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TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2012

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THE TIMES LEADER

Old gas wells bring risks of chemicals

DETAILS LOTTERY MIDDAY DRAWING DAILY NUMBER – 2-4-4 BIG 4 – 6-0-5-2 QUINTO - 4-4-4-1-1 TREASURE HUNT 06-08-13-17-24 NIGHTLY DRAWING DAILY NUMBER - 1-8-9 BIG 4 - 9-1-1-6 QUINTO - 7-6-6-1-1 CASH 5 12-18-19-25-40 MATCH 6 LOTTO 19-20-22-31-38-48

New drilling raises money to plug abandoned wells; some fear pollution could migrate.

would be put toward plugging old wells. Drillers pay a surcharge when they obtain permits, which amounts to about $1.5 million annually that the state uses to By TIMOTHY PUKO plug wells, according to DEP figPittsburgh Tribune-Review ures. The cost of plugging can PITTSBURGH — Almost all vary. DEP contracts since 2009 of the 20 homeowners in Belmar have ranged from as little as pay to run a water chlorination $3,027 per well to as much as system to replace what was free $194,082, an agency spokesman well water from an Allegheny said. The Senate’s bill, which proRiver aquifer. In the 1980s, an oil driller polluted the water, in poses higher well fees than the part, they believe, by dumping House measure, would generate waste brine into abandoned oil an additional $25 million anwells that could date to the nually for statewide environ1800s, when Edwin L. Drake set mental projects that would inoff the boom by tapping his fa- clude well plugging, mine drainage cleanup, parks and mous well in Tituswater quality monitorville. ing. Today the latest gas- “The whole “We’re trying to tie drilling rush in the area up here in ancient environMarcellus Shale may is like Swiss mental problems with bring an opportunity new development, to plug many of those cheese.” which is fantastic,” old wells, but it also Howard Weltner brings the risk that old Belmar Association said David Strong, a wells could create a Inc. Jefferson County environmental scientist path for gas and chemwho sits on several of icals to migrate into DEP’s citizen advisory boards. soil and water. “The whole area up here is like “We can find new money to fight Swiss cheese,” said Howard these old problems.” It’s in the industry’s interest to Weltner, 80, secretary-treasurer of Belmar Association Inc., help solve those problems, said which operates the treatment Strong and several others, insystem. “It just has holes cluding industry officials. One of through all the different strata in the biggest problems is finding the ground, so there’s an awful most of the abandoned wells. If a lot of opportunities for contam- company unwittingly drills a ination of the groundwater. And well near an abandoned well, it I think a lot of people are con- can create a path for gas to flow cerned about it, and a lot more uncontrolled to the surface or incommunities are getting a pub- to groundwater, costing profits lic system” to replace water and causing a safety hazard. Even if an old and new well wells. Most of the state’s abandoned don’t cross, gas migrating from wells are in western Pennsylva- deep wells can reach abandoned nia. They arc though McKean, ones and cause contamination Venango and Butler counties through natural fissures, or if and, in smaller clusters, around man-made seals don’t hold, Smith said. the Pittsburgh area. “Drilling through the rocks Unplugged wells pose risks of illegal dumping, water pollu- that have previously sealed in tion, cave-ins, gas seepage and the formation ... a lot depends on even explosions, but the state the efficiency of those borehole can afford to plug only about 130 seals in preventing any leakage,” a year. At that rate, it could take Smith said. “If there’s any leakage from a the state more than 61 years to plug the 8,262 remaining wells Marcellus well, there’s potential that officials know about, and for it to make contact with an more than 1,350 years to plug old, abandoned oil and gas well.” The issue could become probthe rest — if crews could find lematic for drillers as they exthem. In the past, drillers aban- plore the edges of the Marcellus doned wells because there was shale play where the oil industry no rule that said they couldn’t. once operated, such as Butler Companies that no longer exist and Venango counties and the northwestern part of the state, cannot be held liable. The rejuvenation of the fuel- industry officials said. It is not an issue right now for drilling industry in Pennsylvania could provide a chance to Royal Dutch Shell plc, which opdeal with abandoned wells, offi- erates in western Butler County, cials say. With the backing of but company officials know it Gov. Tom Corbett, the Senate could be if they move into “natand House in November passed ural expansion” areas such as Vepreliminary bills that would es- nango County, said Bill Langin, tablish “impact fees” on the in- who leads Shell’s Appalachian dustry, and some of that money exploration.

