American Ground Water Trust (AGWT) held an informational forum on shale gas and hydraulic fracking at the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, MA.  Previous AGWT shale-gas educational programs have been held in Austin, TX and Raleigh, NC.

Over fifty people attended the Massachusetts program which focused on the jurisdictional, policy and governance issues that would be faced by individuals and municipalities if and when shale gas development were to occur in the Connecticut River Valley region of western Massachusetts and Connecticut.  In addition to Massachusetts geology and legal experts, speakers from Texas and New York, regions with active shale gas extraction, provided insight on what to expect and how other communities and jurisdictions have responded to the control and management of shale-gas development. 

The purpose of the AGWT program was to bring shale gas issues, prior to any shale-gas development, to the forefront in a region with no history of fossil fuel recovery. The forum provided the mostly Massachusetts and Connecticut participants with a better understanding of the possible issues related to gas development following landowner’ decisions to enter into lease agreements with energy industry companies.  By understanding “what to expect,” attendees at the forum now have an opportunity to review and assess the effectiveness of current policies and regulations in their communities to address issues if and when shale-gas development is proposed.

Among the many points raised at the program, the Amherst presentations explained the difference between “hydraulic fracture” used in the shale gas industry involving chemicals, and the chemical-free “hydro-fracture” that is frequently used successfully by the New England water well industry to increase water yield in private drinking water wells. 

The forum also emphasized the importance of basing ground water protection and land use decisions on sound research methods and validated science.  The AGWT stressed the value of private water wells as a significant water supply source in New England that supported citizen independence and self-sufficiency as well as lowering regional infrastructure costs for providing safe water supplies.  

A barrier to effective groundwater protection is the tremendous focus specifically directed towards “fracking” rather than on the whole complex of processes involved in exploration, development, operation and closure of shale-gas operations.  The AGWT belief is that when problems occur from the development of shale-gas, it is more likely to result from surface storage & handling of chemicals and return water treatment & disposal than from the actual deep hydraulic fracturing process. It appears that direct ground water contamination related to the fracking process is a rare event (http://nywea.org/clearwaters/10-4-winter/8.pdf and http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/343202/description/The_Facts_Behind_the_Frack) .  Groundwater protection concerns should be framed against the whole shale-gas development process .



NEWS - December 2012 - Article Reprint from AGWT Shale Gas Forum

By Jim Kinney, The Republican
on December 13, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Geologists: Shale gas likely under Connecticut River Valley, but would be hard to exploit

AMHERST — Fracking, the controversial method of extracting shale gas or other petroleum from deep below the earth's surface, might be possible in the Connecticut River Valley, geologists say.

But the rock deposits likely to bear gas are thin here and difficult to access, making commercial exploitation of the resource unlikely in the near future.

“It's not hard to hit,” said James L. Coleman Jr., a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “It's hard to do anything with once you get it.”

Coleman was one of the speakers Thursday at a day-long conference on the future of shale gas, hydraulic fracturing and the state's future organized by the American Ground Water Trust and hosted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus center.

Coleman and his colleagues at the U.S. Geologic Survey released a study in June looking at the gas-producing potential of rift valleys up and down the East Coast, including the Hartford/Deerfield Basin here in the Pioneer Valley.

There are rock layers capable of containing shale gas, he said. But they are only 2 to 12 feet thick in most places, compared to thousands of feet thick in the Marcellus Shale region to the west in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Those deposits were laid down by a vast prehistoric ocean, said Richard D.Little, a professor emeritus of geology at Greenfield Community College and a speaker at the conference. By contrast, the shale-bearing rock here was laid down by a series of lakes.

Those layers are also lower in organic content, making them less likely to contain a lot of gas, or oil for that matter. Little said the layers that might have petroleum here have also been tilted by subsequent geologic forces. That would have allowed the gas to escape over time.

Coleman can only say the conditions are right for gas in the layers. The only way to know for sure if there is gas is to start drilling test wells and find out, Coleman said. No one has done that in the Pioneer Valley. And, with a glut of natural gas on the market, low prices and other areas of the country showing more promise, no one is likely to start drilling here soon.

“If I gave you money to go find gas, this isn't where you would look,” Coleman said. “But I've seen companies do some crazy things. It could happen.”

That is the reason to have the conference in the first place, said Garret W. Graaskamp, a hydrologist with the American Ground Water Trust.

“This is something for Massachusetts to think about now, without the pressure of having a proposal on the table,” Graaskamp said. “Someone could come knock on a homeowner's door tomorrow.”

