Monday, May 6, 2013

Now with continuous news feed!

Rather than aggregating the news stories on a weekly basis, I've added a news ticker (look up, no not the ceiling, above this post).  I'm not married to this layout and I may move my blog posts to another page and use the home page for links, the ticker and other general features.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Weekly Pennsylvania Energy & Marcellus Shale News Update, April 28 edition

Because last Sunday's update was delayed, today's covers a period shorter than a week.

News reports are selected from national sources and local news outlets simply because they cover Pennsylvania-related energy and shale gas news, not to push any agenda of mine. Op-ed and other commentary reflect the opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect my views.

Please click on the headlines to read the full stories.

Shale gas and Fracking
EPA methane report further divides fracking camps
The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

Oil and gas drilling companies had pushed for the change, but there have been differing scientific estimates of the amount of methane that leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

The new EPA data is "kind of an earthquake" in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. "This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks."

The scope of the EPA's revision was vast. In a mid-April report on greenhouse emissions, the agency now says that tighter pollution controls instituted by the industry resulted in an average annual decrease of 41.6 million metric tons of methane emissions from 1990 through 2010, or more than 850 million metric tons overall. That's about a 20 percent reduction from previous estimates. The agency converts the methane emissions into their equivalent in carbon dioxide, following standard scientific practice.
Governor: Pa. plant decision probably next year
Gov. Tom Corbett told the Pittsburgh Business Times ( http://bit.ly/182M35F) on Friday that he "never had June as a date" for Shell Oil Co. to decide on the multibillion-dollar plant proposed for Beaver County.
"I've always thought it would be early next year," Corbett said, adding that his conversations with officials indicate "they're still moving forward."
The June 30 deadline stems from a six-month extension Shell negotiated at the end of last year with Horsehead Corp., which would sell its land 35 miles north of Pittsburgh to the energy firm. The Potter Township site is now home to a zinc shelter, which Horsehead expects to shut down.
The so-called cracker plant would convert natural gas liquids from the Marcellus Shale into more profitable chemicals such as ethylene, which is used to make plastics, antifreeze and other products. Officials have said the plant would employ 100,000 temporary construction workers and provide 400 permanent jobs after that.
Questions linger in PPL's lost land
The Marcellus Shale region teems with stories of surprise wealth, where oil and gas title searchers find an overlooked heir or holder of mineral rights.
Unlike those cases of found wealth through gas royalties, PPL Electric Utilities' anticipated mini-windfall may not be so cut and dried. The land that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. found that PPL unknowingly inherited, the Northern Electric Trolley line, is disputed with competing claims. Abandoned since the 1930s, PPL's land now hosts pastures, private roads, even houses and businesses, some obtained through decades-old quiet titles.
Also, there is the question of whether PPL will have to pay property taxes on the land, as many others have for generations. Under the Pennsylvania Utility Code, revenue generated from utility-owned land or assets would defray the cost of electricity by going into the rate base. In a recent example, PPL Electric Utilities leased to businesses bandwidth on the fiber network it created between regional offices. That revenue, in a small way, helped offset electricity prices.
PPL's customers may not benefit from the new natural gas royalty stream, however, said Pennsylvania acting Consumer Advocate Tanya J. McCloskey. Since PPL didn't know it owned the land, it was never included in its rate base.
"Typically, royalties or any revenue derived from utility land or assets should offset electricity rates," she said. "But it's unclear weather ratepayers ever paid for that land and it doesn't appear to ever have been in use to serve ratepayers."
So PPL's natural gas royalties would go directly to corporate coffers.
State College residents opposed to Penn State natural gas pipeline continue dialogue
State College residents and their supporters who continue to oppose a natural gas pipeline project originally routed through their neighborhood have organized a formal group called PRESS — Preserving Rights to Environmental Sustainability and Safety.
The group is blogging and sending press releases related to the project and keeping the dialogue going on its research and activities.
“The focus is really to start a dialogue,” said Javan Briggs, a founding member of the group who lives on Prospect Avenue. “And create the kind of community that we want.”
The 12-inch, high-pressure pipeline is planned by Columbia Gas to serve Penn State’s conversion of the West Campus steam plant from coal to natural gas, to meet new federal air pollution standards. After nearly five hours of discussion during Borough Council meetings on April 1, the council directed staff not to issue the permit that would allow Columbia to install the pipe under borough streets.
Report highlights problems with fracking database
A new report raises serious concerns about the online database used by 11 states to track the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The Harvard Law School report says FracFocus, a reporting site formed by industry groups and intergovernmental agencies in 2011, has loose reporting standards, makes it too difficult for states to track whether companies submit chemical disclosures on time and allows for inconsistency in declaring chemicals trade secrets.

The 11 states that require companies to divulge fracking chemicals through FracFocus: Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Utah.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling settles hundreds of Marcellus gas leases
Natural gas from shale is independent of the rock that contains it, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in a decision released late Wednesday, and gas rights in Pennsylvania do not transfer with mineral rights unless specifically noted.

The state's high court overruled an appeals court decision that called for more scientific testimony about the nature of the Marcellus Shale and upheld 131 years of the common understanding of Pennsylvania property law.

The 6-0 decision in Butler v. Powers held that the so-called Dunham Rule, based on an 1882 case with the same name requiring a specific notion about oil (and by the years of court rulings, natural gas) on deeds transferring mineral rights. Without mention of oil or gas, the states courts have held, those rights stay with the with the party transferring mineral rights.
Fracking Truck Sets Off Radiation Alarm At Landfill
A truck carrying drill cuttings from a hydraulic fracturing pad in the Marcellus Shale was rejected by a Pennsylvania landfill Friday after it set off a radiation alarm, according to published reports. The truck was emitting gamma radiation from radium 226 at almost ten times the level permitted at the landfill.
The MAX Environmental Technologies truck was first quarantined at the landfill, which is operated by MAX, and then sent back to the fracking pad—Rice Energy‘s Thunder II pad in Greene County—to be redirected to a site that can accept higher levels of radiation.
“It’s low-level radiation, but we don’t want any radiation in South Huntingdon,” Tom Cornell, a township supervisor where the landfill is located, told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. ...
The cuttings in the truck were found to emit 96 microrem per hour of radiation, and the landfill is required to reject materials that emit more than 10 microrem. The EPA’s standard for air pollution is 10,000 microrem per year (also known as 10 millirem/year).
Shale deals in Pennsylvania reach $882 million
Mergers, acquisitions and partnerships that happened across Appalachia's gas fields were enough to make the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale the country's second- and third-most popular formations for big-ticket deals in the first quarter of 2013, according to an analysis released Wednesday by PwC.
The report found three transactions totaling $882 million in the first three months of the year related to development in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale gas fields, about the same amount spent during the same quarter one year ago.
DEP Fines Gas Driller for Lycoming County Spills
The Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday that the agency fined Pennsylvania General Energy Company $125,500 for three spills that occurred back in January, 2012. The fine also includes failing to comply with sediment and erosion controls during a four-month construction project near a high-quality, trout stream in 2011.
DEP says that during a fracking operation in January, 2012, PGE spilled an estimated 8,200 gallons of “brine,” and 89 gallons of diesel fuel.
Coal 
Consol, Pa. reach settlement on dam, gas drilling
Consol Energy has agreed to pay the state $36 million to settle allegations that a dam in a state park was damaged by underground coal mining, state officials announced Wednesday.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said in a release that the settlement with Consol Energy Inc. will lead to the replacement of the dam at Ryerson Station State Park, about 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The state drained 62-acre Duke Lake in 2005 to keep the dam from failing.
Department of Conservation Secretary Richard Allan said Consol, which is based in Pittsburgh, also agreed to donate 506 acres of adjacent land to the park.