MUNICIPAL BRIEFS EXETER – Refuse stickers for Exeter Borough are now available. The price of the sticker is $150 for residents under the age of 65. Senior citizens who are 65 and older by March 31, 2012, will be required to pay $110. These are the rebate prices until Feb. 28. From March 1 through 31, the price will be $180 for residents under 65 and $130 for senior citizens 65 and older. From April 1 through 30, all residents will be required to pay $250. Beginning May 1, the delinquent list will be turned over to the chief of police and citations will be issued. A fine, plus the $250 refuse bill will be required as payment. The refuse office will be open on Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Monday through Friday, the office is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Payments may also be mailed

POLICE BLOTTER HANOVER TWP. – Township police said a man driving a red Jeep Cherokee, which was reported stolen to Wilkes-Barre police, stole two boxes of cigars from the Star Service Station on

to the Refuse Office, 1101 Wyoming Ave., Exeter. A sticker and calendar will be mailed back. Residents should include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with payment. Payments can be made by cash, check, money order or credit card (except American Express). Anyone with questions may call Lynda at 654-3001, extension 2. PLAINS TWP. – Applications are now being accepted for the rental of the Plains Lions Pavilion. Applications may be picked up at the municipal building, 126 N. Main St., Plains Township. Township residents can submit applications during the month of January. Non-residents may begin submitting applications on Feb. 1. For more information, call 822-1982. South Main Street on Monday. HAZLETON -- Young Men’s Polish Association, 700 Seybert St., was recently cited by state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement with selling alcoholic beverages to non-members.

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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speak Monday at the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

DEBATE Continued from Page 1A

that conclusion. That only elevated the stakes for the debate, feisty from the outset as Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum sought to knock Romney off stride. The debate began hours after Romney reaped an endorsement from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who suspended his own candidacy and endorsed Romney. He also urged the remaining contenders to stop attacking one another for fear it might benefit Obama in November. Romney’s rivals, while going after him vigorously, were careful to wrap their criticism in antiObama rhetoric. “We need to satisfy the country that whoever we nominate has a record that can stand up to Barack Obama in a very effective way,” said Gingrich. The former House speaker and Perry led the assault against Romney’s record at Bain Capital, a private equity firm that bought companies and sought to remake them into more competitive enterprises, with uneven results. “There was a pattern in some companies ... of leaving them with enormous debt and then within a year or two or three having them go broke,” Gingrich said. “I think that’s something he ought to answer.” Perry referred to a steel mill in Georgetown, S.C. where, he said, “Bain swept in, they picked that company over and a lot of people lost jobs there.” Romney said that the steel industry was battered by unfair competition from China. As for other firms, he said, “Four of the

companies that we invested in ... ended up today having some 120,000 jobs. “Some of the businesses we invested in were not successful and lost jobs,” he acknowledged. It was Perry who challenged Romney, a multimillionaire, to release his income tax returns. The Texas governor said he has already done so, adding he believes Gingrich will do likewise later in the week. “Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax so the people of this country can see how you made your money. ... We cannot fire our nominee in September. We need to know now.” Later, a debate moderator pressed Romney on releasing his tax returns. The answer was anything but crisp. “But you know if that’s been the tradition I’m not opposed to doing that. Time will tell. But I anticipate that most likely I’m going to get asked to do that in the April time period and I’ll keep that open,” he said. Prodded again, he said, “I think I’ve heard enough from folks saying look, you know, let’s see your tax records. I have nothing in them that suggests there’s any problem and I’m happy to do so. I sort of feel like we’re showing a lot of exposure at this point, and if I become our nominee and what’s happened in history is people have released them in about April of the coming year and that’s probably what I’d do.” Santorum stayed away from the clash over taxes, instead starting a dispute of his own. He said a campaign group supporting Romney has been attacking him for supporting voter rights for convicted felons, and asked Romney what his position was on the issue. Romney initially ducked a direct answer, preferring to ask Santorum if the ad was accurate. He then said he doesn’t be-

