Thursday, May 31, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update, 5/31/12

Please click on titles to link to the full stories.

Senate panel backs mine water use in fracking
A bill to encourage use of coal mine water in hydrofracking operations by offering liability protection to drillers won approval last week from a Senate committee.
The vote by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee comes as state environmental officials are developing polices to offer Marcellus Shale drillers incentives to tap hundreds of millions of gallons of acid mine drainage.
The goal of these policies is to couple the natural gas industry's need for massive amounts of water in hydrofracking operations and the long-standing problem of cleaning up 5,000 miles of waterway in Pennsylvania impaired by acid mine drainage.
Six Pennsylvania representatives introduced bills that would revoke provisions of Act 13, which has been the subject of lawsuits and criticism from health care professionals and municipalities, and of a court-ordered injunction
MarkWest Energy Partners. L.P. MWE -2.46% today announced the closing of the previously announced acquisition of Keystone Midstream Services, LLC (Keystone) from Stonehenge Energy Resources, L.P., and subsidiaries of Rex Energy Corporation (Rex Energy) REXX -0.89% and Sumitomo Corporation (Sumitomo).
The acquisition consideration was $512 million. Keystone's existing assets are located in Butler County, Pennsylvania and include two cryogenic gas processing plants totaling 90 million cubic feet per day of processing capacity, a gas gathering system and associated field compression. Concurrent with the closing of the transaction, Rex Energy and Sumitomo have dedicated an 895 square mile area to MarkWest. MarkWest will gather and process rich gas, and fractionate the natural gas liquids under long-term, fee-based agreements.
MarkWest's acquisition of Keystone expands the Partnership's leading position in the liquids rich Marcellus Shale area into northwest Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

Energy companies use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to create fissures in rock like shale that allow oil and gas to escape. In the process water, sand and chemicals are pumped at very high pressures into wells drilled deep into the ground.
"If you think the reputational risks are bad with people coming from Ecuador, wait until they come from Pennsylvania and Colorado," said Larry Fahn, president of investor pressure group As You Sow, while arguing for a Chevron shareholder proposal on the risks of hydraulic fracturing.
Yet concerns about the oil and gas production practice among shareholders were notably more subdued. After a similar fracking resolution at the 2011 meeting had support from a surprisingly high 41 percent of Chevron shareholders, a similar proposal got 27 percent backing this year.
Support among Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM.N) shareholders for such a resolution rose to just under 30 percent from 28 percent last year.
There was also a Chevron resolution on appointing a board director with environmental expertise, but an early vote count showed 23 percent supported it, down from 25 percent last year.
A well-known expert on the natural gas boom is again facing criticism over his ties to industry and a lack of transparency in how he presents work to the public, fueling debates over research that has been published by major universities.
Timothy Considine was lead author on a shale gas report recently issued by the University at Buffalo and a previous report from Pennsylvania State University. Critics say both reports presented research in misleading ways and failed to fully disclose funding sources.
Considine, now at the University of Wyoming, has received funding from industry groups such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Wyoming Mining Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the American Petroleum Institute.
Even as the amount of natural gas produced in the Keystone State quadrupled between 2009 and 2011, the number of actual wells fell as drillers used new technology to extract more gas from a single rig, according to a new study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The development of more efficient horizontal drilling technology severely slowed the number of vertical wells drilled between 2009 and 2011, a period that represents a time when the drilling boom became visible above the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. At the same time, falling commodity prices have forced companies to slow activity so far this year.

A SLAPP from Range?

Range Resources is one of the major players in drilling the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, and the company has just been hit with a lawsuit in which three Washington County families claim they have health problems and were exposed to carcinogens as a result Range Resources Corp.'s drilling operations

But the company is also at the center of a legal controversy in Texas. A Weatherford, Texas man Steven Lipsky made a video purported to show him igniting methane tainted well-water from a hose.  He sent the video to blogger Sharon Wilson, who posted it.  He also had the water tested and results sent to the EPA. What happened next  reads like the plot of legal thriller were the big bad Goliath unleashes the legal hounds on the courageous crusading David :
For gas-driller Range Resources Corp. -- which Lipsky blames for contaminating his water from two wells near his home -- those actions amount to a conspiracy to harm its reputation, and it went to state court seeking $3 million in damages from Lipsky and Rich.
Range won one round in its fight this week, when a judge ruled that Wilson had to turn over e-mails she exchanged with the EPA and Lipsky, as she is a “central and recurring character in the conspiracy lawsuit.”
Many feel that this lawsuit is a SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are not meant to be won, rather they are a method to intimidation by threat of legal action.  The American Bar Association explains it much better than I can:
Professors George Pring and Penelope Canan coined the term “strategic lawsuit against public participation” (SLAPP) more than two decades ago to describe lawsuits brought to retaliate against those who exercise their First Amendment rights. The quintessential SLAPP is a lawsuit against someone who speaks out about local development or environmental issues.

Since that time, the concept of SLAPP has broadened, as practitioners, academics, legislators, and judges across the country have recognized that such lawsuits are an increasingly used weapon against speech that some people and businesses would rather have silenced....

For example, if a group of parents complains about the management of their children’s charter school, the response by the school management may be to sue the parents for defamation. If a union seeks to have local governments issue resolutions against a food manufacturer, the response of the manufacturer may be to sue the union for racketeering and conspiracy. In each case, rather than answer speech with speech, some plaintiffs decide that the best way to silence critics is to drag them into court.
Journalists, newspapers, reporters, and broadcasters have all been the victims of SLAPPs. In fact, members of the media are frequent targets of such suits, as they often bring to light information that some would rather keep hidden....
Consumers who have utilized the Internet to voice their displeasure with products and services have also often been the targets of SLAPPs and continue to be threatened with libel suits for nothing more than posting negative reviews and comments. As the New York Times recently reported, a consumer who posted negative reviews about an online appliance company on the website ResellerRatings received an email from the company threatening to file a libel lawsuit. In the message, the company claimed that the consumer agreed at the time of purchase to refrain from posting any negative comments about the seller. Consumers must agree to such terms to purchase any goods from the company. The consumer later removed the comments after receiving a refund. However, the company has indicated that the refund was “a one-time courtesy” and it will continue to require buyers to enter into its libel agreement before purchasing any goods.