Nuclear
NRC warns nuclear plants to watch for water damage
Federal authorities are warning nuclear power plants that store spent fuel in dry casks to watch for water damage, citing two incidents at central Pennsylvania plants.

The York Daily Record (http://bit.ly/11qicBB ) says the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued an information notice last week detailing how moisture can degrade structures and components associated with spent fuel storage.

"By obtaining baseline measurements and performing periodic evaluations, accelerated degradation can be detected before the structures and components of a storage system are unable to perform their intended function," the commission said.

The notice cited two separate instances involving water damage to containers holding spent fuel from the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in York County and Three Mile Island in Dauphin County.
Pennsylvania senator wants updated planning to address ‘dangerous incidents’ at nuclear plants
Federal regulators should “do the work” necessary to learn whether people living within 50 miles of nuclear power plants know what to do if a dangerous incident occurs, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Wednesday.
“More than 10 million Pennsylvanians, which is 80 percent of our population, live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant,” Casey wrote in a letter to Allison M. Macfarlane, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We need to ensure that appropriate plans are in place and that residents are fully informed about emergency procedures outside of the 10-mile radius.”
Since 1978, the government has mandated a 10-mile evacuation zone around nuclear plants. But the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused a meltdown and radiation release at Fukushima power plant in Japan raised questions about whether to increase the zone to 50 miles.
Renewable Energy
Pa. universities use renewable energy to save utility costs, ‘set example’ on ‘green’ use
As Pennsylvania colleges venture deeper into alternative-energy sources, they're giving crucial support to fledgling energy companies.
Eight Pennsylvania colleges and universities are cited as top alternative-energy buyers in the Environmental Protection Agency's 2013 Green Power Challenge. Among them, Allegheny College and Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, Mercyhurst and Chatham are amid Western Pennsylvania's rich coal and gas deposits.
According to the EPA, their purchases offset carbon-dioxide emissions equivalent to those from 70,233 vehicles during a year.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Weekly Pennsylvania Energy & Marcellus Shale News Update, April 23 edition

Marcellus, shale gas, fracking, pipelines
Protesters occupy DEP's Washington Landing office
Demonstrators came by boat and bike trail to Washington's Landing on the Allegheny River Monday, loudly protesting what they said was the state Department of Environmental Protection's failure to adequately regulate fossil fuel industries, including Marcellus Shale gas, or support renewable energy development.
The float, march and rally, which was billed as an "Earth Day protest against fracking," ended with most of the 75 participants crowded into the lobby of the DEP's Southwest Regional office on the island, where they asked to speak with Susan Malone, the regional director. The protest was one of six planned at DEP regional offices around the state Monday by a coalition of more than 60 environmental and citizens groups.
The coalition is demanding that the DEP place a moratorium on all Marcellus Shale gas development activities, including issuing permits for new wells, compressor stations and pipelines; fully report chemical contamination for well water samples affected by shale gas development; fully enforce existing shale gas and coal regulations; and reopen the department's solar, wind and other renewable energy programs.
Penn State Reconsiders Controversial Pipeline Route
Much controversy has surrounded Penn State’s initial plan to run a 10-inch, high-pressure natural gas pipeline through parts of downtown State College to help convert the West Campus Steam Plant from coal to natural gas. Hordes of community activists have voiced their disproval with the project at Borough Council meetings over recent weeks, citing safety concerns, but the borough has maintained that state prohibits law local government from acting in areas such as the oil and gas industry.
“I am very sympathetic with your fears and your desires and what you want for the borough. I am also incredibly frustrated by the situation,” Councilman Peter Morris said at a previous council meeting. “I agree that certainly this thing violates the borough charter, but if we try to enforce that, eventually it would end up in the courts of Pennsylvania and almost certainly we would lose.”
Pa. legislative package would boost funding for natural-gas vehicle conversions
The Marcellus Works legislation package, introduced by House Republicans in recent weeks, looks to kickstart demand for Pennsylvania's natural gas through tax-credit programs and loans awarded to companies and agencies that convert vehicles to run on compressed natural gas.

The package of bills, named for the state's Marcellus Shale gas formation, has been branded since 2011 and even has its own website. The bills are in various states of development in Harrisburg -- one tax credit program for CNG fleet vehicles passed last week, while another encouraging transit agencies to buy more CNG buses will be under consideration this week.

It's a plan proponents say would make any Earth Day celebrant a happy camper: CNG vehicles have less air emissions than gasoline- or diesel-fueled cars. And natural gas is cheaper, too, costing about $1.90 per gasoline gallon equivalent.

But like anything involving the words "Marcellus Shale," the legislation has attracted controversy. Significant provisions of the bills that granted industry representation on some state committees haven't made it to the House floor, and critics say the millions of dollars in incentives could be better spent on programs that need the money more than the gas industry.
The week that was: Gas growing fertilizer
A horrific explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer facility last week left 12 people dead and demolished dozens of homes in the small community. And though there aren't any facilities like the Texas one in the Pittsburgh region, experts say gas drilling in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale is poised to contribute to a booming fertilizer market.
That's because the growth of the $10 billion fertilizer industry is contingent on cheap natural gas that can be used in the facilities. Companies had been locating in overseas markets where natural gas was plentiful and nearby, but hydraulic fracturing has unlocked domestic reserves in the United States that could tip that balance,
State College Area High School students part of shale monitoring group
A group of State College Area High School students is getting firsthand educational experience with one of the region’s most controversial energy issues — fracking.
The students are part of TeenShale Network, which helps monitor changes in water quality in waterways near where fracking takes place. They are led by learning enrichment and support specialist Nell Herrmann.
The project is also a part of the ShaleNetwork, an effort by scientists at universities including Penn State to collect and share water quality data.

News Update Coming

A combination of being distracted by new form my hometown and myself, kids being sick derailed my twitter updates and Sunday news update. I'm assembling the update right now and will post soon.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekly Pennsylvania Energy & Marcellus Shale News Update, April 14 edition

I've waited a bit to post another update in order to get back on a schedule for posting weekly updates on Sundays.  However, this particular update covers ten days Apr. 3- 13th.
News reports are selected from national sources and local news outlets simply because they cover Pennsylvania-related energy and shale gas news, not to push any agenda of mine. Op-ed and other commentary reflect the opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect my views.

