Friday, June 29, 2012

Vacation Time

I will be spending time away from the old school house all next week. I expect my internet access to be spotty, so I will not be posting any news updates next week.

I do have a number of longer commentaries and analyses I hope to post.  Summer content will remain slow until domestic priorities are met, this will probably happen in late July. After that point I hope to dramtically up the content on this old blog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 6/27/12

New Jersey Senate Bans Treatment of Fracking Waste
New Jersey legislators approved legislation on Monday banning the treatment or storage of fracking waste in the state.
The natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is not taking place in New Jersey. But legislators and environmentalists are concerned about the state’s proximity to Pennsylvania, a shale gas fracking hot spot that sends some drill cuttings and waste water to nearby states, including New York, for processing and treatment. New York is also currently considering allowing fracking upstate.
The New Jersey Assembly passed the ban last week, and the Senate voted for the bill on Monday, sending it to Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.
Concerns about water pollution from natural gas companies’ fracking operations are well documented, but have you heard about the fallout for the homes of low-income residents in Pennsylvania?
Mother Jones reports that 32 families are being forced out of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Jersey Shore, Penn., after hydraulic fracturing company Aqua America bought the property. Residents were notified in late February that they had to leave the trailer park by May 1. Families were offered $2,500 if they got out by April 1 or $1,500 if they moved by May 1, but lawyers later estimated that it cost $8,000 to $10,000 for each family to move.
Some residents reluctantly took the money and left, but others fought back, ultimately building a blockade against incoming construction vehicles in early June. Volunteers, including Occupy Cleveland activists, joined the effort.
MLPs that own and operate midstream infrastructure for processing and transporting oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) stand to benefit over the next several years from rising demand for takeaway capacity in prolific US shale oil and gas plays.
The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) estimates that the US and Canada will need to spend USD83.8 billion to build and expand enough midstream infrastructure to support the surge in onshore production. Although a trade organization that represents pipeline owners produced this report, many of the pricing and production assumptions underlying the INGAA’s estimates appear reasonable.
Demand for these midstream assets will be met by MLPs, setting the stage for the best-positioned names to grow their cash flow and quarterly distributions to unitholders. Rising cash flow and quarterly payouts inevitably add up to higher stock prices.
MLPs also continue to reap the rewards of an extraordinarily low cost of capital, the product of the Federal Reserve’s accommodative monetary policy. Because MLPs are pass-through entities that disburse the majority of their cash flow to their investors, publicly traded partnerships rely on the debt and equity markets to fund acquisitions and organic growth projects.
One more reason not to re-elect President Obama to a second term was provided last Friday, when Heather Zichal, the top White House energy aide, told reporters that she expects the Interior Department rules regulating hydraulic fracturing, dubbed fracking, to be completed by year's end.
Why are federal rules necessary since fracking has been successfully regulated at the state level for decades without a single documented case of groundwater contamination by fluids used in the process? Unless the regulations are so restrictive as to effectively end fracking as an energy tool in the name of safety, as has happened with offshore drilling and coal.
When you drill for nat­ural gas, for every gal­lon of gas pro­duced, some amount of waste­water gets cre­ated as well.
Some­times it can be sim­ple brine that can be dis­posed of in sim­ple ways, such as using it to melt  snow on Pennsylvania’s roads in win­ter. Or to keep the dust down in summer.
But the waste­water can also be pretty nasty stuff, which can’t be cleaned up by water treat­ment plants. One option is to dump it down an old gas well, shoot­ing it deep into the earth. It’s a method used in thou­sands of wells across the coun­try.  Only five of those cur­rently oper­ate in Pennsylvania. A pro­posal to add to that num­ber is stir­ring con­cern among some who live in War­ren County, Penn­syl­va­nia, near the New York state border.
By the end of the month, supporters of Shell Oil Corporation’s proposed $3.2 billion ethane cracker petrochemical plant may learn if state legislators are willing to approve tax credits and incentives that will allow the project to move forward in Beaver County, Pennsylvania....