SLAPPs can be an extremely effective way to silence someone, especially consumers exercising their First Amendment rights. As all attorneys know too well, even meritless lawsuits require a defense. Faced with the task of defending the suit, many defendants decide to settle. And that settlement might come at the price of your apology, “correction,” or agreement to refrain from speaking publicly about the issue ever again.
And the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reveals a new wrinkle in the case:
A Parker County judge who, in the midst of an environmental case, bragged in campaign literature that he had forced the EPA to turn tail lost his Republican primary battle Tuesday.
State District Judge Trey Loftin's next challenge will be to stay on the bench as the case involving gas drilling proceeds.
Steven Lipsky and his wife, Shyla, who sued Range Resources, filed a court motion Tuesday to disqualify or recuse Loftin. The motion says Loftin released campaign mailers urging his re-election on the basis of "rulings he had made against the Lipskys."
The motion further argues that Loftin believed that the outcome of the case would affect his re-election and "thus, the campaign mailers show that Judge Loftin believes that he had a direct financial and personal interest in the outcome of the proceeding, which requires his disqualification."
On Tuesday, he lost to Weatherford attorney Craig Towson, who captured 52 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Towson, who could not be reached for comment, previously said a judge shouldn't "ever comment about a case pending in his court."
This certainly does not look like an impartial arbitrator and gives the appearance of impropriety on the part of the judge. Since this gives the impression that the case was not made on actual proof of harm, it bolsters the allegation that Range's lawsuit is a SLAPP at the Lipskys.  In fact, the couple are seeking to halt the defamation suit under a new anti-SLAPP law passed last summer in Texas. The irony of the whole thing is that in the process of claiming protection from defamation, Range looks like a bully.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 5/29/12

Please click on titles to link to the full stories.

Pa. Commonwealth Court says compressor stations are essential to production
The Commonwealth Court has ruled that the operation of a compressor station falls within the definition of "gas production" as used in a township's zoning ordinance, and thus cannot be banned by a township in areas where gas production is otherwise permitted.
The ruling could be an important one as Pennsylvania municipalities seek to control certain aspects of Marcellus Shale-related natural gas development.
A three-judge panel led by Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt reversed McKean County Common Pleas Senior Judge William F. Morgan's ruling, which affirmed an order of the Bradford Township Zoning Hearing Board that held that a compressor station was not a permissible use in the township's "forest, slope and residential district" despite the fact that oil and gas production is allowed there.
The North Carolina General Assembly is considering whether to legalize natural gas extraction through fracking, while the city of Creedmoor recently passed an ordinance banning the practice in advance of any legislative approval. On May 21, Gov. Bev Perdue issued an executive order for the formation of a workgroup to create regulations for shale gas exploration and production in our state.
The debate is eerily familiar. My parents’ farm, which has been in our family since the mid 1800s, sits on a prime gas drilling location in New York’s Delaware Valley directly across the state border from the economically challenged northeastern Pennsylvania counties at the national epicenter of natural gas extraction...
....But the debate about fracking is deeper and more complex than the simple “cheap domestic energy that creates jobs” versus “centrality of environmental stewardship” dichotomy that is typically played out in the media. The Marcellus Shale sits under a rural and impoverished swath of the upper Appalachians, and the money provided by natural gas leases can be an economic lifeline for struggling farm families.
Make no mistake about the amount of money potentially in play here. Lease rates fluctuate wildly, but offers of several thousand dollars an acre plus a 12-15 percent royalty for extracted gas are not uncommon.
These landowners are not “Beverly Hillbillies” who will take the money from gas companies and move to mansions in the Hollywood Hills. They are people living on farms, struggling day to day. Allowing energy companies to drill for natural gas can help close the gap between what a homeowner earns and what he owes the bank every month.
It’s a drilling com­pany, the second-largest nat­ural gas extrac­tor in the country.
Chesa­peake is an energy pro­ducer that focuses on uncon­ven­tional onshore oil and nat­ural gas plays in the U.S. The company’s roots are in nat­ural gas: Chesa­peake is the nation’s second-largest nat­ural gas extrac­tor, and oper­ates nearly 200 pro­duc­ing gas wells in Penn­syl­va­nia. How­ever, near-record low prices for nat­ural gas have forced the com­pany to shift focus to oil and pro­duc­tion of other valu­able liquids.
Chesa­peake employs about 13,000, accord­ing to the company’s Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion fil­ings. About 4,600 peo­ple work at the company’s cor­po­rate head­quar­ters in Okla­homa City.  Chesa­peake also has regional cor­po­rate offices in Texas, West Vir­ginia and Louisiana, as well as 60 field offices through­out the U.S.
As recent news reports have pointed out, Chesa­peake is also some­thing of an invest­ment firm. The com­pany reg­u­larly flips the land it pur­chases, sell­ing it to other drilling companies.

Chesa­peake is an aggres­sive spender and has con­tin­ued to expand, despite the fact that nat­ural gas prices are at a ten-year low. That expan­sion is a big rea­son why the com­pany holds more than $13 bil­lion in debt.
Although there is little chance anyone will begin drilling for natural gas in Upper Pottsgrove Township any time soon, the commissioners nevertheless voted unanimously May 21 to support a resolution opposing a new state law that would result in them having no say in the matter should it happen.
Their vote represents one voice among a growing municipal chorus opposing Act 13, enacted on Valentine’s Day by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, that would, among other things, exempt any kind of gas or oil drilling operation in Pennsylvania from most kinds of local control.
The fortunes of renewable energy sources always have been tied to prices for conventional fuels. Wind, solar, biomass and other sources become more attractive as prices for fossil fuels rise and make alternatives more competitive.
Yet, according to the PJM Interconnect - the power grid covering Pennsylvania, 12 other states and the District of Columbia - more than 1 gigawatt of electricity is produced by solar power across the grid even as natural gas from the Marcellus Shale drives down prices. A gigawatt is 1 billion watts, enough to power 800,000 homes.
According to energy expert John Hanger, solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectric sources have generated 40 gigawatts of power across the PJM grid since 2005 - the year that exploratory gas drilling began in the Marcellus Shale.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Update

I had to take a break for the Memorial Day weekend, consequently I'm providing four days worth of updates.

Please click on the story title to link to the entire article.

