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.

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