“The benefits of employing up to 20,000 Pennsylvanians and lowering the raw materials cost for Pennsylvania manufacturers far outweigh the investment,’’ Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker said. “It’s not about politics; it’s about jobs. It’s about real people who rely on those jobs to pay their bills, feed their families and invest for retirement.’’ 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update: 6/25/12

Fracking Concerns Turn To Worker Health Hazards And Potential Silica Exposure
Yesterday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a hazard alert aimed at ensuring that employers in hydraulic fracturing operations take appropriate steps to protect workers from silica exposure.
Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said:

Hazardous exposures to silica can and must be prevented. It is important for employers and workers to understand the hazards associated with silica exposure in hydraulic fracturing operations and how to protect workers.”
Three northeastern Pennsylvania families have reached a $1.6 million settlement with a gas drilling company over contaminated water wells.
But Jared McMicken of Wyalusing said the agreement reached Thursday provides little comfort since his drinking water was ruined by nearby drilling, and his family must move.
"We've lost our house, and we're not going to get out of it what we got into it," he said. "We have a bunch of people who have to leave their homes."
The dispute with Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy began in 2010. Wyalusing is about 160 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
McMicken said he and the other families in the case insisted that any settlement be made public. The arbitration trial began this week and was settled on the fourth day.
The sun was shining; blue sky dominated what few clouds there were. The heat that had everyone in Bradford County turning on all of their fans and air conditioners had finally subsided and gave way to a warm, breezy atmosphere.
It was the perfect day for an expo.
That's what happened at Alparon Park in Troy on Saturday, June 23. The Northern Tier Marcellus Shale Business Expo held its third year and featured 240 businesses from all parts of the country, multiple seminars, sophisticated natural gas equipment, raffles and lots of food and refreshments.
"We've had a great turnout, easily between 1,000 and 2,000 people," said Lauren Hotaling, countywide economic development manager for the Progress Authority. "The weather was great, the feedback we've received so far has been positive. Even third-year exhibitors have said they're glad that they've continued to come here."
Exhibitors were extensively varied throughout the expo, ranging from heavy equipment dealers to wildlife experts to woodworking companies.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) compete for banking and trading business from almost all of the world’s largest companies, with one notable exception: Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK), the second biggest U.S. gas producer now facing a cash-flow shortage.
For more than a decade, JPMorgan bankers have declined to do business with Chesapeake and its chief executive officer, Aubrey McClendon, 52, said people with knowledge of the matter. In contrast, Goldman Sachs, which once loaned money to McClendon against his wine collection, recently helped arrange a $4 billion loan for Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake and is advising on its efforts to sell assets.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 6/22/12

As always, click the title to read the entire story.