Please click on the headlines to read the full stories.

PPL shuts down Susquehanna nuclear reactor
PPL Corp. took one of its Susquehanna nuclear reactors out of service Saturday morning for repairs and refueling.
One of two reactors at the plant, Unit 2, went off line Saturday morning, PPL said. The shutdown is part of planned maintenance at the facility in Luzerne County, just east of Berwick.
PPL said workers will replace 40 percent of the reactor's uranium fuel and perform other upgrades and ongoing maintenance. Turbine blade issues also have affected both reactors at the plant, PPL said in a statement.
Pieces of the turbine assembly will be replaced, PPL said.
Brazilian leaders express interest in Pa. shale drilling, regulation
RIO DE JANEIRO -- From the shale underlying Western Pennsylvania to the deep-sea oil off the coast of Brazil, emerging energy sources have policymakers and entrepreneurs from both hemispheres talking business.
The bulk of Brazil's energy comes from hydropower, though wind, biomass and other sources supplement. But oil fields off the coast here -- and shale formations in the country's south -- have Brazilian companies keen on drilling, and Pennsylvania's experiences exploring and extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale have been a central point of discussion since a trade delegation began meetings in Sao Paulo this week.
"They have a very similar balance of energy portfolio," Gov. Tom Corbett said in an interview. "They're looking at us as to how can they invest in us. We're looking at our people that are coming down, smaller companies coming down, how can they invest here?"
Mine fire costs Consol at least $15M
A colder winter and strong export demand boosted Consol Energy Inc.'s coal production even with the Blacksville No. 2 mine out of commission since March 12 after a fire.
Consol (NYSE: CNX) said Friday that cleanup costs at the Greene County mine, near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, would cost an expected $15.2 million. But it has no idea when the mine would resume production.
Even with the mine fire, the Southpointe-based energy company saw higher-than-expected demand for its coal, with 14.8 million tons produced in the first quarter ended March 31. Its inventory was 964,000 tons, down 414,000 tons to what Consol said was its lowest level in 15 years.
Three Mile Island: federal agency says focusing on 10-mile zone might not be enough
Ever since the Harrisburg region weathered the nation's worst nuclear accident, activists including Eric Epstein have touted the need to prepare to evacuate people living outside the 10-mile zone surrounding Three Mile Island.
This week, they received vindication in the form of a federal report which states the need to study the level of awareness beyond the 10-mile zone, and potentially improve emergency response procedures in the area beyond 10 miles. The report applies to all U.S. nuclear power plants, including four others in Pennsylvania.
Ever since the Harrisburg region weathered the nation's worst nuclear accident, activists including Eric Epstein have touted the need to prepare to evacuate people living outside the 10-mile zone surrounding Three Mile Island.
This week, they received vindication in the form of a federal report which states the need to study the level of awareness beyond the 10-mile zone, and potentially improve emergency response procedures in the area beyond 10 miles. The report applies to all U.S. nuclear power plants, including four others in Pennsylvania.
New Website Features Detailed State-By-State Energy Data
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) unveiled a new website today designed to give a better picture of state-by-state energy trends and data.
The site features interactive maps where users can zoom in and see different features related to energy production. For example, users can pull up a map layer that just shows Pennsylvania’s natural gas shale play.
“We had the data on our site in various sources, but it was frankly hard to get to,” says Mark Elbert EIA’s Director of Web Management, “This makes it much more accessible.”
The EIA site doesn’t include detailed maps of individual natural gas wells from state data, which you can view on StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Shale Play map app.
According to the EIA, Pennsylvania ranks fifth among the states in total energy production, coming in behind Texas, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Louisiana.
Williams Partners, Shell Create Midstream Joint Venture to Serve Shell and Other Producers
Would Support Development of the Petrochemical Market in the Northeast
--New Venture Has Long-Term Fee-Based Dedicated Gathering, Processing Agreement for Shell's Production in Area; Plans to Build Large-Scale Gas Processing Complex
--New Processing Facility Would Have Access to NGL Fractionation, NGL Connections to Shell's Proposed Petrochemical Facility, and the Bluegrass Pipeline JV
Williams Partners L.P. WPZ +0.06% announced today that it has agreed to launch a new midstream joint venture with Shell to provide gas gathering and gas processing services for production located in Northwest Pennsylvania. The venture will invest in both wet-gas handling infrastructure and dry gas infrastructure serving Marcellus and Utica Shale wells in the area.
 West Chester firm launches a giant drill rig for Marcellus work
Schramm Inc., the West Chester drill rig manufacturer that had a moment of fame in 2010 when its drills rescued 33 trapped miners in Chile, is about to enter the big leagues of oil and gas exploration.
The company, which has been making truck-mounted drill rigs for more than 50 years, is launching its biggest drill rig ever - a 102-foot-tall walking, talking monster designed to bore the deep horizontal wells that have turned Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale into a fossil-fuel bonanza.
Schramm employees on Thursday put the finishing touches on the first T500XD Telemast drill rig at the company's 27-acre factory in West Chester. Next week, the $7.6 million rig will make its way on eight tractor-trailers to Ohio, where its new owner, Alpha Hunter L.L.C., plans to use it to tap into the Marcellus Shale and the deeper Utica Shale formation.
Pittsburgh expo unites shale drillers with landowners
Bill Hayward went Downtown on Thursday hoping to make the deal of a lifetime.
Hayward, 59, a geologist from White Oak, is trying sell gas rights that he and a business partner own in a Marcellus shale hot spot. The asking price: $30 million.
Hopes and dreams as big as Hayward's can become reality at the North America Prospect Expo, a swap meet for the oil and gas industry that's spending three days at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week, the first time it's been held outside of Houston.
The event gives local companies — and even residents — a chance to negotiate potentially lucrative deals for the sale of land or gas rights directly with drillers. Here, everything from computer software to land is for sale. Drillers even have a shot at buying a luxury farm estate — complete with gas rights — in Robinson, Washington County, on the market for $8.3 million.
“It's kind of a flea market for drilling prospects,” said Ben Wallace, chief operating officer at Penneco Oil Co. in Delmont. “There are spare hubcaps all over.”
DEP Allows Fracking To Resume At Spill Site Before Investigation is Complete
The state Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t finished its investigation into a gas well spill that caused the evacuation of three homes in Wyoming County last month, but in the meantime the agency has allowed the drilling company to resume fracking operations.
The accident began on the evening of March 13 at a well north of Tunkhannock in Washington Township. More than a quarter million gallons of fracking waste water came out of the well before it was successfully capped the following afternoon.
The Texas-based company operating the well, Carrizo Marcellus, was allowed to resume fracking operations last Friday.
Middle school students compete in 2nd Annual PA KidWind Challenge
Students from around the state participated in the 2nd Annual PA KidWind challenge held at Londonderry School in Harrisburg, Pa. on Mar. 23. Local area middle school students took home cash prizes for their turbine designs and presentations.
The KidWind Challenge is a wind turbine design competition for middle and high school students. Teams of 2-4 students incorporate engineering and science to build powerful small-scale wind turbines and compete with other students from around the state to see which turbine generates the most electricity.
The event is a chance to get students involved and excited about alternative energy and sustainability. On top of gaining teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills, students learn key scientific concepts during the construction process. Prizes are awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams in two divisions: geared and direct drive.