Afternoon sessions at the conference focused on the lack of regulations and zoning restrictions addressing gas drilling in Massachusetts.

Coleman said this area would be a hard place to drill. It's too built up and developed.

“You are rural here, but not Wyoming rural,” he said.

Still, Richard Seelig, of Pelham, is worried enough about hydraulic fracturing and its potential to pollute groundwater and make wells unusable that he attended the conference. He fears companies will open up international export markets where gas demand and prices are higher. That might make whatever gas might be under the Pioneer Valley more attractive.

The conference drew 55 people, including a number of geologists.

“I know that once you pollute groundwater, that resource is gone forever as far as humanity is concerned,” Seelig said.

A loosely organized group of UMass students opposed to fracking had a self-described "counter-conference" Thursday afternoon.

"Why even have the conference if there is no interest in fracking here," said Samuel King, a junior from Orange majoring in sustainable community development. "We think this is just the first step. We know what fracking has done in other places and we don't want it."

The board of the American Ground Water Trust includes people from the energy industry.


NEWS - December 2012 - Boston Globe Reports on AGWT Shale Gas in Massachusetts forum

Western Mass. viewed as territory for fracking

By Beth Daley, BOSTON GLOBE, DECEMBER 13, 2012

The possibility that Western Massachusetts may hold limited deposits of shale gas is catapulting the contentious issue of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, into the state.

An industry-supported group plans to hold a daylong session Thursday at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to tell landowners and the public about gas extraction, six months after a federal study mentioned the likelihood of gas deposits in the Pioneer Valley.

While the state probably does not have expansive reserves, American Ground Water Trust executive director Andrew Stone said that small-scale gas development could begin in several years, and landowners need to be given “calm, objective facts.”

“The facts are, [a study] drew a circle around the middle of Massachusetts” where shale gas could be found, said Stone, whose New Hampshire group includes representatives from engineering and chemical companies on its board.

“We want landowners, individuals, and the community to understand there could be drilling, and they need to be ready for it,” Stone said.

No companies have expressed interest in exploring for shale gas, state officials say, and the type of wells needed to get to the gas is prohibited in the state.

Geologists say it is unlikely the deposits will be extracted anytime soon, because they are probably too small, scattered, and of questionable quality.

Still, a group opposed to fracking has formed through the Pioneer Valley Green-Rainbow Party and the Western Massachusetts chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, with the goal of banning the process.

“We know that it is probably not going to happen in Massachusetts now, but the technology advances so rapidly it is best to take precautions,’’ said Peter Vickery, a lawyer and cochairman of the Pioneer Valley Green-Rainbow Party. He is speaking at the conference to give the Sierra Club’s perspective on fracking.

Hydraulic fracking is a controversial technology that involves injecting pressurized water mixed with chemicals and sand deep into the earth to free large reserves of natural gas trapped in rock.

As its use increases, so have concerns over gas or chemicals seeping into drinking water and groundwater. New York has adopted a fracking moratorium until it develops rules for the process. A 2011 Duke University study found high levels of leaked methane in Pennsylvania wells near shale gas extraction.

In June, a US Geological Survey report assessed five East Coast basins — large geological depressions — and determined they had a total of 3,860 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

By comparison, the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation — marine sedimentary rock that extends through parts of New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania — could contain 141 trillion cubic feet of gas, ­according to the US Energy Information Administration. Gas extraction is already taking place in parts of the Marcellus.

Part of Massachusetts is in a geological formation known as the Hartford Basin. The piece of the basin in Massachusetts is 34 miles long and varies in width from three to 15 miles. Springfield is surrounded by it.

The entire basin, which lies under the Connecticut Valley from roughly the Vermont border to the Connecticut shoreline, was one of nine that Geological Survey researchers mentioned but did not fully assess.

The Hartford Basin was formed as the supercontinent Pangea began breaking apart about 220 million years ago. As the Atlantic Ocean began forming in one crack, the Connecticut Valley formed in another, eventually allowing lakes to form.

The waterways would periodically dry up and become wet again, allowing mud and other organic material to layer atop each over time deep in the ground. Those layers today are known as black shale formations, said Richard Little, a geologist and professor emeritus at Greenfield Community College.

Geologists say that unlike the Marcellus shale formation, the Hartford Basin is not likely to be replete with gas. The Hartford’s shale is thin and not in large unbroken planes, meaning it is not ripe for gas extraction, said Stephen Mabee, Massachusetts state geologist. A good portion of the basin was also overheated from volcanic activity, which means any oil or gas is probably gone. Other places weren’t heated enough to produce gas.