U.S. Interior needs to strengthen fracking rules: lawmakers

Calling the Interior Department's draft rules for fracking on federal lands "a good first step," a group of 38 lawmakers called for disclosure of chemicals before and after drilling takes place.
"Increasing transparency by requiring the disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process is an important start to what we hope will be broader, comprehensive energy development policies that will embrace best practices for both traditional and renewable energy development," the lawmakers said in a letter to the Interior Department.
The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Maurice Hinchey, Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Raúl Grijalva, all proponents of tighter regulation of the fracking drilling technique.
The appeal from Democrats ratchets up pressure on the Obama administration, which has tried to walk a fine line between backing rapidly increase shale gas production and responding to environmental concerns about the development.
When the 32 families of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, found out that they were losing their homes to the state's latest fracking operation, the news didn't come from their landlord, or an eviction notice in the mail—they read about it in their morning paper.
The February 18 article, published in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, nonchalantly detailed the approval of three natural gas projects in Lycoming County, PA, including a water withdrawal station that would pipe millions of gallons of water from the Susquehanna River to fracking stations in the mountains further north. The article noted that an "added benefit" of the plans was "the removal of mobile homes," which were located in a potential flood plain.
To make an informed decision about a highly volatile subject, it might be best to first gather as much information as possible first-hand.
That was the mindset behind a recent visit that Livingston County decision-makers made to Towanda, Pa., in late April.
The 50 people who boarded the bus to the Pennsylvania fracking site were Livingston County town elected and appointed officials, plus Heather Ferrero from the county’s planning department. About a dozen of the 17 Livingston County towns were represented...
A Chesapeake Energy public relations spokesperson led the group on the tour.
“He reviewed all of their safety procedures they go through...the extent that they go to is way over and above what P.A.’s regulations state,” Schuster said.
About an hour and a half of the meeting was on the presentation of how the well gets drilled, he said, and then was followed by questions and answers. “There was a ton and a ton of good questions that were asked, just concerns that people had.”
After that portion, the representatives saw both a finished and an active drilling site.
Pros and cons
Investment opportunities. Corporate profits. High-skill jobs. Tax revenue. Low, stable energy prices for consumers and industry. The list of attributes and perks is long, including the fact that natural gas is a clean, efficient, and invisible fuel.
It has none of the negatives of crude oil or coal, except for one: Like the two others, natural gas is a fossil fuel and produces carbon dioxide, which, goes the scientific theory, is the primary source of greenhouse gases, or climate change.
The other negative may be even bigger: Fracking, especially hydraulic fracturing, comes with serious environmental questions of its own, specifically how drilling and extraction affect air and water quality. Other issues may surface over time.
Predictably enough, the lines drawn around this issue are starkly antithetical: Proponents say the waste water generated in the process can be disposed of or treated safely; opponents say run-off, industrial accidents and cost-cutting make contamination inevitable.
If you go look­ing for evi­dence of Shell’s methane migra­tion prob­lem in Tioga County, as StateIm­pact did today, you won’t be able to see the 30 foot geyser of water and nat­ural gas.
First, the flow has been reduced to a few feet over the course of the last week.
Sec­ond, the com­pany has blocked off access to the site.
What you can see, though, are the large, loud flares burn­ing off gas at nearby pads. They’re part of an effort to reduce under­ground pres­sure and bring methane leaks under con­trol. “We’re see­ing that brings down — it depres­sur­izes — the gas that could be con­tribut­ing to migra­tion in the imme­di­ate area,” said Shell spokes­woman Kelly op de Weegh. For farmer Leo Shan­lay, who lives a bit more than a mile from where the prob­lems are occur­ring, evi­dence that some­thing might be amiss came from his cows. Shanlay’s nine calves won’t drink any water from his drink­ing well. “Before, when I dumped water in, they drank it right away. Now they wait four or five hours before they drink it,” he said, stand­ing in front of an idling trac­tor. The calves started los­ing inter­est in his well water on Tues­day. They’re happy to drink the water his uncle trucks in from another site, though.

The Ohio State Geologist and Another Case of False Citation

I understand that the fracking/shale gas issue is controversial and emotional for people.  But that never excuses those who falsely cite a news story to back up an otherwise unsubstantiated claim.  The other day I told the tale of a tweet that claimed a news story said most of the job growth in Ohio was due to shale gas development when in fact the story made no such claim. Today I came across this blurb in site called Plunderbund:
Ohio’s state geologist, in charge of determining link between fracking waste disposal and earthquakes was fired by the Department of Natural Resources? Oh, and the administration’s explanation doesn’t hold up to scrutiny? You don’t say…
OK. First, while the firing of the state geologist does open up all sorts of questions, the suggestion that it was due to his "determining link between fracking waste disposal and earthquakes" -great writing - is in no way supported by the story in the Columbus Dispatch Plunderbund links to! I'll allow that the link is not in that particular line but a casual reader could think the link is indeed supporting the claim, particularly if they don't follow it.  That is what I avoid here, if I speculate I'll tell you that what I'm doing and if I cite something it will directly correlate to what I write.

What the Dispatch story does report has been recounted else, but it's worth going over since there seems to be more going on (although we don't know if there is). In any case, there is suggestion by some that it was because he was too close to the industry, rather than uncovering something negative about them. Here are the facts so far:
1) After a review, Larry Wickstrom was removed from leadership (not fired from the survey) because ' he repeatedly failed to notify his bosses “in matters that would set or significantly impact state policy.”' Specifically he was accused of presenting a new geological map to an Ohio Oil and Gas Association meeting before revealing it to Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
2) The map redrew the boundaries of the estimated core area for the most productive oil and gas exploration, particular related to the Utica Shale, in the state.
3) Landowners outside the new core area are concerned that it could devalue future mineral rights leasing.
4) There were claims by the state that outside reviewers  criticized the map, although the one contacted by the Dispatch denied doing so.
5) Other stories have indicated that both Wickstrom and others felt there was a lack of data points in the region moved outside of the core area.