Methane gas found in three wells, two streams
Methane gas has bubbled to the surface in three residential water wells and two streams in Bradford County, in northeastern Pennsylvania, near a Chesapeake Energy Marcellus Shale gas drilling operation.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said it, along with Chesapeake, is continuing to investigate the source of the methane gas that began showing up in the water wells, two tributaries of Towanda Creek and a nearby wetland in Leroy Township on Tuesday.
Chesapeake's Morse well pad, which has two Marcellus gas wells, is about a half mile from the affected homes, according to a statement issued Thursday by Dan Spadoni, a DEP spokesman.
The project started with what seemed to be a simple question from a summer intern: How many Marcellus Shale wells does the state have?
Thanks to a plethora of errors in the state data for Marcellus Shale, it's taken staffers at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Powdermill Nature Reserve 10 months of on-and-off work to answer that question.
"Conservation groups, resource people, regulators, municipal officials, residents who live near wells, we all need someplace to go that you can rely on as the standard," said Powdermill Director John Wenzel. "We hope that's what we've created."
Canadian regulators announced they approved of plans offered by pipeline company TransCanada to expand an eastern natural gas system.
The National Energy Board approved of a $130 million plan by TransCanada for its proposed Eastern Mainline Expansion system...TransCanada applied for a permit for the project with the NEB in November. The expansion is meant to meet shipping interest from operators in the Marcellus shale natural gas play in the United States to markets in eastern Canada.
On Thursday the Public Accountability Initiative, a non-profit independent research organization based in Buffalo, New York, released a report accusing the University at Buffalo's Shale Resources and Society Institute of using academic studies as a front to promote "gas industry misinformation."
The group analyzed a report the institute published on May 15, which suggested hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania is safer now than it was in 2008. But in combing the report, the non-profit found the report's conclusion does not match its own data; questioned the integrity of the authors, who copied paragraphs of their own work without attribution from a previously published pro-hydraulic fracturing economic study; and said it was not properly peer-reviewed.
The University at Buffalo responded to criticism Saturday over a recent study on “fracking” from its new Shale Resources and Society Institute.
The university has not received any funding from the oil and gas drilling industry, and the institute’s expenses have been paid entirely by the College of Arts and Sciences, said E. Bruce Pitman, dean of the school.
A group of 20 impassioned protesters from Marcellus Outreach Butler recently took matters into their own hands regarding potential damages of fracking.
On May 22, this group went right into the office of Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Ellis and demanded action for the 10 families whose water had been visibly contaminated by local fracking operations. The protesters wore haz-mat suits and only carried with them bottles of water that looked more like tea than potable water.
While Rep. Ellis was not actually in his office (he was in Harrisburg), the protesters refused to leave his office until Ellis’ staff arranged a phone call with him. As the staff tried to get Rep. Ellis on the phone, the protesters filled gallon bottles of tap water from the office bathroom to give to the affected families who were affected by Rex Energy’s fracking operations.
Throughout the conversation with Rep. Ellis, he claimed he had no idea the groundwater was contaminated despite previously acknowledging problems in the same exact area. He ended the call early claiming he had a meeting to get to. The protesters took about 20 gallons in all from the office bathroom and left a little gift for Rep Ellis: a gallon jug of that sickeningly brown contaminated water.
The Post-Gazette reports a Pitts­burgh devel­oper wants to build a $238 mil­lion sky­scraper, but is hav­ing a hard time find­ing an anchor tenant.
A big energy com­pany would be a log­i­cal choice, given Pennsylvania’s nat­ural gas boom. But devel­oper Steve Guy says the indus­try is turned off by the city’s ban on hydraulic fracturing:

Mr. Guy said Oxford also has spo­ken to “numer­ous” energy com­pa­nies about poten­tially locat­ing in the tower, although he would not name which ones. Both Chevron and Shell Oil Co. are look­ing for more space in the region and are said to be con­sid­er­ing Down­town among their options.
How­ever, Mr. Guy said the city’s ban on nat­ural gas drilling, enacted by city coun­cil in 2010, has become an “issue” in those talks.
State Rep. Steve Santarsiero (D-31) introduced a bill today that he said would establish stronger environmental safeguards in natural gas drilling activities than what is currently required in Act 13 of 2012, the Marcellus Shale law recently signed by Gov. Tom Corbett.
“The key to responsible oversight of the natural gas industry is that we place the interests of Pennsylvanians above the interests of corporations," Santarsiero said.
“Act 13 neglects to protect public water supplies from potential pollution and contamination with inadequate environmental buffers and setbacks,” he added.
Santarsiero said his bill, H.B. 2414, would accomplish the following:
  • Double the bonding requirements to ensure that drillers are held accountable for any environmental damage they may cause.
  • Increase the environmental setback distances from water sources to ensure drinking water is protected.
  • Remove the requirement that DEP grant variances to drilling companies, keeping the zoning powers at the local level where they belong.
A local lawmaker has introduced a bill to create more Marcellus Shale gas jobs for state workers.
The legislation by state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, makes use of a tax credit program.
"We have all seen the impacts of the natural gas industry on our region, and there is no denying the economic boom this industry has brought to many of our communities," he said. "Unfortunately, too many hard-working men and women in our area have been unable to share in the economic growth from natural gas drilling, and my bill aims to change that."
Signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on Feb. 14, House Bill 1950 was designed to update Title 58 - Oil and Gas - of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues, which were previously untouched since the 1980s.
Responding to the booming Marcellus Shale industry across the commonwealth, the law, commonly known as Act 13, enacted stricter regulations on operators and imposed an unconventional gas well fee on the oil and natural gas industry in Pennsylvania.
By providing a uniform set of rules and regulations across the commonwealth, legislators hoped the law would allow the industry to develop with confidence.
But some municipalities claim the law overstepped the traditional zoning rights of local government - and they intend to challenge the constitutional right of Act 13.
Now, with natural gas selling for half the cost of diesel because of new production from formations like Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, government and industry are once again ramping up efforts to promote natural gas as a motor fuel.
President Obama and Gov. Corbett, citing the desire to reduce reliance on imported oil and promote domestic natural gas production, have endorsed plans to subsidize the build-out of a natural-gas fueling infrastructure.
On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission will hold a forum at Drexel University to explore policies to support investments in natural gas and electric vehicles.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update, 5/24/12