Pa. coal mine: $110K fine fault of 'rogue' worker
Officials with a southwestern Pennsylvania coal mine say a $110,000 federal workplace safety fine for an electrical hazard is the fault of a "rogue" employee.
Rox Coal of Friedens received the fine, which was reduced from the original amount of $150,200 proposed by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Rox Coal's general counsel Lori Mason tells the (Somerset) Daily American ( http://bit.ly/10YTvxd) that the fine was reduced because the company acted in "good faith."
The federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, which reviewed the allegations, found that the company was "blind-sided" by the actions of the company's electrician who Mason said acted as a "rogue" employee and ignored his training.
That resulted in one worker being shocked while changing a fuse on a high-voltage switch house at the company's Geronimo Mine in October 2007.
 Luster of gas-powered electricity dimming
One year ago this month, electricity generated from coal and natural gas was equal for the first time ever in the U.S.
It was a major milestone for natural gas and with all the hype around the fuel’s prolific reserves, its low prices, and the tightening limits on coal burning, it seemed like maybe this was the new normal.
Or maybe not.
The price of natural gas has gone up by about $1 over the past year to a wholesale price around $4 per million British thermal units.
“With the recent rise in natural gas prices, the cost of dispatching existing coal plants in the eastern United States using coal purchased at the benchmark Central and Northern Appalachian Basins (CAPP and NAPP) spot prices has become more competitive relative to natural gas,” the Energy Information Administration reported Thursday.
This might signal a better year for coal in Pennsylvania than 2012.
Consol inspects Pa.-W. Va. Mine following fire
Consol Energy workers have completed an inspection of a coal mine straddling the Pennsylvania-West Virginia line following an underground fire that burned for days.
The Blacksville No. 2 mine was evacuated after smoke began pouring from a shaft in Wayne Township, Pa. on March 12. Workers spent days drilling boreholes so cameras could search for the fire and water could be pumped into the mine to extinguish it.
Indian Point evacuation plan inadequate, feds say
Residents living outside the 10-mile zone around Indian Point and other nuclear power plants could jam evacuation routes, undermining a key premise of emergency plans relied on by county officials in the Hudson Valley and around the country, a new federal report says.
The General Accountability Office report, which reviewed procedures at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan as well as nuclear power plants near heavily populated regions of Florida, Pennsylvania and California, found that federal regulators did not factor the impact of "shadow evacuations" by residents outside the 10-mile zone into their plans.
In response, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission argued in a letter that its estimate that 20 percent of the population outside the 10-mile zone would evacuate even if not advised to do so was "a reasonable estimate" based on substantial research.
 Marcellus Business Central and GantDaily.com Announce Media Partnership
The Marcellus Business Central, Pennsylvania’s leading publication for the shale gas industry has announced its media partnership with regional web-based newspaper, Gantdaily.com.
Effective immediately, Gantdaily.com will begin to publish weekly online news stories from the MBC. The content will have a strong focus on the continually emerging energy developments surrounding the natural gas market and those businesses that support this unprecedented growth throughout the East Coast.
Press Release: Ridgeline Announces Pennsylvania Facility Installation
Ridgeline is pleased to announce its entry into Pennsylvania and the Marcellus Shale with a facility project located near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This agreement was executed today. The initial Single Train Commercial Unit will concentrate on produced water, with an anchor customer providing approximately 2,500-4,000 barrels of waste water per day. The Company is locating other permanent installations in the same production area to expand its logistical footprint in Western Pennsylvania. Installation of the initial STCI will begin in about thirty days.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/04/10/5331527/ridgeline-announces-pennsylvania.html#storylink=cpy
Coal consumption down in Pennsylvania
Pretty much any way you slice it, Pennsylvanians are using less coal.
At least they were in 2012.
The Energy Information Administration just released its latest coal report with information for all four quarters of last year.
These are the Pennsylvania highlights:
  • Coal consumption at commercial and institutional users — down 23 percent since 2011.
  • Consumption at industrial plants that aren’t coke plants — down 19 percent.
  • Coal produced in the state was also down in 2012. Bituminous coal, the kind mined in western Pennsylvania, was 7.6 percent below 2011 production.
A few metrics are up, though. Coal stocks at commercial and institutional users were 22 percent higher last year. And the average price they paid for their coal increased by 15 percent.
GE Plans to Cut 950 Jobs at 100-Year-Old Train Plant
General Electric Co. (GE) plans to cut 950 jobs at a Pennsylvania locomotive plant, wiping out most of the site’s recent employment growth, as it shifts some production to a lower-cost factory in Texas.
Reductions at the factory in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is more than 100 years old, are slated to start in six months pending 60 days of talks with union officials, who oppose the move. The new plant in Fort Worth, Texas, is about 20 percent more efficient, said Lorenzo Simonelli, head of GE’s transportation unit...
Approximately 200 of the Erie job cuts, more than 20 percent, are linked to declining coal demand, Simonelli said. GE’s railroad customers have parked about 3,000 locomotives as utilities that once relied on coal carried by trains to produce electricity began switching to cheaper natural gas from shale formations.
“The outlook for the volume on the locomotive side as well as from the coal-mining equipment is down versus what we anticipated,” Simonelli said.
State Website Shows Where Marcellus Shale Impact Money is Going
A year after Pennsylvania enacted an impact fee on the Marcellus Shale industry, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) launched a new website that would allow the general public and local governments to see where the revenues are going.
Under Act 13, or the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett in February 2012, certain Marcellus Shale drillers have to pay a fee to the PUC every year. 
The fee initially is given to the PUC and then divided among the municipal and county governments. Pennsylvania collected $198 million from the fee in 2012. The money can be spent in one of 13 ways established by the PUC, like social services or tax reductions, or go toward offsetting the impact of the shale drilling in the area — road damage, for example.
Previously, the PUC provided the information on its website as a downloadable document. Spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said dedicating a separate website to Act 13 increases transparency.
Cawley headlines Chamber’s annual Spring Luncheon
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley is headlining the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Annual Spring Luncheon, April 24 at Hartefeld National Golf Club.
In addition to Cawley, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), Robert Powelson will also be sharing the podium as keynote speakers for the event.
The event kicks off with a reception at 11 a.m., followed by the luncheon and presentations at noon. That will be followed by a question and answer session with Cawley and Powelson.
Cawley was elected as the commonwealth’s 32nd Lieutenant Governor in 2010. According to his official Website, he has worked side-by-side with Gov. Tom Corbett to deliver on their promises to restore fiscal discipline in Harrisburg and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.
In 2011, Corbett appointed Cawley to chair the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which brought together representatives from the natural gas industry, environmental advocacy groups, academia and state and local government. The panel unanimously approved 96 recommendations to Corbett for the development of natural gas in Pennsylvania. These recommendations became the basis for the historic, comprehensive law known as Act 13 of 2012. 