What about earthquakes and fracking waste removal? According to the Dispatch:
Wickstrom also was faulted for discussing leases to mine salt with Cargill Inc. without including his supervisors and for failing to quickly notify Natural Resources administrators about a Friday, Jan. 13, earthquake in the Youngstown area. 
Not exactly being punished for whistleblowing about a fracking/quake link.

Look, I understand that people have real concerns about fracking, I do myself. And like many other citizens I am pissed about the lack of oversight and cozy relations between politicians and industry. But these concerns can only based on actual evidence or data.  Spinning and shoehorning every bit of scientific data and every news story to fit a per-conceived narrative is not good science or responsible journalism. Sure it's good propaganda to preach to the converted, but it undermines your credibility with those still trying to honestly figure out what is going on and form an opinion.

I'll have more commentary on the Ohio state geologist fooferall when I find out more.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 6/21/12

Assembly approves bill aimed at keeping fracking waste from Pennsylvania out of New Jersey
Lawmakers have approved legislation that bans hydraulic fracturing byproducts created in other states from entering New Jersey.
The Assembly voted 56-19 for the bill Thursday.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground.
Some lawmakers and environmentalists say public health and natural resources would be endangered if waste from processes done in Pennsylvania enters New Jersey.
From his farm nestled far from the big cities, in the wooded hills above the Monongahela and Cheat Rivers, David Headley has not heard much about the battles in Washington over regulations that Republicans say are stifling a domestic energy revolution.
At the ground level of that revolution Mr. Headley, a 53-year-old former body shop owner and unemployed bus driver, does not see any regulations at all.
For three years, he and his wife, Linda, have wrestled with the land men, natural gas drillers and pipeline builders who are turning this very sleepy corner of Western Pennsylvania into an energy boom land. The farm Mr. Headley bought in 2006 for his semiretirement has become something of a nightmare. Gas wells leak. Drilling blowouts have spewed fine, chalky bentonite into trout-stocked Georges Creek, turning it a milky white. A spring where his wife’s three horses once watered now bubbles and belches. Touched with a flame, it will ignite.
Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday demonstrated that he has deep support from labor unions and business advocacy groups behind him as he presses state lawmakers to approve Pennsylvania's largest-ever taxpayer-paid package of financial incentives for what he portrays as the biggest industrial investment in the state in a generation. He appeared at a Capitol news conference with several dozen union and business group representatives, as well as lawmakers from both parties, in a show of support for his proposal for a $1.7 billion tax break designed to lure an integrated petrochemical industry to a state wracked by the flight of manufacturing jobs in recent decades.
Chesa­peake Energy has agreed  to pay $1.6 mil­lion in dam­ages to three fam­i­lies in Wyalus­ing, Brad­ford County. The case may be the first Mar­cel­lus con­t­a­m­i­na­tion law­suit to get resolved with­out a nondis­clo­sure agree­ment, mean­ing the par­ties can speak freely about the case. Todd O’Malley, an attor­ney for two of the fam­i­lies, says the plain­tiffs insisted on not sign­ing a con­fi­den­tial­ity agreement.
Aqua America, Inc. (NYSE: WTR) Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis detailed Aqua’s sustainability initiatives with respect to its growing water-energy nexus at the Citi Global Water and Renewables Investment Conference held today in New York City.  In late 2011, certain Aqua America and Penn Virginia operating subsidiaries entered into a joint venture to form Aqua — PVR Water Services, LLC to construct and operate a private pipeline system to supply fresh water to certain natural gas producers drilling in the Marcellus Shale in north-central Pennsylvania. The 18-mile steel pipeline, which cost $24 million, began servicing drillers in North-Central Pennsylvania on an as-needed basis in April this year. Phase II construction of the second 18-mile stretch began earlier this month and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The pipeline largely parallels the trunk line of PVR’s gas gathering system in Lycoming County and will share PVR’s existing rights-of-way.
Chesapeake Energy Corporation : Announces Reconstituted Board 
Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) today announced the appointment of five new independent directors to its reconstituted nine-member Board of Directors.
Archie W. Dunham, former Chairman of ConocoPhillips and former Chief Executive Officer of Conoco, has been appointed by the Board as Chesapeake's new independent Non-Executive Chairman. Mr. Dunham has had no previous relationship with Chesapeake. Aubrey K. McClendon has relinquished the position of Chairman but remains a Director and will continue to serve as Chesapeake's Chief Executive Officer and as President.
Chesapeake's Board also appointed four other new independent directors: three proposed by Southeastern Asset Management (SAM), its largest shareholder with a 13.9% ownership stake, and one proposed by Carl C. Icahn, its second largest shareholder with a 7.6% stake. The new directors proposed by SAM are Bob G. Alexander, R. Brad Martin and Frederic M. Poses. The new director proposed by Mr. Icahn is Vincent J. Intrieri.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Updat 6/20/12