No peer review on UB fracking study
A study on natural-gas drilling released last week by the University at Buffalo’s  Shale Resources and Society Institute was not peer-reviewed, the university said.
The report, entitled, “Environmental Impacts During Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts and Remedies,” was authored by UB institute director John Martin, University of Wyoming professor Timothy Considine and Pennsylvania State University professor emeritus Robert Watson...The university had said the report was peer-reviewed, which provides added credibility to the study.
The University at Buffalo has removed the "peer-reviewed" label from a document touting a recent study on natural-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, acknowledging that it may have given an "incorrect impression."
Last week, the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute released its first study, which analyzed more than three years of regulatory violations in Pennsylvania's portion of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. The authors concluded the number of environmental fouls compared to the total number of wells drilled dropped from 58.2 percent in 2008 to 30.5 percent in 2010.
Originally, the university touted the study as "peer reviewed, a process of self-regulation to maintain standards and provide greater credibility." By Wednesday, an "editor's note" was attached to the top of the original news release that detailed the study...
Scott Anderson, senior policy advisor with the Environmental Defense Fund's Energy Program, called several of the report's conclusions "questionable."
Anderson was one of five experts who reviewed drafts of the report, according to the university.
"While I was a reviewer, this does not mean that all of my suggestions were taken or that I agree with all of the report's opinions and conclusions," Anderson wrote on the Environmental Defense Fund's website.
In particular, Anderson took issue with the authors of the report separating "environmental" violations from "administrative" violations, the "narrow" definition they gave to environmental violations, and the suggestion that Pennsylvania's regulations have been effective because the rate of violations has dropped.
Crystalline silica exposure among workers should be evaluated at all U.S. hydraulic fracturing sites and effective controls should be implemented if necessary, four NIOSH employees recommend in a new report posted on the agency's Science Blog. Their report sets off alarm bells because the measured levels of respirable silica are so high and fracking is so prevalent across large areas of the country.
The report's authors are Eric Esswein, MSPH, senior industrial hygienist in the NIOSH Western States Office; Max Kiefer, MS, director of that office; John Snawder, Ph.D., a research toxicologist in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research Technology; and Michael Breitenstein, BS, a research biologist in the same division.
 At a recent shale gas symposium in South Africa a question was asked “if hydraulic fracturing is so safe, why do drilling operators working in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Play dispose the backflow out of state in Ohio.”  The question was satirically proposed by a rather uninformed anti-fracking environmentalist. His point was to show that even a natural gas producing state wants nothing to do with the disposal of the hydraulic fluid’s flowback (chemical-laced wastewater)...The answer to his question has nothing to do with Pennsylvania’s supposed dismay of the fluid. The answer is matter of simple geology. Pennsylvania’s tightly formed low-porosity underground geology is not suitable for deep injection disposal wells. Correspondingly, Ohio’s geological underbelly composed of deep, cavernous permeable rock formations are ideally suited for injection well holding tanks.
An environmental group is questioning whether the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Tom Corbett has been tough enough over the past year in its enforcement against Marcellus Shale drillers who commit violations.
The Pennsylvania office of Clean Water Action -- a Washington, D.C., advocacy organization -- analyzed all 1,192 violations filed by the DEP against Marcellus Shale drillers in 2011 and found that 37 percent resulted in some type of enforcement action, and only 6 percent resulted in a fine.
"Unfortunately we were pretty surprised to see DEP's record around enforcement actions," Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action, said Wednesday. "We're obviously very concerned about this and are looking forward to seeing changes at the state level."
Journalists from southwestern Pennsylvania and elsewhere will gather at WQED-TV to talk about their experiences covering Marcellus Shale – what they’ve seen, who’ve they’ve talked to, the events they’ve witnessed, and the facts as they’ve gathered them on Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania.
The Marcellus Institute at Mansfield University is offering The Marcellus Camp for students in grades 10-12. The camp will take place on campus from July 8-10.
Campers will receive safety orientation training and an introduction to the natural gas industry and possible career paths by participating in hands-on learning sessions presented by MU and Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center (MSECT) faculty and staff.
We have upgraded pipeline operator MarkWest Energy Partners L.P. (MWE - Analyst Report) to Outperform from Neutral, reflecting our bullish investment theme.
Denver, Colorado-based MarkWest Energy is a master limited partnership (MLP) engaged in the gathering, processing and transmission of natural gas, transportation, fractionation and storage of natural gas liquids (NGLs), and the gathering and transportation of crude oil....MarkWest’s proposed acquisition of Keystone Midstream Services in the heart of the booming Marcellus shale play will further boost the partnership’s processing capacity in the liquids-rich region.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 5/23/12

An environmental court has ruled that a western Pennsylvania man can appeal a state finding that his private water well was not contaminated by nearby Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Tuesday that Loren Kiskadden can pursue a claim that a Department of Environmental Protection investigation of his complaint was inaccurate and incomplete.

The DEP argued that Kiskadden had no right to appeal, but the Environmental Hearing Board disagreed.
A Bloomingdale, Ohio, landowner lost the right to stop surveyors for Enterprise Liquids Pipeline from entering her farm....
Enterprise is creating a pipeline that will transport ethane from the Marcellus and Utica shale regions in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Gulf Coast....
Hyde said the company told him they needed to reroute the line and it was necessary to go through the hayfield for the new route. Researching his options, he found out the farm had been in an agricultural district since 1989.
However, that was not enough.
Royalty checks that start to arrive when a gas company drills on your property can make for some very profitable envelopes in the mailbox. But the low natural gas prices that have disrupted industry balance sheets in recent months could start to cut into those checks.
Put it this way: "You could be having filet mignon when they're high, and Kraft macaroni & cheese when they're low," said Craig Tillotson, executive vice president of sales at the Downtown-based Hefren-Tillotson wealth management firm.
Mr. Tillotson is a wealth adviser whose expanding client base includes farmers and landowners signing lucrative leases for their mineral rights in the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. So-called "shaleionaires" can take home millions of dollars by signing a lease, but they are now entering an unpredictable market that can cause royalty checks to fluctuate -- or stop altogether.
The lowest natural gas prices in a decade also have forced a new industry emphasis on lease terms that allow companies to deduct certain well costs from landowner royalty checks.
Clean Harbors Inc. senior vice president Scott Metzger pulled into the dirt lot of a once-abandoned factory yard here, past gleaming trucks painted with the Norwell, Mass., company's signature red, and opened the door to the environmental services firm's newest offices.

It is the third property Clean Harbors has opened or acquired in Pennsylvania in the past year, as the company rides the drilling boom that is unlocking natural gas and oil from shale deposits and increasing demand for its know-how in avoiding, reducing, and cleaning up environmental damage. Last year, work for the shale industry generated 25 percent of Clean Harbors' $2 billion in revenues, and that number is only expected to grow.
Not content to leave Pennsylvania communities with any control over gas drilling within their borders, state legislators have stripped municipalities of their zoning authority under Act 13, choosing energy corporations over the people who elected them. This isn’t exactly new ground for the legislature; indeed, taking away communities’ authority to govern themselves is a decades-old pastime in Harrisburg, one that has shifted into high gear over the past 20 years.
The legislature made logging a guaranteed right in all zoning districts back in 1992, giving in to timber interests and eliminating municipalities’ authority to provide for conservation zones.
Shortly thereafter, lawmakers stripped municipalities of their authority to regulate corporate water extraction, the use of genetically modified seeds, and the dumping of urban sewage sludge on farmland. They also required all communities to allow “reasonable” extraction of minerals.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update, 5/22/12

Earlier this month the Obama administration announced it will require companies drilling for oil and natural gas on public and Indian lands to publicly disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations. This is important in states like Pennsylvania, large portions of which lie atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale deposit. The new rules are now in a 60-day public comment period. They will also set guidelines on proper well building and disposal of the massive quantities of wastewater that accompanies the drilling process...As originally proposed, they called for drillers to file disclosure reports before drilling, but pressure from the gas industry that the measure would cause delays resulted in changes to allow disclosure after drilling operations are in place. They require reports of the substances, though not the exact formulas, a nod to industry concerns over trade secrets. Because drilling includes chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, all potentially dangerous to health, many drilling critics will be up in arms regardless of the exact formulas used in the fracking process. Numerous instances of water pollution have already been linked to drilling. And the disclosure rules don't apply to drilling on private land. So requiring that companies make this information available for their drilling activities on public lands will supply only a partial picture.
The Delaware Valley Marcellus Association (DVMA) has been formed by four leading organizations with deep roots in our area and who are actively participating in Marcellus Shale activity.
Duane Morris LLP, Gregory FCA, KPMG LLP and ModSpace are founding members of the DVMA, which is accepting applications for membership from other businesses in the Delaware Valley that recognize the opportunities that the responsible development of Marcellus Shale offers companies statewide, not just in Western or Northern Pennsylvania. The development that the DVMA hopes to spur could reach every sector of the economy--from manufacturing to education--and transform the Philadelphia region into a hub for inexpensive, clean, domestic energy and related goods and services.
The new association will hold its inaugural event on Tuesday, June 12 at the Union League of Philadelphia. The breakfast meeting, which begins at 8:00 a.m., will feature Penn State University Professor of Geosciences, Terry Engelder, Ph.D. Engelder, a leading authority on the Marcellus Shale, who was among the first professionals in the world to identify the immense reserves and energy opportunities Marcellus presents. He will lead an open-ended discussion concerning the development of gas from the Marcellus and how it impacts the broader Commonwealth, including businesses here in the Delaware Valley.
A Pennsylvania company plans to invest $380 million to expand natural gas pipelines in the state, and ultimately link to markets in New Jersey and New York.