In March of 2012, Cawley won national recognition for his work on Marcellus Shale when he received the 2012 Public Leadership in Energy and Environmental Stewardship Award from General Electric in partnership with the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA).
Somerset County to receive $290K from Marcellus Shale impact fee
The Marcellus Shale impact fee generated $289,867.71 for Somerset County in 2012.

Statewide, the fee brought in more than $198 million, according to state Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, one of the authors of the impact fee legislation."The provisions laid forth in Act 13 are ensuring that our environment is protected, counties and municipalities receive the funding they need and also place an increased level of transparency on natural gas drilling," he said.

The 2011 law imposes an annual impact fee on each natural gas well in Pennsylvania and put limits on how counties and municipalities can spend the cash. The fee generated $204 million in its first year.
Wyoming County adopts rules on 'fracking'
A set of guidelines for monitoring well water was approved Tuesday by the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors 
The guidelines have been established in the event high-volume natural gas “fracking” projects show interest in the county, said Steve Perkins, director of environmental health for the county’s Public Health Department. They’re meant to give a clear set of recommendations and eliminate confusion.The guidelines are based on recommendations already developed by Penn State and other entities in Pennsylvania where fracking operations are now active, Perkins said. They include a “quick snapshot” option to function as a basic test, and an in-depth version for a more-detailed analysis.
Alert to Congress: Nuclear Evacuation May Bog Down
Regulators and congressional investigators clashed Wednesday over a new report warning that in the event of an accident at a nuclear plant, panicking residents from outside the official evacuation zone might jam the roads and prevent others from escaping. 
The report by the Government Accountability Office, which acts as the investigative arm of Congress, challenges a three-decade-old fundamental of emergency planning around American nuclear power plants: that preparations for evacuation should focus on people who live within 10 miles of the site. 
The GAO found that people living beyond the official 10-mile evacuation zone might be so frightened by the prospect of spreading radiation that they would flee of their own accord, clog roads, and delay the escape of others. The investigators said regulators have never properly studied how many people beyond 10 miles would make their own decisions to take flight, prompting what is called a "shadow evacuation."
Study: The coal industry is in far more trouble than anyone realizes
Here’s some bleak news for the coal industry: As much as 65 percent of the U.S. coal fleet could find itself under threat in the years ahead, thanks to cheap natural gas and stricter air-pollution regulations.
That’s according to a new peer-reviewed study by three researchers at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who take a detailed look at the costs of operating both coal-fired power plants and natural-gas plants around the United States.
Their conclusion? Coal power is far more economically vulnerable than most analysts have realized to date.
House moving Marcellus economic bills
House lawmakers plan action next week on bills providing millions of dollars of state tax credits and grants to develop a bigger market with vehicles using natural gas in Pennsylvania.
The package of bills called "Marcellus Works" was unveiled by Republican lawmakers two years ago. Some of the proposals became part of the natural gas drilling impact fee law.
The Finance Committee will consider three bills in the package; the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee will consider five bills.
Two bills would tap revenue from the state Oil and Gas Lease Fund to encourage mass transit agencies to convert fleets of vehicles that use gasoline and diesel to compressed natural gas.
Berks leaders, residents alarmed by pipeline possibility
Al Knaubb's concern began when he noticed several helicopters hovering low over his forested Alsace Township property last fall.

Three days later his phone rang.

The man on the other end asked for permission to survey Knaubb's property for a study regarding the Commonwealth Pipeline, a 120-mile project that would transport natural gas from Marcellus shale deposits in northern Pennsylvania to Chester County.

It was the first Knaubb, or anyone else in his community, heard of the $1 billion project that would cause an uproar in neighboring Chester County in the following month.

It was also the last time Knaubb received any type of information about his property's role in the proposed project, he said.

The whole ordeal left a bad taste in his mouth.
 Sorting through the claims, counterclaims about environmental impact of 'fracking'
It's difficult to find scientists who have not lined up on one side or another on hydraulic fracking for oil and natural gas. The anti-fracking groups have their scientific talking points, and the pro-fracking groups have their counterclaims. Some of the scientists who have put out pro-fracking reports have turned out to be tied to the industry. When even the federal panel formed to study the issue is stacked with industry supporters, it’s hard for environmentalists and health advocates to believe its conclusions."Cutting through the 'noise' for the average citizen in indeed extremely difficult," said Peter Collings, a physics professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, who has lectured about fracking. The truth about fracking, he said in an e-mail interview, lies "somewhere in between" what the regulation-hating gas industry tells the public and what the environmentalists claim.
Fracking coalition upsets both greens and drillers
Like a marriage the in-laws don't approve of, a new plan to strengthen standards for fracking is creating unusual divisions among environmentalists and supporters of the oil and gas industry.
At first glance, it's hard to fathom all the angst over the Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development. Environmental groups, foundations, and major oil and gas companies came together to support stringent measures to protect air and water from pollution in the Appalachian region, and they invited other groups to join in and help limit pollution from fracking.
Not everyone was flattered by the invitation.
DEP Unveils More Details About Marcellus Radiation Study
The state Department of Environmental Protection has unveiled more details about how it plans to conduct a study of levels of naturally occurring radioactivity in materials associated with oil and gas drilling.
As StateImpact Pennsylvania reported, the DEP announced the study in January:
The announcement comes almost two years after a series of reports in the New York Times revealed radioactive waste water from gas drilling was discharged into Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. The industry has since stopped the practice, but the DEP says it plans to analyze radioactivity in frack flowback water, drill cuttings, drill mud, and the levels in equipment such as pipes, well casings storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks.
DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday says today’s announcement explains more about the agency’s plans, but right now there’s no reason to believe the public is in any kind of danger.
Hearings on Pa. state forest drilling for invitees only
Pennsylvania conservation officials have invited about 30 state and local leaders to rural Sullivan County on Thursday to explain the complex negotiations under way over Marcellus Shale drilling in Loyalsock State Forest.
But most of the environmental activists who are pressuring the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to restrict drilling in the forest were not invited to the private meeting.
The organizations, including Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, have asked DCNR to block Anadarko Petroleum Corp. from accessing the surface of more than 18,000 acres of the popular recreation area, where Anadarko owns the mineral rights.
The activists say the state has rebuffed their requests to disclose drilling plans for the forest. They called on DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan to hold public hearings on the drilling plans.
Allan instead scheduled Thursday's private meeting with a select group of legislators, local officials and local environmental groups at the Loyalsock headquarters in Dushore. "Invitations are not transferable," the letter from Allan said.
Local cancer institute completes baseline health survey in Marcellus shale region
A baseline health survey of nine counties in the Marcellus Shale gas drilling region of Northeast Pennsylvania has determined that tobacco use, obesity and a lack of health insurance are common in the area.
Funded by the state Department of Public Welfare, the $75,000 study looked at a broad range of chronic and acute health conditions of a sample of 458 people in Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne and Wyoming counties.
The state-funded survey by the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute is being viewed as a first step toward helping track possible future health impacts from the hydraulic-fracturing drilling method known as fracking.
"A variety of issues related to 'fracking' and other processes used to produce natural gas have contributed to community concerns about potential adverse health outcomes," principle survey investigator Dr. Samuel Lesko said in a statement. "The data we collected can be used as a reference point to compare the health of the community in the future should these concerns continue or grow."
FirstEnergy: Little Blue cleanup nearly 20 years away

