DERC stands with scientists &
impacted residents to achieve these three goals:
Offer a science sanctuary to further our understanding of pollution impacts on air, water and soil
Work to end non-disclosure agreements impacted residents are required to sign before they can receive restitution
Educate those facing new fracked gas infrastructure near them what to expect & how to deal with new pollution events
Dimock well water
Dimock Environmental Research Center is located in the heart of one of Northern Pennsylvania's most heavily impacted areas, Dimock. In 2008, at the beginning of the fracked gas boom, the process went wrong in Dimock and polluted the water wells of over 20 families. All of those impacted had to sign non-disclosure agreements, including children, or they would not have been provided with restitution. Along with banning their public statements about the pollution they faced, these agreements also bar all scientific testing at sites known to have suffered pollution related to natural gas extraction.
DERC provides a science sanctuary where testing can be done on water air and soil. Scientists from Universities, research labs and even students from all over the world can come here to complete pollution research not possible elsewhere.
Due to the wide use of non-disclosure agreements, there are no other impacted properties we are aware of where such testing can be made open to all who would like to futher such work.
We also offer an up close view of life in the fracklands to journalists and activists by offering a place to stay and tours of the region's fracked gas related infrastructure.
1. Science Sanctuary
2. Free Speech for Pollution Victims
No one knows how many cases of water pollution related to fracked gas extraction activities have occurred in Pennsylvania. The state's regulator DEP has released direct evidence of at least 400 cases, but the total number of cases can't be known as people are required to sign non-disclosure agreements precluding them from speaking of their cases in public.
Section 127 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states, "Natural resources and the public estate. The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment."
Keeping the scope of pollution related to gas extraction secret disallows crucial data needed to ensure public safety.
DERC is working with stakeholders to ensure non-disclosure agreements in cases of environmental pollution be made illegal.
Dimock home with gas well in front yard
3. Inform residents
Gas Well Drill Rig
It's estimated one million new gas and oil wells will be drilled and fracked across America in service to the industry's export plans. Add to that compressor stations, dehydration stations, pipelines and related infrastructure to get that gas to market.
Most Americans have been led to believe fracking is safe, natural and pollution is rare. This is a dangerous combination.
DERC works to equip families facing new gas related infrastructure with the facts about known fracking related pollution cases. We also help those impacted by these activities gain restitution when fracking goes wrong in their backyard.
In 2009, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection filed its first Consent Order against Cabot Oil & Gas, stating “Cabot had caused or allowed the unpermitted discharge of natural gas, a polluting substance, into the groundwater.” Further DEP testing found Cabot had polluted more than twenty drinking water supplies in Dimock. DEP also banned Cabot from fracking within a nine-mile radius of the contamination area. That ban remains in effect today.
Water testing results coupled with multiple well casing violations led Cabot to sign a final Consent Order in December of 2010. In it, Cabot admited their shoddy well construction polluted the Dimock aquifer. According to the documents, Cabot, “knowingly waives the right to challenge the content or validity of DEP’s findings.”
Almost immediately after signing the Consent order, Cabot started denying that it had polluted the aquifer. The company took out full-page ads in several local newspapers in September 2010 stating: “Cabot does not believe it caused these conditions and intends to fight these allegations through its scientific findings.” The day before the ad ran, Dan Dinges, president and CEO of Cabot sent a letter to DEP claiming the entire pollution case was a scam.
Cabot was well aware, however, that the evidence was not on its side. Before drilling started, Cabot paid for pre-drill testing that found no presence of hydrocarbons (methane) in the area’s water wells. But when residents tried to use the testing as evidence that natural gas had not been present in their water wells before drilling, Cabot said the testing was invalid.
Impacted Dimock residents never received full restitution, despite later settling the case with Cabot (Now renamed Cottera).
Since then the Agency for Toxic Substance found chemicals in 27 water wells in Dimock were high enough to affect health. Chemicals detected above acceptable levels include arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, lithium, manganese, potassium and 4-chlorophenyl-phenyl ether. Methane levels in 17 private water wells could be a physical hazard.
In 2020 Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced 15 criminal counts against Cabot for their pollution in Dimock, including nine felonies after recommendations from a grand jury who found Cabot violated of the state’s Clean Streams law, as well as illegal industrial discharges into water ways. The case has yet to be resolved.
Even after all of this 13 years later the company still denies their guilt and many residents in Dimock are still without clean water.
13 years without clean water
why fracked gas is important
American energy independence isn’t the real goal driving the expansion of our fracked gas infrastructure. The real plan is to export US fracked gas to a swiftly expanding global market. Contracts for new import and export facilities, pipelines and related facilities are being signed all over the world.
The International Energy Association forecasts demand for fracked gas globally will grow 40% by 2040. Once this physical infrastructure is in place it will be virtually impossible to reverse our commitment to fossil fuels for decades to come.
To serve this new market, it’s expected three million fracked gas and oil wells will need to be drilled and completed. Innumerable compressor stations, dehydration stations, storage facilities and pipelines will be needed to meet the supply needs of new export facilities. Much of this new infrastructure will be placed in populated areas, even in neighborhoods near schools and parks. Each fracked gas well only produces at high rates for a few years after completion, which means a constant race to drill new wells to keep up with demand.
The result will be a wave of dirty boom-and-bust development across large parts of the country and the industrialization of many rural landscapes.
Fracked gas is ninety-five percent methane. Over its first ten years in the atmosphere, methane has roughly eighty-six times the warming effect of CO2. New research has shown that methane leakage rates are far higher than previously estimated. Some estimates make methane dirtier than coal from a global warming perspective. And leakage rates are likely to be far higher in countries with more lax regulation than the United States, where the political influence of the oil industry has largely destroyed attempts to impose meaningful oversight. What we’re really firing up here is the global methane industry.
We’re answering the problem of greenhouse gas emissions by firing up a global methane industry.
No one is calculating how much methane will be released globally or how these emissions and the carbon from burning all that methane will affect our chances of not frying the planet. Yet, the decision to answer our energy needs with natural gas has already been made. Natural gas was presented to the public as a “bridge fuel” to a greener energy future.
Jan Hope Forpeace Lemas
Producer/Director at AK Productions. Writer & Director of Blowout featuring James Cromwell. Eight years experience traveling the nation researching cases of fracking related pollution.
Board of Directors
Director at the Center for Environmental Research and Education
Professor, Environmental Microbiology
Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences
Robert Lee McCaslin
Board of Directors
Enrolled citizen of the Little River Band of Ottawaw Indians (Elder). 42 years of experience; Oil and Gas Consultant, Author panelist at Universities and a tribal practitioner intertribal relations for the Ramapough Lenape Nation.
Leatra Lea Harper
Board of Directors
Author of Energetic Coaching; Being and Doing with Spirit. Managing Director for statewide non-profit FreshWater Accountability Project dedicated to protecting and preserving Ohio’s fresh air and water for future generations