“The whole basin has been unevenly cooked,” Mabee said, adding that would make it “difficult to know where the gas is.”

Mabee noted that Texaco did exploratory geophysical work in the 1970s, and then paid for work in the 1980s to examine the hydrothermal history of the Connecticut Valley, but no further exploration took place, he said.

The lead author of the June US Geological Survey study, Robert Milici, said he did not know if there was a lot of gas in the Hartford Basin, and no one will until it is explored.

“I can’t say if there is a lot of gas or little gas,” Milici said. “We really won’t know unless industry becomes interested . . . maybe when gas prices are a bit higher.”

State officials said they would ensure any new energy extraction would not harm the environment.

“We are not aware of any commercially viable deposits in Massachusetts. . . . If there were to be any deposits confirmed in the Commonwealth, we would need to take a close look at their impacts on the environment and public health,’’ said Krista Selmi, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. “Any effort to perform fracking in Massachusetts would have to be done in a way that does not put our water supplies at risk.”

The American Ground Water Trust says on its website that it “is in favor of developing energy resources, provided water resources are not jeopardized.” Stone said that his nonprofit generates money mostly from registration fees from putting on events and conducted a fracking seminar in North Carolina and is holding one in Texas in March.

Stone said the group does not pay speakers and invites environmentalists to make presentations at conferences. While companies can sponsor the group’s events, Stone said, there are no sponsors for Thursday’s seminar. About 50 people registered for the event.

“We believe this will be educational,” Stone said.

Environmentalists were either surprised to learn of the seminar or expressed doubt fracking would come to Western Massachusetts. Shanna Cleveland, a Conservation Law Foundation attorney, said regulations should be developed ­only if it is clear fracking could take place in Massachusetts.



NEWS - Dec. 2012 - Greeley Tribune Article from AGWT Aquifer Management Conference

(Reporting from the American Ground Water Trust Aquifer Management Conference in Denver, Nov. 28 - 29, 20120)
Reprinted from the Greeley Tribune, December, 2012
Written by: By Eric Brown ebrown@greeleytribune.com

Ag workers detail effects of current groundwater management

A two-day gathering of water experts, farmers and providers this week discussed the need to improve ways of how groundwater is currently managed, which some have blamed for the loss of tens of millions of dollars in economic activity.

In a presentation Thursday during this week’s Colorado Aquifer Management Conference, a Morgan County farmer and businessman estimated the curtailment of groundwater pumping in the South Platte River Basin has now amounted to about $100 million in lost crop sales, with another $80 million lost in indirect economic activity during the past several years.

Moments later, a Weld County crop grower said he’s considering sending some of his operations to Texas because of how water, particularly groundwater, is managed in Colorado.

“I absolutely love Colorado ... but we’re ruining agriculture here,” LaSalle-area potato farmer Harry Strohauer said during his presentation. He noted that since the 1990s, potato acres and onion acres in northern Colorado have been cut in half or more, due in part to water issues. That afternoon, however,

Irrigation manager hopes to avoid causing ‘injury’

Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling Irrigation District — about 90 miles downriver from Greeley — explained that the state’s increased augmentation requirements of 2006, which led to the curtailment or shutdown of thousands groundwater wells, have helped downstream senior surface water users weath- er the storm of this year’s drought much better than the one a decade ago.

In some cases, the reservoirs and irrigation ditches in his area filled to levels twice as high or higher this year compared to levels in 2002, despite there being similar water and weather conditions.

Yahn and Strohauer said during their presentations they don’t want their water use to “cause injury” to other users on the river, particularly farmers and ranchers, but they also want the water to which they’re entitled.

Day one of the Colorado Aquifer Management Conference focused more on technical aspects of measuring groundwater and its relationship to surface flows, while day two provided more details of how water users, particularly farmers and ranchers, are being affected by rules and regulations currently in place.

Many who spoke during the conference believe there are ways of better manag- ing the state’s groundwater supplies — so that wells can pump more and down- stream water users can still get the water they need.

However, more data collection and more analysis will be needed to implement such changes.

Many, including Yahn, also expressed support of more water storage, water exchanges and cooperative projects as ways of “maximizing beneficial use” othe state’s surface water and groundwater.

Some of the projects in the state aimed at “optimum conjunctive use” were discussed Thursday, includ- ing the Aurora Prairie Wa- ter Project, the Super Ditch in the Arkansas River Basin and the Widefield Aquifer Management Project.