Still fighting off this summer cold, so I haven't been as diligent as usual with news updates, let alone original commentary. So I'm still playing catch-up.

Pa. refinery tax credit to get lawmakers' scrutiny
Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed tax break of up to $1.7 billion to lure an integrated petrochemical industry to Pennsylvania will get scrutiny in the coming days by state lawmakers eager to ensure that taxpayers get a return on their money and question whether that amount of money is really necessary...
Details of the tax credit started to become public in recent days as Corbett began to press the Republican-controlled Legislature to approve it before the end of June. With less than two weeks until they leave Harrisburg for the summer, lawmakers are still trying to get a better grasp on the details of what would be the state's biggest financial incentive package ever.
They are uneasy over the appearance of a giveaway to the industry - Corbett is proposing a second straight year of cuts in aid to education and the poor - and some suggest that they'll want to look closely at tying the tax credit to the number of people hired.

Read more here:
The number of natural gas compressor stations planned for Northeastern Pennsylvania is multiplying as companies lay more pipelines to carry Marcellus Shale gas to customers.
The state has issued or is considering 29 air quality permits for separate stations in the northeast region, all of them in Susquehanna, Wyoming and Luzerne counties, according to a tally by the Department of Environmental Protection. Nearly two dozen of the permits are for stations planned within a 15-mile radius of the Susquehanna County seat in Montrose.
DEP has issued 383 of the permits statewide since October 2005, according to the agency's tally. Not all of the permitted stations have been built and some may never materialize.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is monitoring a creek where a clay substance used as a lubricant leaked from an underground drilling operation in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The DEP says the bentonite leaked into Georges Creek in Fayette County on June 2 or 3. The substance is naturally occurring clay used to lubricate natural gas pipeline drilling bits and sometimes the underground pressure of drilling forces it up through fissures in the ground and into waterways.
The Herald-Standard of Uniontown reports the pipeline is owned by operated by Laurel Mountain Midstream. A spokesman says such leaks are unpredictable and that the company is working with regulators.
Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has been lobbying neighboring states to approve regulations to open the Delaware River basin to natural gas drilling, a plan that came to a screeching halt in November when Corbett's counterpart in Delaware said the proposal lacked sufficient public health protections.
The state's push to get behind Marcellus Shale gas drilling, using a process known as fracking, is an attempt to revive proposed regulations developed by the Delaware River Basin Commission.
The commission, which regulates large uses of water like fracking in the watershed covering the eastern third of Pennsylvania, the upper Delaware area in New York, western New Jersey and most of Delaware, has blocked the practice in the absence of its own environmental regulations.
Chesapeake Hired Lawyer With Stealth Record in CEO Probes
The lawyer Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (CHK) audit committee hired to investigate possible conflicts of interest in its chief executive’s loans has a record of managing probes with minimum publicity about himself or his client. Craig Weinstock, a Houston-based attorney with Locke Lord LLP, has handled more than a dozen internal investigations of alleged corporate malfeasance since 2002, including one for a company run by Chesapeake’s lead director Merrill A. “Pete” Miller Jr., a member of the audit committee, a person familiar with Weinstock’s work said.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Now that's some spin!