When a federal judge approved a consent decree requiring FirstEnergy to cease its storage of coal ash waste at Little Blue Run by the end of 2016, it looked like the impoundment was on its way to closure.
But the process may take a bit longer than previously thought -- like nearly 20 years.

The consent decree, approved by a federal judge in December 2012, required that the company stop storing coal ash waste from the Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport by the end of 2016 –- nearly four years from now.
The process to close Little Blue will take an additional 15 years after that to complete, said FirstEnergy officials.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 Pa. Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates, Mar. 26- Apr. 2

News reports are selected from national sources and local news outlets simply because they cover Pennsylvania-related energy and shale gas news, not to push any agenda of mine. Op-ed and other commentary reflect the opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect my views.

Please click on the headlines to read the full stories.

FirstEnergy files closure plan of Little Blue Run
Closing the Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment will involve covering 900 acres of it with a synthetic liner, topsoil and vegetation, a FirstEnergy spokesman said.
One of the primary goals of the voluminous closure plan, submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP) on Friday, is to prevent stormwater from seeping into the coal ash byproduct material being stored at Little Blue Run, spokesman Mark Durbin said.
"If (water) works its way into the topsoil, it would hit the liner and be wicked away so it won't mix with the coal combustion byproducts that are already in the ground," Durbin said. "The liner separates the coal combustion byproducts from any new moisture that comes in."
FirstEnergy Generation Corp., operator of the coal-fired Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport, Pa., submitted the closure plan as part of a legal agreement, known as a consent decree, that it reached with PDEP last year. The consent decree requires that FirstEnergy stop disposing of wet coal ash material in the unlined impoundment by Dec. 31, 2016.
Problems With Pipeline?
Due to new EPA standards that go into effect in the next few years, Penn State University is converting the West Campus Boiler Facility from coal to natural gas.
The project will cost more than 48 million dollars and is part of a 30-year contract the school signed with Columbia Gas. But in order to do that, it needs a way to get the gas there. That's the problem, the school plans to install a pipeline to transfer the natural gas to the plant. It would run on the northeast side of State College, along Porter Road to the facility along North Burrowes Street. It's been in the works since 2009.
It was the hot topic at Monday night's State College Borough Council meeting. They were scheduled to vote on whether to give the green light on construction to start on the pipeline.
WTAJ News was there and found that while Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania's proposal is considered by some to be the best option, reaction from residents differs.
The State College Borough Council didn't vote on whether to give the final permit to Columbia Gas to start construction until very late Monday night. The public speaking portion ran late with more than 30 speakers that signed up. Each one got up to four minutes to speak. The overall opinion seemed clear. The public and some on the borough's council don't think building the pipeline is the right move.
Proposed Gas Pipeline Sparks Heated Response at State College Borough Council Meeting
Penn State University’s coal-burning West Power Plant is due for an upgrade—an upgrade that would mean digging up some State College streets and installing a high-pressure natural gas pipeline. It's clear from tonight's borough council meeting that some State College residents are in an uproar. “I think there has been a total lack of transparency,” said State College resident Janet Engeman.
Hot off the heels of a gas line leak that shut down part of Park Avenue over the weekend, residents want to know why the line will be laid under borough streets instead of the University’s campus. According to Mark Kempric, President of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, placing the line on campus was never seriously considered. “We didn’t even do a cost estimate of putting a pipeline on campus after seeing the difficulties. We simply determined that they were not viable routes.”
Residents and council members alike are frustrated by the fact that, under public utility code, the borough council has no ability to block the placement of the pipe. Council has to make a decision based on whether or not construction standards are met.
Atlantic Coal seeks another extension to Pennsylvanian option
Atlantic Coal (LON:ATC) is in negotiations to extend the deadline on its option agreement to acquire additional anthracite mining assets in Pennsylvania.
The option, which is exercisable entirely at the company's discretion, has an exercise price of US$35 million.
Oil and gas production reporting may expand
The federal government wants to provide more frequent oil and gas production reports for Pennsylvania and other states that have seen a recent boom in drilling.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says it wants to include monthly production estimates from Pennsylvania and 11 other states in its reports.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based in Pennsylvania, says Monday that it supports the EIA proposal. Kathryn Klaber, the group's president, says they recognize the importance of more frequent reporting given the dramatic increases in production.
Numbers From the War on State Renewables Standards
At least twenty-two of the 29 state renewables standards have been attacked by legislators or regulators in the last year or are now under attack.Known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) or a Renewable Energy Standard (RES), these mandates require utilities to obtain a portion of their power from renewable sources by a certain date. Research shows they add less than 5 percent, on average, to the cost of electricity bills and are an effective driver of renewables growth.
Some of the attacks are part of a push led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and aligned advocacy groups funded by fossil and nuclear interests. Most lack significant force. "But if they slow things," Environment America Energy Program Director Rob Sargent noted, "they're having an impact." 
  • Pennsylvania's 18 percent by 2021 standard is under serious attack by an all-Republican legislature and Republican governor. One bill would allow natural gas to count toward the mandate, another would allow solid waste incineration to replace wind and solar, and a third would eliminate the tracking of new generation, allowing burned renewables to displace wind and solar.
Deals would export natural gas to India, Japan
The operator of a proposed Chesapeake Bay terminal that would liquefy natural gas for export has signed deals to ship the fuel to India and Japan, buttressing its application for an export license.

Dominion Resources announced Monday that it had secured buyers for essentially the entire capacity of the proposed plant at Cove Point, Md., which is tied directly by pipeline to Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale gas field.

The Virginia energy company also announced it had signed engineering contracts for the Cove Point project and filed a formal 12,000-page application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Construction would start in 2014 and the plant would begin shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2017. The project is estimated to cost from $3.4 billion to $3.8 billion.