Speakers included Colo- rado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs; Dick Wolfe, state engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources; Colorado Commissioner of Agricul- ture John Salazar; and for- mer director of Nebraska Department of Natural Resources Anne Bleed.

Although the conference was set up to discuss the state’s water issues, much of the talks focused on the South Platte River Basin.

In 2006, following the historic droughts of the early 2000s, the state began requiring groundwater pumpers to fully augment their groundwater wells to make up for the depletions eventually caused to surface flows in rivers and streams — flows needed by surface water right owners down- stream. However, many farmers couldn’t afford the augmentation water or the water court costs needed to get their pumps fully operating, or at all for some wells.

As a result, about 43,000 acres of irrigated farmland were dried up, according to Don Jones, farmer and real estate broker from Fort Morgan.

Many farmers believe the augmentation require- ments are too stringent, and are hoping groundwa- ter studies — like the one approved during the state’s spring legislative session — can lead to changes.

Many also believe the reduction in pumping has caused high groundwater levels that have flooded basements and saturated farmground in the LaSalle and Gilcrest areas and oth- ers during recent years.

NEWS - Nov. 2012 - Greeley Tribune Article from AGWT Aquifer Management Conf.

(Reporting from the American Ground Water Trust Aquifer Management Conference in Denver, Nov. 28 - 29, 20120)

Reprinted from the Greeley Tribune, Thursday, November 29, 2012
Written by: By Eric Brown

Experts say understanding of aquifer is necessary
Meeting to focus on well-pumping effects

DENVER — Progress has been made, but a better understanding of the region’s aquifer remains critical for the future in the South Platte River Basin — parts of which have been labeled by the federal government as “highly likely” to see a “potential water supply crises by 2025.” That was the general consensus among groundwater experts who spoke during the first day of the Colorado Aquifer Management Conference on Wednesday. Much of the discussions during the two-day meeting will focus on the relationship between groundwater and surface flows in streams and rivers — particularly how well-pumping, usually done for agricultural uses, affects surface flows needed downstream by senior water rights owners. The experts agreed that a better scientific understanding of that relationship could lead to better management practices and help “maximize beneficial use” of the region’s water. 

Farmers in Favor of Making Changes to Handling Aquifers

Many of the presentations focused on new methods of measuring the timing of how well-pumping affects surface flows, and to what extent. Experts said they’re gaining a better understanding of the aquifer from those new methods and models, but added that the complex mathematical equations and other techniques can’t take into account the geohydrology, surrounding vegetation, proximity to the river, weather extremes and other factors that make most wells different from one another.

Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, the keynote speaker of the day, was among those who emphasized the need for more analysis and data. He said it’s needed to make sure the state manages its water as well as possible. Some groundwater pumpers, including a number of Weld County farmers, favor making changes to how the state manages its aquifers. They believe the state’s requirements for augmentation plans — an approved plan to make up for surface-flow depletions caused by groundwater pumping — are too stringent. Some farmers can’t afford enough augmentation water to get their wells pumping again. Thousands of wells are now curtailed or shut down, and some believe the build-up of groundwater in the basin —10 million acre-feet of water, according to some estimates, which is eight times more water than is in all of the South Platte Basin’s surface reservoirs — could be put to a more beneficial use.

Those farmers were big supporters of a South Platte Basin groundwater study that was approved during last spring’s legislative session and is under way. The Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University is doing the study, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2013. Hobbs and others stressed that data is also needed to prevent any overpumping of groundwater in the state. On more than one occasion, experts brought up the fact that about 40,000 acres of farmground in the San Luis Valley have been taken out of production in efforts to replenish the aquifer there that’s been depleted from over-pumping.

NEWS - November 2012 - AGWT Hosts Ground Water Institue for Latin American Teachers in San Antonio

In November 2012 the third Latin America Teachers Water program was organized by the American Ground Water Trust (AGWT) in partnership with the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) at Alamo College, San Antonio, Texas. The Central America teachers, from rural areas in El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Guatemala are based at Alamo College and are participating in a year-long Cooperative Association of States Scholarship program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The “Water Issues” training program involves giving basic background on water supply sources and water quality. A major objective is to get the teachers motivated to include a focus on water topics in their classes and includes “hands-on” exercises to help develop and enhance water learning when the teachers return to their home countries. The picture shows some of the 45 teachers involved in a group exercise in describing rock types.