Penn Virginia Resource Partners, L.P., of Radnor, said Monday that some of the expansions to its Lycoming County pipeline in central Pennsylvania will begin in the next two weeks and be finished later this year. Other parts of the project will continue through 2018.

CEO William H. Shea, Jr. said in a statement that the expansions are part of a long-term plan to help bring the bountiful gas production from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale to markets in the northeast and New England, where heating oil is used extensively.

Shea said the company has signed a 20-year distribution agreement with a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, as well as agreements with Southwestern Energy Co. and Range Resources Co. to extend an existing pipeline an additional 19 miles into Tioga County.
PVR, which has rapidly transformed itself from a coal company to a natural-gas pipeline company, said it has entered into long-term agreements to extend its Lycoming County system to collect and process gas from the wells of four gas drillers, including some of the biggest producers in northern Pennsylvania.
The company’s announcement comes only a few days after it closed on the $1 billion acquisition of Chief Gathering L.L.C.’s pipeline system, which it financed with private-equity funding and a new debt issuance.
The Chief acquisition will catapult PVR into the “midstream” business of gathering and processing natural gas, said William H. Shea Jr., chief executive officer of the company’s general partner, Penn Virginia Resource G.P. The acquisition doubled the value of the company.
As part of the National Science Foundation grant project “Marcellus Matters: Engaging Adults in Science and Energy,” 2012 Theatre M.F.A. alumni Timothy Riley and Josephine Wilson and Raymond Sage, associate professor in the Musical Theatre program, presented short plays about shale gas development written by faculty members Bill Doan and Susan Russell. Following the performances, Doan and Russell facilitated a conversation among the audience members while Penn State scientists provided technical information.

Beginning this fall, plays written by Doan, Russell, and Dean Barbara Korner will be presented again in Clearfield, which was selected because of the history of resource extraction—such as coal mining—in the area. The theme of the plays is “Living with Risk and Uncertainty,” and they were written using information gleaned from online message boards where Pennsylvania residents discuss Marcellus Shale issues. The plays’ content will evolve based on audience response.
New York City Comptroller John Liu, the city's fiscal watchdog, on Thursday urged shareholders of Chesapeake Energy Corp to withhold support for two directors up for re-election, citing the company's recent governance woes....
The New York City Funds have $122 billion in assets under management, including 1.9 million Chesapeake shares.
With natural gas prices slightly more than half of what they were a year ago and drilling rigs moving out of the state to more lucrative plays, the Marcellus Shale Coalition is touting job growth for Pennsylvanians.
At a rally on the Capitol steps Monday, the industry group attempted to counter two of the most persistent criticisms leveled at its jobs claims: that the jobs are temporary, nonunion work and too often go to out-of-state workers from places such as Texas and Oklahoma.
Workers with the Laborers’ International Union of North America provided Marcellus Shale Coalition President Katie Klaber a blaze-orange backdrop.
They cheered as their union’s legislative director, Abe Amoros, described the expansion of union job opportunities as a result of the shale boom.

Environmentalists, don't make the working-class the enemy

A little disclaimer, some environmentalists are going to skim this post and think it is a pro-drilling screed. It is not. It is a call to understand those whose support you will need.

One thing about the fossil fuel industries is that they are among the few remaining labor intensive workplaces in America. If you grow up in an economically depressed region obtaining any job, let alone a well-paying one is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Sure, better education would help, but remember we are living in a world where graduates of selective colleges are whining about not finding a job, imagine how it is with just a high school education in a rural area.

A little essay I found a few weeks back crystallizes this sentiment quite well:
In the late 70s and early 80s, during a different recession, the country abandoned western Pennsylvania. It was then that the steel industry—an industry so strongly linked to the region that Pittsburgh is called the Steel City, the football team is the Steelers, and the local brew was called Iron City—collapsed...
It’s easy for those who live in cities faraway to oppose fracking. For them, it’s abstract. They fight with soaring rhetoric and online petitions against fracking and for good reason. But they don’t have to make the hard decision. When the devil comes for the soul of western Pennsylvania, it’s easy for those not living there to make it a black and white issue of right vs. wrong.
But the devil operates in the gray areas.
Let’s do the math for a small farm that has 50 acres the gas companies want: $3,000 x 50 = $150,000 signing fee. After that, they receive around 18 percent in royalty payments.  For a family who most likely lives paycheck to paycheck, who has a good chance of not having health insurance, and which maybe would just like that new car they’ve been wanting for the last 15 years, that’s the financial equivalent of winning the lottery.
Western Pennsylvanians are no stranger to the ravages of the energy extraction industry. From oil to the omnipresent coal, they’ve been there, done that. It’s not that they don’t love their land and want to protect it. But can they reasonably be expected to walk away from a perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make their families financially secure? What have they been offered in return from those who oppose fracking? Not much.
"Don't criticize a man unless you walk a mile in his shoes."  It is easy to use throw-away lines like green jobs and new economy.  It also easy to demonize those who take these jobs and say they are just ignorant and backward. It is no different than the chickenhawks who also push for war, but never serve themselves. It reminds me of the recent Vermont ban on fracking, a development that activists are practically orgasmic over.  Considering that there is little or nothing to frack in Vermont, it was quite easy for the pols there to do it.  The cost and risk was practically non-existent, like making movies during WWII instead of volunteering for combat.

A while back, a blogger called Mike the Mad Biologist took the steelworkers union to task for supporting the Keystone XL pipeline.  He expected them to forgo the construction jobs because he saw unions as part of the liberal coalition and sitting in his tenured position at Tufts he couldn't comprehend why they didn't take one for the team.  One must ask the rhetorical question, would Mike give up his guaranteed job security to save the environment?  I once worked as a lab coordinator at a Boston-area university. At the time the EPA had discovered that university labs were one of the biggest local generators of hazardous waste.  Many faculty in the area wouldn't accept this finding and balked at having to follow expensive haz mat disposal procedures.  Well-educated scientists with self-proclaimed progressive worldviews suddenly started to sound like Massey Energy when it came to their waste.  And this wasn't even a choice between taking a destructive job or not being able to put food on the table.

Anti-fracking activists, the working class folks in these areas are not your enemy. They have likely sacrificed more by age twenty than many of you have sacrificed in your whole life. The energy companies are offering them immediate economic survival, what are you making as a counter-offer?  You must figure out a concrete way to provide a secure economic future.  Platitudes and sentiment don't do shit.  Walk a mile in their shoes.