NatGasNow just sent the following tweet:

While I have no doubt jobs were added due to the gas boom, the article they link to makes NO statement that the employment growth was "largely due to surge of jobs ‪created by ‪natural gas‬ development" to paraphrase their tweet. What it said instead was:
But specific industries can alter that conventional wisdom, and Ohio is currently undergoing a boom in natural gas exploration that holds the promise of hundreds or thousands of new jobs. (emphasis added).
That be some grade A truthiness the gas industry PR hacks are slinging.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Marcellus News Updates for 6/13-17

Personal issues have kept me from blogging the past week. Here's the news on gas shale and fracking in Pennsylvania since last Tuesday.

As always, click the titles to link to the complete stories.

Federal court rules in favor of Pa. gas pipeline
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal energy regulators properly approved the 39-mile MARC 1 pipeline through Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties. The decision clears the way for the pipeline to begin moving gas from the Marcellus Shale formation this fall.
"We have contended from the beginning that the MARC I Pipeline would be undertaken with the strongest commitment to environmental and ecological protections," said Bill Moler, an executive with Inergy Midstream LP of Kansas City, Mo.
Some landowners have been fighting the company building the pipeline, contending that Inergy subsidiary Central New York Oil & Gas refused to negotiate in good faith on either monetary compensation or the pipeline's route. The Sierra Club and two local groups challenged a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to authorize construction, saying regulators should have performed a more thorough environmental assessment.
Pittsburgh’s city solic­i­tor has asked the Pub­lic Util­ity Com­mis­sion to weigh in on whether or not the city’s frack­ing ban runs afoul of Pennsylvania’s new drilling laws.
The city will have to wait on an answer, though, as the PUC is wait­ing until Com­mon­wealth Court has ruled on a chal­lenge to Act 13, before it begins issu­ing advi­sory opinions.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing to portions of several struggling New York counties along the border with Pennsylvania, and to permit it only in communities that express support for the technology.
The plan, described by a state Department of Environmental Conservation senior official and others with knowledge of the administration's strategy, would limit drilling to the deepest areas of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, at least for the next several years, in an effort to reduce the groundwater contamination risk. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the administration deliberations are continuing.
Even within that southwest New York region -- primarily Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties -- drilling would be permitted only in towns that agree to it, and would be banned in Catskill Park, aquifers and nationally designated historic districts.
Natural-gas industry groups Wednesday released their documentary film “Truthland,” billed as a factual response to the popular but controversial “Gasland,” an Oscar-nominated film beloved by environmental activists for its highly critical portrayal of fracking and its effect on small communities.
But “Gasland” also touched off an intense backlash from natural gas proponents, who argue that many of the movie’s claims and depictions - including the now-famous scene of a resident in the fracking epicenter of Pennsylvania lighting his tap water on fire because of high levels of methane - are misleading at best, and completely bogus at worst.
“This isn’t the first time something has been released that sets the record straight on the mountain of misinformation in ‘Gasland,’ ” said Jeff Eshelman, vice president of public affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America, one of the industry groups that bankrolled and produced “Truthland.”
News of the New York Times report came Wednesday, as members of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York were meeting.
They gathered to hear a talk on hydrofracking from former Pennsylvania Department Secretary John Hanger.
Hanger would not comment on the Governor's plan, but he did say all energy production involves choices.
"If you're going to say no to gas, you're saying yes to something else," said Hanger.  "I go home and turn on the lights and I expect those lights to actually work, because there is electricity. I live in the Three Mile Island evacuation area...and every energy choice has strengths and weaknesses, and a risk."
Former Pennsylvania Department Secretary Hanger said fracking is working well for Pennsylvania, and carries much less environment risks than other forms of energy.
Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has been lobbying neighboring states to approve regulations to open the Delaware River basin to natural gas drilling, a plan that came to a screeching halt in November when Corbett's counterpart in Delaware said the proposal lacked sufficient public health protections.
The state's push to get behind Marcellus Shale gas drilling, using a process known as fracking, is an attempt to revive proposed regulations developed by the Delaware River Basin Commission. The commission, which regulates large uses of water like fracking in the watershed covering the eastern third of Pennsylvania, the upper Delaware area in New York, western New Jersey and most of Delaware, has blocked the practice in the absence of its own environmental regulations.
Study says Pa. to lead in job growth from unconventional natural gas development
An industry-sponsored study by IHS Global Insight found that Pennsylvania, thanks to the increasing presence of Marcellus Shale drilling, is expected to lead job growth "attributed to unconventional natural gas development," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Unconventional gas production supported nearly 57,000 jobs in Pennsylvania in 2010, 13,600 of those directly, according to the study, which projected that the industry would support 111,000 jobs in the Keystone State by 2015, including 26,000 directly. Most of the employment is indirect, through suppliers, or induced through increased economic activity.
Corbett begins PR effort for refinery tax credit
Gov. Tom Corbett's administration began its public relations effort Thursday to build support for a 25-year tax credit worth up to $1.7 billion that it wants to foster a petrochemical industry in Pennsylvania around the state's supply of natural gas from the vast Marcellus Shale formation.
Pa. man gets probation for dumping wastewater
A southwestern Pennsylvania man has been sentenced to probation for dumping millions of gallons of wastewater into area streams and mine shafts.
A Greene County judge on Friday also ordered Robert Allan Shipman to pay more than $257,000 in restitution.
Shipman had owned a firm that disposed of wastewater containing natural gas drilling byproducts, sewage sludge and restaurant grease.
Prosecutors say he directed his drivers to dump the water illegally in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties from 2003 to 2009.