lieve convicted violent felons should have the right to vote, even after serving their terms. Santorum instantly said that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney hadn’t made any attempt to change a law that permitted convicted felons to vote while still on parole, a law that the former Pennsylvania senator said was more liberal than the one he has been assailed for supporting. Romney replied that as Republican governor, he was confronted with a legislature that was heavily Democratic and held a different position. He also reminded Santorum that candidates have no control over the campaign groups that have played a pivotal role in the race to date. Romney added that the millions in outside dollars are “one of the things I decry” about the current system. At the same time, he has repeatedly refused to denounce the negative ads that the group supporting him has been spending millions to run in early states. “It is inaccurate,” Santorum said of the ad assailing him, seeking the last word. “I would go out and say, ‘Stop it. That you’re representing me and you’re representing my campaign. Stop it.’ ” The five remaining candidates also sought to outdo one another in calling for lower taxes. Ron Paul won that competition handily, saying he thought the top rate should be zero. Romney is the leader in the public opinion polls in South Carolina, although his rivals hope the state’s high, 9.9 percent unemployment rate and the presence of large numbers of socially conservative evangelical voters will allow one of them to slip by him. Huntsman was the second campaign dropout to endorse Romney, after former Minnesota Gov. Tom Pawlenty.

Billionaire to back Santorum PAC Wyoming investor to support Santorum “super PAC” up to $500,000 in matching funds. By PETER STONE McClatchy

WASHINGTON — A billionaire Wyoming investor has pledged to give up to a half-million dollars in matching money to an outside spending group that supports Rick Santorum for the GOP presidential nomination. Foster Friess put up a good chunk of the $537,000 that the Santorum “super PAC,” the Red White and Blue Fund, spent on ads to help the candidate come in a close second to Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses earlier this month. Now the 71-year-old Friess says he’s sent a note to 5,000 “sportsmen” pledging to match whatever they donate to the super PAC, up to $500,000, which could be crucial to Santorum’s chances of halting Romney’s march to his party’s presidential nomination. Friess declined to be more specific. “The Democrats will chew Romney up because of his patrician background,” Friess said in an interview Sunday night, explaining his support for Santorum over the former Massachusetts governor. “It’s not his fault.

Who’s going to be more appealing to blue-collar workers?” Romney, a member of a prominent political family, is a very wealthy former head of Bain Capital, a private equity firm that’s received much criticism lately from other Republicans as practicing cutthroat capitalism that pared payrolls. Friess noted that Santorum’s grandfather was a coal miner. Friess made his fortune running mutual funds and is a keen stock picker. He’s a veteran supporter of conservative causes, a born-again Christian and an ally of the much-richer Koch brothers, wealthy industrialists who bankroll many conservative causes. Friess said he’d called several wealthy friends to urge them to back Santorum, a former Pennsylvania congressman and senator, by helping the super PAC. Friess declined to identify anyone he had called. Despite a big financial disadvantage for Santorum, and polls that find he’s lagging well behind Romney in South Carolina, Friess is ready to shell out more big money because he thinks the Pennsylvanian has the best shot at winning the White House. “I think we’ll have a better chance of winning with a fresh face,” Friess said. Santorum on Saturday picked up the backing of a group of about 100 prominent evangelical

leaders, including James Dobson and Gary Bauer, after a meeting in Texas that was designed to get conservative Christian leaders to coalesce behind one candidate. “America is a moral enterprise, not an economic enterprise,” Santorum said pointedly on Sunday in South Carolina. Freely allowing that he and Santorum talk regularly, Friess said the candidate had called him a few days ago to “bring me up to date” on the campaign’s progress in South Carolina, which holds its primary Saturday. Asked whether he talks to Santorum about his financial support for the Red White and Blue Fund, which is legally barred from coordinating its activities with the campaign, Friess said, “I think Santorum is OK with it.” Santorum and Friess met in the mid-1990s through the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Friess supported when Santorum was eyeing a Senate race. The big issues that Friess said he and Santorum were in sync on include slashing income taxes, replacing the Obama-backed health care law with a system that includes more private health savings accounts and cutting regulations. “Our government is strangling our workers with a foot on their throats,” Friess fumed.

HARRISBURG – One player matched all five winning numbers drawn in Monday’s “Pennsylvania Cash 5” game and will win a jackpot worth $225,000. Lottery officials said 72 players matched four numbers and won $238 each; 2,404 players matched three numbers and won $12 each; and 31,403 players matched two numbers and won $1 each. Thursday’s “Pennsylvania Match 6 Lotto” jackpot will be worth at least $1,400,000 because no player holds a ticket with one row that matches all six winning numbers drawn in Monday’s game.

OBITUARIES Burke, Janice Gaiteri, Dorothy George, Orval Jr. Kulick, Pearl Markert, Joanie Materazzi, Isabel Millard, Lawrence Moss, Richard Mucha, Florence Parmenteri, Ruth Repotski, Elaine Schifano, Grace Shultz, Donna Turley, Jane Zola, Aileen Page 7A, 8A

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