Otherwise you'll lose and the future will as well.

Monday, May 21, 2012

News update, May 21, 2012

Unfortunately, I was not able to get a weekend news update in.  Other obligations have taken their toll.  On with the updates for Monday, 5/21:

Treated waste proves profitable
Greater Hazleton Joint Sewer Authority's plant in Valmont Industrial Park is treating much more than what's being flushed down toilets around here.
Over the course of its 2010-2011 fiscal year, the authority generated nearly $1.2 million in revenue from an estimated 35 million to 40 million gallons of "hauled waste" treated at the plant, according to Chris Carsia, director of operations.
The material is trucked to the plant from throughout a 70-mile radius and comes from residential sand mounds and septic systems, sludge from smaller municipal sewage plants, bakery waste and "wash-down water" from meat-packing and turkey farm operations, Carsia said.
While materials trucked to the Valmont plant range from sludge from trailer parks to the contents of portable toilets, wastewater from fracking operations is not among them, he said.
When the industry was in its infancy in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Cabot Oil and Gas Co. approached the authority about treating its fracking waste.
Accepting the material would've led to a revenue windfall, but Carsia said authority officials had other ramifications to consider.
"It's one thing to have the private-sector mentality, but the bottom line is we're a municipal authority and we're also environmentalists," he said. "We have to reduce our risks."
Authority officials at one point considered amending its discharge permits with the state Department of Environmental Protection but backed out after learning that similar operations in Pittsburgh and other regions resulted in high levels of dissolved solids being released into rivers, Carsia said.
Marcellus Shale drilling has had a significant impact on Pennsylvania's economy, but with the price of natural gas dropping to $2 per thousand cubic feet, drilling may slow down.
"Companies may delay production because of the price they are getting," said Jim Rose, director of drilling engineering at EQT Production, Pittsburgh. "I am concerned the activity will dry up, then the supply will drop below demand and then price will go back up eventually."
Rose was the keynote speaker Friday at a Marcellus Shale workshop presented by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Safety Committee at the Ramada Altoona Conference Center.
Penn Virginia Resource Partners LP said its unit will spend about $380 million to extend its natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania and provide related midstream services to producers in the Marcellus shale.  PVR said it will extend its existing 30-inch trunkline about 19 miles north through Lycoming County and into Tioga County, Pennsylvania, under agreements with three companies - Southwestern Energy Co, a Royal Dutch Shell unit and Range Resources Corp.
The first hands-on training center in Pennsylvania for Marcellus Shale natural gas workers, emergency responders and college students is operational.

The Energy Technology Education Center along Route 15 south of Williamsport, a collaborative effort of the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Lycoming County Department of Public Safety and the natural gas industry, was dedicated Friday.
Bromide levels are dropping in the Allegheny River and its tributaries but still are increasing downstream from four industrial wastewater-treatment plants, according to research from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.
Stanley States, the authority's water-quality director, has been testing for bromide because it can help form carcinogens in drinking water....
The department in 2011 asked shale-gas drillers to stop sending wastewater to any plant that dumps treated water back into the river. Some drillers still take water to those plants, but treated water is shipped out to be used in drilling again, said Patrick Creighton, spokesman of the industry group Marcellus Shale Coalition.
"So if bromide levels are still high ... there's clearly something else in play," he said.
If shale-gas drilling water isn't the source of the problem, it could be surface coal mining or shallow oil drilling, States said.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 5/18/12

Pennsylvania farmer speaks out against fracking at memorial for wife

Stephen Cleghorn's roots are Catholic, but he led a powerfully personalized and wonderfully unorthodox ritual and public gathering honoring his late wife, Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez, on May 10. The energy of it combined his fierce undying love for her with an equally passionate element of rebellion against gas companies that are eyeing a part of his 50-acre Pennsylvania organic farm for hydraulic fracturing and against the politicians who support it.He called for a moratorium on drilling for methane gas in the geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale until the public health risk and impacts are properly studied.
In his press release to NCR, Cleghorn wrote: "Today I act to declare my farm, all that lives above its surface, the very air and sunlight that caresses and enlivens all of us here today, and all that lies below it as firmament, all of this I hereby declare off-limits from shale gas extraction and its toxic impacts, in perpetuity."
Pennsylvanians say that the state is ignoring their health complaints that they believed could be related to natural gas extraction. Residents say they have a hard time reaching state offices when they are seeking information or trying to register concerns, and the state hasn't done a good job of tracking health issues, according to the Associated Press:
"Everybody kind of just passed the buck," said Sheri Makepeace, a northwestern Pennsylvania resident who said that starting last year she tried calling the Department of Health and other agencies over fears that nearby drilling created health problems. "I've talked to so many different people and have gotten so many different stories."
This story follows up on one from last month in which the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported that it had received just 30 health complaints related to natural gas extraction in the state. After that article came out, residents pointed out that it's actually really difficult to report things to the health department. The recorded message at the phone number listed for health information and referral in the department doesn't list gas-related issues as one of the menu options, or anything remotely close.
Eureka Resources, LLC, announced today that it will construct a world-class centralized wastewater treatment facility in Standing Stone Township, Bradford County, Pa., to treat wastewater generated during development of oil and gas wells in the Marcellus and Utica Shale.
Plans for the facility include installation of Eureka's industry-leading treatment process that allows for recycling of Marcellus and Utica shale water for use at future well sites as well as a concentrated brine crystallizer to allow for beneficial reuse of valuable byproducts that can be extracted from the water.
enn Virginia Resource Partners, L.P. (NYSE: PVR) ("PVR") today announced that it has completed the acquisition of Chief Gathering LLC ("Chief Gathering") from Chief E&D Holdings LP ("Chief").  William H. Shea, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of PVR's general partner, said, "We are very pleased to have successfully closed on the acquisition of Chief Gathering, and to welcome the Chief Gathering employees to PVR.  With the completion of this acquisition PVR has transformed its business to that of a predominantly midstream natural gas gathering and processing company primarily focused in the Marcellus Shale and Granite Wash regions."