Gas producers, eager to find new markets, are promoting LNG as a way to improve the nation's balance of trade and to boost domestic job growth. Some consumers, including the powerful petrochemical industry, say exports will drive up prices and retard manufacturing. Environmentalists fear harm from more drilling. 
 Pennsylvania High School to Host Bizarre Swim Meet – in Fracking Fluid
In what one concerned parent is calling “outrageous,” the Pennsylvania Department of Environment is allowing two eastern Pennsylvania high schools to stage a bizarre boys swim meet this coming Friday—in a swimming pool filled with fracking fluid.
The event is being held to demonstrate the safety of the fluid, a byproduct of the oil and gas extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. Some politicians have pulled similar scientifically questionable stunts to reassure the public that fracking fluid is benign. Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO), for example, went so far as to drink a glass of the fluid in 2012.
The swim meet is sponsored by the American Oil and Gas Council, whose member companies believe that fracking could bring 3,500 jobs to the Lehigh Valley alone.
Administrators at Allentown Senior High School and Jefferson High School in Easton are facing a backlash from angry parents who claim they were never notified that the idea was under consideration. “The fluids might be completely safe,” said Sharon Petaluma, a mother of one of the swimmers. “But I feel that we as a community have the right and responsibility to know more about what exactly is in them before we allow our children to swim around in it.”
Natural gas fracking topic of local lecture
This year’s Dr. Bernard Cobetto Lecture Series on Contemporary Ethical Issues at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg will feature environmental philosopher Wendy Lynne Lee, PhD, a professor of Philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

Her talk, entitled “When the Earth Moves Under Our Feet: The Pennsylvania Marcellus Gas Rush,” will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at Pitt-Greensburg’s Ferguson Theater (150 Finoli Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601). Lee will discuss natural gas fracking as it pertains to Pennsylvania. A community panel representing various viewpoints on the topic will also participate. This event is free and open to the public. Pre-event registration is suggested, and may be done by calling 724-836-9911. 
Fracking: The next bubble?
Coal and nuclear power industries in the United States have seen better days. The main culprit, energy industry analysts say, is the low cost of domestic natural gas, coupled with carbon-reducing regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the efforts of environmental groups.
Instead of paying the high costs to upgrade coal-fired plants and repair aged nuclear facilities to meet environmental regulations, power companies across the country have been making the switch to natural gas....
But what if cheap, domestic natural gas isn’t actually sustainable? What if rosy claims of fracking our way to energy independence is just an industry pitch that Washington has bought?
Two new reports reveal that the natural gas narrative may be more hype than reality and warn that putting too much of our eggs into this energy basket could be detrimental to our future economic health.
Consol working in Blacksville No. 2 mine
Consol Energy Inc. teams are back in the Blacksville No. 2 mine that was evacuated March 13 after a fire, but there's still no word as to when production will resume.
The mine normally produces about 400,000 tons of coal a month but has been offline since the fire and the employees have been off work. But since last Wednesday, teams from Consol (NYSE: CNX) have been working to examine the mine and make sure that it's safe.
Texas Eastern Transmissions plans gas pipeline improvements in Lebanon County
One of the nation's largest natural-gas-transmission companies is making plans to expand a pipeline that passes through the Lebanon Valley.
Houston-based Texas Eastern Transmission, a division of Spectra Energy Corp., is seeking federal regulatory approval to install 33.6 miles of new, 36-inch diameter pipeline and other related above-ground facilities in Lebanon, Dauphin, Berks, Fayette and Perry counties. The underground pipeline carries the natural gas produced in the western part of Pennsylvania and distributes it throughout the country.
The work is a small part of Texas Eastern's massive $520 million Texas Eastern Appalachia to Market Expansion, or TEAM 2014 Project, which also includes installations and  upgrades in several other states to meet customer demand, said Marylee Hanley, director of stakeholder outreach for Spectra Energy.
Engineers push for collaboration on shale gas research
Recently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon have traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with policymakers and share their recently completed 30-page policy guide on shale gas.
The team that traveled to Washington included engineering and public policy professor of the work and assistant director of policy outreach for the Scott Institute Deborah Stine, civil and environmental engineering professor Jeanne VanBriesen, associate professor of engineering and public policy and professor in the Tepper School of Business Michael Griffin, head of the mechanical engineering department Allen Robinson, and Ph.D. student in engineering and public policy Austin Mitchell. All are also associated with Carnegie Mellon’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, which was launched last September.
The team’s main goal in Washington was to give policymakers and members of government a primer on shale gas, and inform them of the current research that was occurring at Carnegie Mellon in regards to water resources, air pollution, and gas wells. The group also focused their attention on pushing for a research initiative between universities, government, and industry.
Thousands of UMWA Members, Supporters Arriving For Rally In Charleston
Thousands of mine workers, family members and community supporters are expected to fill the streets of Charleston Monday for a massive rally.
The demonstrators plan to stand up for health care for active and retired miners at Patriot Coal.
The United Mine workers of America will be bringing in more than 50 busloads of people from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. They plan to protest outside the state offices of bankrupt Patriot Coal.

The union has staged multiple protests in St. Louis, where some people were arrested. Buses will arrive in Charleston 8:30 a.m. at the Charleston Civic Center. The rally then starts at 10 a.m. Protesters will then march to Laidley Tower, where Patriot Coal has offices, for a 12:15 p.m. rally.Featured speakers will include U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, W.Va. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, UMWA President Cecil Roberts and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 
Ed Rendell's payments from gas drilling interests not disclosed in pro-fracking column
Former Gov. Ed Rendell, whose Democratic Party usually comes down on the side of protecting the environment, once called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "crazy" for backing a moratorium on gas drilling until environmental concerns could be resolved.
This past week, Rendell had a strongly worded op-ed column in the New York Daily News, attacking "vocal critics … who continue to push a false choice" by putting environmental concerns ahead of the "economic growth" of the gas boom.
"I know, because as governor of Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2011, I saw this [the economic growth] happen up close," he wrote...
The very next day, a bunch of online troublemakers known as ProPublica divulged something that Rendell "forgot" to tell the editors of The Daily News.
He was not just speaking as Pennsylvania's former governor; he was speaking as a paid consultant for a company that has invested in the gas drilling industry.
Cause of Wyoming County Well Spill Still Unknown
More than two weeks after a natural gas well began spewing fracking wastewater in Wyoming County, some residents who were evacuated from their homes are still using bottled water.
The accident, which remains under investigation, began on the evening of March 13 at a well north of Tunkhannock in Washington Township. More than a quarter million gallons of highly pressurized fracking wastewater came out of the well before it was successfully capped the following afternoon.