This picture shows high school students and their teacher from Johnson High School, San Antonio, TX. The students were invited to the Latin America Teacher training Program to make a presentation about “Life Straws,” a water filter designed to be used by individual people to filter and safely drink water. The photograph shows them during the discussion time.  With drinking water quality a major issue in some of Central America’s rural areas there was great interest in the low-cost Life-Straws technology.



Dr. Suzanne Pierce a Professor at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, Austin, TX was one of the instructors at the Latin American teacher training Program.  Her presentations (in Spanish) included discussion of the water supply needs and the water supply solutions that have been found by village communities in the Atacama area of Chile where rainfall is low and water supply sources are scarce.


The photographs show Suzanne explaining the “rules” for a group exercise designed to show the importnace of team-work and collaboration in solving water supply problems.

NEWS - November 2012 - AGWT Hosts Ground Water Institue for Teachers in Riverside, CA

Joe Bernosky, Director of Engineering, Western Municipal Water District, Riverside, CA, talking to southern California school teachers at the American Ground Water Trust’s 2012 teacher training program in Riverside, California.  Joe’s talk covered many aspects of water quality and source protection.  He used examples of contamination occurrences in the US and Canada to illustrate the importance of good well design, regular water monitoring and careful oversight of drinking water sources.  The aim of AGWT’s “train the trainer” programs for teachers is to increase water awareness of teachers, so they may recognize the connected and integrated nature of the environment and be empowered to play an active role in integrating water topics into the curriculum and help teach the next generation of citizens the importance of protecting resources for sustainable use.

NEWS - November 2012 - Water Well Design & Pump Efficiency Held at San Antonio Water System

Dan Peters, Applications Engineer, Yaskawa America, Inc., Cypress CA speaking at the American Ground Water Trust’s workshop on Water Well Design and Pump Efficiency held at the HQ of the San Antonio Water System, San Antonio, TX.  Dan spoke about the new innovations and technology of intelligent pump variable frequency drives that can greatly reduce end-user pumping energy costs.  Since 1998, the American Ground Water Trust has organized programs that highlight the benefits of well design well maintenance and efficient pump operation in 22 states that have been attended by over 1,800 water managers, well contractors and pump operators.

NEWS - November 2012 - CO Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs Speaks at AGWT Conference


Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs speaking at the American Ground Water Trust Conference in Denver (November 28th). The two-day conference, attended by 150 of the state’s key water managers, engineers, scientists and end-users, focused on water management issues in Colorado’s South Platte River.  Justice Hobbs presentation, “Optimum use of both groundwater and surface water: The challenge of the Prior Appropriation System,” outlined the importance of water management strategies that protect water rights while optimizing the use of a resource for which demand exceeds supply.

NEWS - NOVEMBER 2012 - Students to attend AGWT Ground Water Institute

RIVERSIDE: Students to attend water conference

Posted from the Press-Enterprise
Written by Staff Writer Dayna Straehley

dstraehley@pe.com ORIGINAL POST HERE

Arlington High School's 2009-10 Envirothon team, from left, Kristen Treat, Cory Davis, Alexis Wood, Elijah Kenan Elizabeth Murry and alternate Ashley Pham accept their awards for the Canon Envirothon Competition for North America in 2010. Six members of the Riverside school's 2012-13 will attend a groundwater workshop for teachers at Western Muncipal Water District. 

Six members of Arlington High School’s Envirothon Team plan to attend the American Ground Water Institute Conference at Western Municipal Water District in Riverside on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8-9.

The current high school team members are Jackie Duenas, MaryJo DeSilva, Cassidy Rungo, Olivia Wilbur, Christian Farmer and Areya Taheri.

This is the first time students have attended the Ground Water Institute, a free professional training workshop for teachers, now in its eighth year, said water district spokesman Matthew Buck.

The conference is from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Western Municipal Water District Operations Center, 16451 El Sobrante, Riverside.

The two-day conference provides teachers in Riverside County with an opportunity to explore various aspects of science as it relates to groundwater. Water science and water management experts from the water industry and government agencies will provide demonstrations, lectures, hands-on activities, curriculum demonstrations and field trips to give you the full California groundwater picture.

The principal objective of the Institute program is to show the applications of science to practical water resources issues and to encourage teachers to integrate basic hydrologic concepts into their lesson plans.

One of Arlington High School’s two Envirothon teams won the North American Canon Envirothon Competition in 2010. The competition helps high school students learn about natural resource management. The students solved environmental problems in aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife and groundwater that year.