Read more here:
The collapse of natural gas prices has created a buying opportunity for Atlas Energy L.P., the Philadelphia company controlled by Edward E. Cohen’s family that cashed out most of its Marcellus Shale assets for billions in 2010.
Atlas Resource Partners L.P., the company’s exploration and production subsidiary, on Thursday announced it is buying the Barnett Shale assets of Titan Operating L.L.C., a private company in Fort Worth, Texas, for $184 million. The leases contain 250 billion cubic feet of proven reserves and 43 producing wells on about 16,000 acres.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 5/16/12

Taxpayers Pay as Fracking Trucks Overwhelm Rural Cow Paths
When natural-gas drillers arrived in Wetzel County, West Virginia, resident Bill Hughes, a retired electrician, saw the benefits of producing a fuel that burns cleaner than coal. Then oversize trucks hauling drilling supplies began tearing up local roads, creating hazardous conditions.
“The bastards are just in too much of a hurry,” Hughes said, recalling an incident when a dump truck tried to pass him on one of the county’s narrow, two-lane roads that have suffered from the pounding of the trucks.
A surge in hydraulic fracturing to get gas and oil trapped in rock means drillers need to haul hundreds of truckloads of sand, water and equipment for a single well. Drilling that added jobs and tax revenue for many states also has increased traffic on roads too flimsy to handle the 80,000-pound (36,300 kilogram) trucks that serve well sites. The resulting road damage will cost tens of millions of dollars to fix and is catching officials from Pennsylvania to Texas off guard. Measures to ensure that roads are repaired don’t capture the full cost of damage, potentially leaving taxpayers with the bill, according to Lynne Irwin, director of Cornell University’s local roads program in Ithaca, New York.
On May 2, two Lancaster city wastewater officials showed up for a surprise inspection of Armstrong Environmental Services, an East Lampeter Township company that specializes in treating industrial waste.
The city had just found out that the company was treating waste from wells that drill for Marcellus Shale natural gas in Susquehanna County.
Such waste might contain radioactive rock and soil, brines, constituents of oil and cleaning chemicals that should not be in a sewage-treatment plant.
This week, Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city's public works director, said the city was "satisfied" that no Marcellus Shale waste from Armstrong was getting into the city's sewage system.
But in March, the company had been fined $35,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for sending pollutants into the city's sewage system for more than five years in violation of its permit
A proposed study of people in northern Pennsylvania could help resolve a national debate about whether the natural gas boom is making people sick.
The study would look at detailed health histories on hundreds of thousands of people who live near the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation in which energy companies have already drilled about 5,000 natural gas wells.
If the study goes forward, it would be the first large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment of the health effects of gas production.
Natural-gas drillers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale reduced the rate of blowouts, spills and water contamination by half since 2008, according to a study based on state-agency actions.
State regulators issued environmental violations at 27 percent of the wells drilled in the first eight months of 2011, 54 percent below the full-year rate in 2008, according to the study today from New York’s University at Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute, which opened last month. Stronger regulations, tougher enforcement and improved industry practices helped trim the violations, researchers found.
After being upbraided by Pennsylvania’s top environmental official because their governor has put the brakes on natural-gas drilling in the region, Delaware residents can say with uncharacteristic pride that their state has gone to the dogs.
All it took was a few ill-chosen words from Michael Krancer, Gov. Corbett’s secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, who griped in early May about the First State’s well-founded reluctance to lift the moratorium on drilling in the Delaware River watershed, which is home to 15 million people.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Few minds changed by EPA's Dimock report.

Last week the EPA released it's final report on Dimock, PA finding the water in 61 wells safe to drink, and declaring "This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action," The report itself is very long, 674 pages. While it is unclear whether a resolution can be reached over fracking in Dimock itself, outside of the town no opinions have been changed on both sides of the controversy.

The reactions on-line have been interesting.  Industry boosters and pro-gas drilling types who usually have no use for regulations or environmental agencies were suddenly singing the EPA's praises, while the anti-fracking world was up in arms.  Considering the length of the report, I doubt either group has read it, as viewpoints have been formed and reactions are reflexive with little substance. Just a few examples:

Susie Madrack at "Crooks and Liars" is not happy:
Would that be the same EPA that let BP off the hook for the massive Gulf oil spill? The same EPA that says it's safe to eat Gulf seafood? Just wondering, since they don't seem to have a very good track record with "facts"
A scientist named Ron Brown disagrees with the EPA (don't have any info on him):
Overall, these observations suggest that many of these homeowners’ water wells are significantly contaminated with a variety of pollutants in concentrations which are of concern to public health professionals.  In fact, EPA officials requested the ATSDR to study the drinking water situation in Dimock, PA, but now make no reference to that health risk report (ATSDR Record of Activity/Technical Assist UJD #: IBD7 Date: 12/28/2011).  Neither do they make any recommendations in concert with its conclusions.  In spite of this glaring discrepancy, Region 3 officials state: “Throughout EPA’s work in Dimock, the Agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water.”
Lisa Barr at the hard left Counter-Punch thinks the EPA is simply corrupt:

Both politicians take money from the companies pushing for a ‘new national grid’–when we could convert our old empty factories to make solar panels we could install on every home and factory.  Who needs a grid?  Who needs the oil companies?  Who needs regulators who don’t do their jobs?
What I documented a few weeks ago is monumental evidence of federal agency corruption.   They thought they could get away with it in the modest rural home of Craig and Julie Sauter
Ross Eisenberg of the National Association of Manufacturers says the report shows Pennsylvania's regulations are working:
Will this settle things once and for all?  Of course not.  But it does seem to indicate that Pennsylvania’s fracking regulations are working.  That’s important because, partly based on fears that contamination may be occurring, the federal government jumped in and started regulating hydraulic fracturing.
J.D. Krohn of Energy in Depth declares the final curtain drawn over the issue:
To most of our readers this announcement will not come as a surprise.  After all, EPA’s findings affirm previous results from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas.  This seems to be, with any luck for the residents of Dimock, the final nail in the coffin of the Dimock saga.
So with all the results released where does that leave the situation in Dimock?
After four years of study, and countless state and federal resources spent assessing the situation, we now know that the water in Dimock is safe and meets drinking water standards.
Marcellus Drilling News takes some potshots at the litigants
Of course the 11 families who are suing Cabot Oil & Gas in hopes of a big payday, and the anti-drilling activists who are using those families by stoking their fears, accuse the EPA of “misrepresenting the data.” But the EPA says not so fast:
EPA spokesman Roy Seneca defended the quality of the testing Friday, saying "the agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water."*
The EPA has had a few additional requests to do testing, and they want to retest a few wells, just to dot every i and cross every t. And then they will issue a final report:
"Once all of the sample results are complete, we will conduct a comprehensive review to determine if there are any trends or patterns in the data as it relates to home well water quality," Seneca said.*
Seeing the handwriting on the wall, the families suing Cabot are apparently now in a negotiating mood, to try and salvage anything they can from their attempt to extract money from Cabot
To me, these reactions  fit one of two mid-sets we always see in any controversy involving industry and environmental effects, either the "industry is good and harmless and anyone who criticizes it is doing so because they are leftists opposed to freedom" or the "anything a corporation does has to bad because they are evil" viewpoints. The problem is that both these narrow viewpoints demand that scientific data support their preformed conclusions, in other words unscientific inductive reasoning.  When it doesn't the response is to attack the scientists and the report without pointing out exactly where the errors or obfuscations are.  We saw this when MDN didn't like the Myers' report and also in Counter Punches' reaction to the EPA report.  That's not to say misleading or fraudulent scientific reports have not been produced (e.g. the tobacco industry), nevertheless examples of  unethical behavior in the past does not constitute evidence that a report whose conclusion you do not like is also corrupted.