At one point, it was gushing 800 gallons a minute. The wastewater – which the industry calls “flowback” – is typically very high in salt, has chemical additives, and may contain radioactive material.
RR acquires U.S. nuclear service company
Rolls-Royce of Britain has acquired PKMJ Technical Services of the United States, expanding its presence in the nuclear services market.
Completion of the acquisition was announced Friday but no details were provided on financial details of the transaction.
PKMJ Technical Services is a nuclear engineering services business with headquarters in Pennsylvania.
Is the U.S. Exporting Coal Pollution?
The good news is that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to decline. "Over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen," said President Obama in his State of the Union address last month.
The bad news is the United States is exporting its polluting gases, particularly in the form of coal, like never before.
Figures released earlier this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration show U.S. coal exports reached a record of more than 115 million tons in 2012, more than double the 2009 figure.
Pennsylvania still a top energy producer
Coal, natural gas, nuclear power — we’ve got it all.
Pennsylvania ranks fourth in terms of coal production, eighth in natural gas production and second in electricity generation from a nuclear plant, data shows.

Pennsylvania is the fourth largest coal-producing state in the nation, with an output of nearly 60 million tons in 2011, says the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance’s annual Coal Data Book, released Wednesday.
EPA Announces Fracking Study’s Peer Review Panel
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board has named members of the independent panel tasked with reviewing the agency’s draft fracking study.
The federal study won’t be released until 2014, but the agency recently published a progress report. The EPA is examining five stages of hydraulic fracturing, and assessing each step’s risk of contaminating drinking water. That includes everything from where drillers withdraw their water, to what chemicals they mix in, to how fracking fluid is stored on drilling sites. The study will also probe well construction standards and waste disposal methods.
The study includes an extensive look at drilling in Bradford and Washington Counties. The EPA is also looking at spill data from Pennsylvania drilling sites, and using computer models to predict how much water will be withdrawn from the Susquehanna River Basin in the future.
Sand From Fracking Could Pose Lung Disease Risk To Workers
When workplace safety expert Eric Esswein got a chance to see fracking in action not too long ago, what he noticed was all the dust.
It was coming off big machines used to haul around huge loads of sand. The sand is a critical part of the hydraulic fracturing method of oil and gas extraction. After workers drill down into rock, they create fractures in that rock by pumping in a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. The sand keeps the cracks propped open so that oil and gas are released.
But sand is basically silica — and breathing in silica is one of the oldest known workplace dangers. Inside the lungs, exposure to the tiny particles has been shown to sometimes lead to serious diseases like silicosis and cancer.
Op-Ed:  Another fracking tool...Ed Rendell
Pennsylvania's revolving door isn't just making me dizzy, it's making me sick. Is there anyone -- anyone -- out there willing to serve the people of the commonwealth for four or even eight years with nothing in their hearts and their minds but love for Pennsylvania's natural beauty and a burning desite to keep citizens' tap water from, um, burning? Who doesn't show up in Harrisburg with dollar signs spinning in his eyes like a slot machine, thinking of all the chips that he or she will cash in on the very day they leave what we like to jokingly call around these parts "public service"?
Ed Rendell, our former Democratic governor, is a tool of the fracking industry. He wrote an op-ed in that other Daily News, the New York one, today, telling New Yorkers that they should allow fracking in their state so the industry can do all the wonderful things they've done here in Pennsylvania. His article covered a lot of ground but somehow it failed to mention this:
Reached Wednesday, Rendell told ProPublica that he should have disclosed to the Daily News his work at the private equity firm, Element Partners, and that the newspaper “should have included it.”

Rendell said the Pennsylvania-based firm pays him about $30,000 per year. Still, he insisted he is not conflicted on the issue of fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected deep into the ground to extract previously unreachable natural gas from rock. He said he does not own equity in Element Partners or any fracking companies.
Commentary: Is This Shale Oil and Gas Play Overhyped?
A couple of years ago, Chesapeake Energy's (NYSE: CHK  ) outgoing CEO Aubrey McClendon touted the Utica Shale as "the biggest thing to hit Ohio since the plow." In mid-2011, he even went so far as to claim that the 1.3 million acres of Utica property that Chesapeake had leased contained hydrocarbons worth roughly $20 billion.
But since that time, McClendon has scaled back his expectations about the Utica's oil potential substantially, as have executives at some other major companies operating in the play. This waning optimism, fueled by wells that yielded far less oil than initially expected, has led some commentators to question whether or not the play will live up to its initial hype.
As Utica drillers continue to derisk their acreage, will they stumble upon huge reserves of oil? Or will the Utica's initial comparison to Texas' prolific Eagle Ford prove overblown? Let's take a look.
Commentary:  Breaking promises: Shed billions and earn bonuses
I saw a story in the Wall Street Journal this month about how some retired coal miners in West Virginia might lose their health insurance because the coal company they once worked for - the one that promised them health insurance for life - had been sold and resold and was now owned by another big company that was asking a court to allow it to break that promise. The promise was no longer convenient or profitable.
The company was also making another request to the court: for permission to pay its managers a $7 million bonus. Presumably, they were doing a heck of a job.
I know a little about coal, not from ever getting my hands or lungs dirty mining it. I never went into a mine except as a reckless teenager sneaking around where my parents told me never to go, or when I visited an old mine reborn as a tourist attraction. But I grew up around coal, in Mount Carmel, in the Anthracite Region....
As for promises, we all make them, and most of us try to keep them. One dictionary definition says that to promise is "to assure somebody that something will certainly happen or be done . . . to cause somebody to expect something." I guess that covers the miners' situation.
There is another type of promise, one that can be enforced at law, a contract. Of course, there are many bright, maybe brilliant, lawyers from the best schools who have perfected the art of breaking even those promises.
Commentary: To Frack Or Not? Just One Of The Questions
It's apparent why a great number of Americans wonder about the risks of fracking and whether states and the federal government ought to shut the technology down. The breakthrough that now enables developers to recover oil and natural gas from hydrocarbon-rich shales 6,000 to 10,000 feet beneath the surface is potentially fraught with danger.
No new technology comes without assorted risks, especially one as environmentally significant and economically powerful as fracking. But along with the risks come benefits. The question is whether the U.S. has the capacity to significantly reduce the threats through regulatory safeguards, or is there one or more aspects of the technology that are so inherently dangerous that fracking should not be allowed at all?
Answering the question involves distinguishing the difference between "potential" and "actual" risks and benefits. On the potential side of the discussion, the risks seem fearsome.
Op-Ed: Quality drilling: It's time for higher standards on Marcellus Shale
In Pennsylvania's battle between gas drillers and environmentalists, it's good to see someone reaching for higher ground. And it happens to be gas drillers and environmentalists.
With the help of two foundations and strong civic leadership, an unlikely band of energy companies and environmental groups have collaborated to raise operating standards in the Marcellus Shale drilling industry for the benefit of everyone -- workers, businesses and people who care about clena air and water.
The Center for Sustainable Shale Development was introduced on March 20 as an initiative to certify the adoption of higher performance procedures in 15 areas that are protective of air quality, water resources and climate.