Truth be told, I am doubtful of the benefits of hydrofracking natural gas from tight shales and concerned about the effects and dangers.  I don't trust powerful corporations to regulate themselves, in fact I don't trust any institution or organization to self-regulate, even ones I consider necessary and well-run. None are immune. But I don't expect scientific data to conform to my opinions.  Allegations are easy and cheap, if you throw out an accusation of corruption and falsification at scientists over a scientific report, back it up.

Penn. Marcellus News Update 5/15/12

Gas-rich states lose fracking lottery
While Pennsylvania, northwestern Louisiana and gas-rich areas around the Gulf of Mexico are losing jobs and revenue as the fracking industry shrinks after a price collapse, oil-rich North Dakota and Texas are in the midst of a boom.

Other winners in the fracking lottery include central and southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Wyoming, where the economy is expanding and revenues are climbing..."These rigs are moving to Texas or other places to drill wells ... for oil instead of natural gas," he said.
With Gas Boom, Pennsylvania Fears New Toxic Legacy
The first one came from coal mining. All over the state, you can see bright orange rivers and streams. The aquatic life was killed by acidic runoff from abandoned mines.
"Are we really going to let this happen to Pennsylvania again?" asks David Yoxtheimer, a hydrologist at Penn State who grew up here. "Are we going to make sure that we have enough money and that these companies' feet are held to the fire to make sure that once their operations are done, they put everything back together, tidy it up, and make it look like nothing happened there in the first place?"
Separate reports question safety of fracking wastewater
The NRDC report, "In Fracking's Wake: New Rules Are Needed to Protect Our Health and Environment from Contaminated Wastewater," examines the five hydrofracking wastewater disposal practices of natural gas companies used in Pennsylvania in 2011.
The five wastewater disposal practices presently in use are recycling for additional hydrofracking, treatment and discharge to surface waters, underground injection, storage in open air pits and spreading on roads for ice or dust control.

NRDC estimates more than 30 million gallons of wastewater were disposed of in Pennsylvania last year, with a majority of the wastewater being released into bodies of water, including drinking supplies.
Another report, released by Environmental Advocates of New York a week prior to the NRDC's study, suggested state laws on disposing hydrofracking wastewater do not hold natural gas companies accountable enough for their methods of treating the waste.

That study, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," reviewed 100 hydrofracking permits issued to natural gas companies since 2005. According to the report, the state Department of Conservation asks two questions on waste disposal to potential drillers. The first question asks how drilling fluids will be disposed of, with the second question asking how fracturing brine, the gallons of water contaminated after coming into contact with natural gas and fracturing chemicals, will be disposed of.
 Shale drilling will play a role in Erie-area economy
The state Department of Environmental Protection's most recent report on gas well permits suggests that the shale drilling boom has yet to arrive in our corner of Pennsylvania.

So far, no shale wells have been drilled or permitted in Erie or Crawford counties.

It's only a matter of time before that changes, said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group with more than 300 members.

"There is no reason why the birthplace of the oil and gas industry won't play a major role," Klaber said Monday morning during a break from a seminar at Penn State Behrend, sponsored by the coalition, the Northwest Industrial Resource Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
UB report says fracking getting safer
A new study released today by the University at Buffalo concludes that state oversight and better industry practices have significantly reduced the risk of major environmental problems stemming from drilling high-volume natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania.
The report, which examined nearly 3,000 reported violations at almost 4,000 Pennsylvania natural gas wells between January 2008 and August 2011, found that nearly two-thirds of the violations were administrative in nature and less than two of every five were linked to environmental concerns.
The report from UB's new Shale Resources and Society Institute, also found that there was slightly less than three environmental violations for every five wells drilled during 2008. During the first eight months of 2011, there was a little more than one environmental violation for every four new wells drilled — less than half the 2008 level.
Chesapeake to slow land acquisition, focus on oil and gas-liquids drilling
Chesapeake Energy may be focusing on drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shales after company executives told investors this morning they plan to focus on oil- and liquids-rich holdings and slow their rapid-fire land acquisitions.
In the latest conference call hoping to calm skittish investors and share prices, Chesapeake chief executive officer Aubrey McClendon said his firm will temper land grabs and focus on shale acreage like that in Appalachia that comes loaded with lucrative natural-gas liquids and oil.
Mr. McClendon is under pressure from investors who say his company is borrowing and leveraging assets at an unsustainable rate.
The nation's second-largest natural-gas producer, Chesapeake has a reputation for aggressively acquiring land in nearly every North American shale play. The company became the dominant driller of the Marcellus Shale through a series of land swaps and flips.
Citing “Mounting Turmoil,” S&P Downgrades Chesapeake’s Credit Rating
It seems like we’re writ­ing “more bad news for Chesa­peake Energy” at least twice a week these days.
The lat­est bad news comes from Stan­dard and Poors, which has down­graded the nat­ural gas-driller’s credit rat­ing to “BB-”.
 Sick From Fracking? Doctors, Patients Seek Answers
Kay Allen had just started work, and everything seemed quiet at the Cornerstone Care community health clinic in Burgettstown, Pa. But things didn't stay quiet for long.
"All the girls, they were yelling at me in the back, 'You gotta come out here quick. You gotta come out here quick,' " said Allen, 59, a nurse from Weirton, W.Va.
Allen rushed out front and knew right away what all the yelling was about. The whole place reeked — like someone had spilled a giant bottle of nail polish remover.
"I told everybody to get outside and get fresh air. So we went outside. And Aggie said, 'Kay, I'm going to be sick.' But before I get in, to get something for her to throw up in, she had to go over the railing," she said.
Nothing like this had ever happened in the 20 years that Allen has been at the clinic. After about 45 minutes, she thought the coast was clear and took everyone back inside.
Richard Rinehart, who runs the rural clinic, can't help but wonder whether the natural gas drilling going on all around the area may have something to do with what's been happening.
"I lay in bed at night thinking all kinds of theories. Is something coming through the air from some process that they're using? I know they use a lot of chemicals and so forth. Certainly that could be a culprit. We're wondering, Is something coming through the ground?" Rinehart said, noting that he'd just noticed a new drill on a hill overlooking the back of the clinic.
Now, no one knows whether the gas drilling has anything to do with the problems at the clinic. It could easily turn out to be something completely unrelated. There's a smelting plant down the road and old coal mines everywhere.
"Anything could be possible, and we just are trying to get to the root of it," he said.
 Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road
When they were just 10 minutes from home, the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The truck veered off the highway and slammed into a sign that sheared off part of the vehicle’s side, killing Mr. Roth.
About two months before the fatal crash, Mr. Roth nearly died in a similar accident when another co-worker with the same company fell asleep at the wheel after a long shift and ran the company’s truck into a pole. In 2009, Mr. Roth’s employer  was penalized in New York, Pennsylvania and Utah for violations like “requiring or permitting” its oil field truckers to drive after working for 14 hours, the legal limit.
Over the past decade, more than 300 oil and gas workers like Mr. Roth were killed in highway crashes, the largest cause of fatalities in the industry. Many of these deaths were due in part to oil field exemptions from highway safety rules that allow truckers to work longer hours than drivers in most other industries, according to safety and health experts.