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Allegheny Front: Fracking forces central Pa. mobile home residents out
Just over three months ago residents of a mobile home park in Central Pennsylvania were told they had to leave. The Riverdale Mobile Home Park, near Jersey Shore, had been sold. And the new owners planned to put in a water withdrawal facility to service nearby fracking activities. WPSU’s Emily Reddy went to the mobile home park in its final days, and she filed this report.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 6/12/12

State Seeks to Withhold Wastewater Treatment From Hydraulic Fracturing Sites
The state is moving to ban wastewater treatment plants in New Jersey from accepting waste from natural gas drilling operations, a move critics fear could harm drinking water supplies.
Legislation (S-253) unanimously cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee prohibiting the practice Thursday. It is the latest legislative initiative to try to limit hydraulic fracturing, a process in which millions of gallons of water are injected into wells to extract natural gas from shale formations in Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
None of the drilling has occurred in New Jersey, but that has hardly lessened opposition to the practice. Foes fear the drilling operations may threaten the drinking water supplies of 15 million people in the Delaware River Basin, including the more than 1 million in New Jersey who rely on the river for their potable water supplies.
Since 2007 Chesapeake Energy has been the most aggressive of promoters of shale gas development in the nation. Now with almost 5 years of Chesapeake’s claims and estimates slowly turning into real financials, things are far worse than the company ever imagined including the possibility of their running out of operating cash. Last week at its pressure packed shareholder’s meeting it declared, “Liquids Growth Will Provide The Liftoff” which means ‘wet oil infused shale gases as opposed to ‘dry shale gas’ drilling. This is leaving upset shareholders, puzzled government officials and skeptical landowners now scratching their heads in confusion.
Natural gas just like oil comes out of the ground in a variety of hydrocarbon mixes. It can be ‘dry’ as in not having any oil in it or ‘wet’ where by the gas contains varying amounts of oil particles and density which can be separated out to produce barrels of oil. With natural gas currently selling at $2.28 per million British thermal units (Btu), oil is selling at the significantly higher price of more than $90.00 a barrel. So wet gas is now where Chesapeake Energy is claiming to investors its growth and profits will come from.
Federal health and environmental agencies are investigating whether Range Resources Inc.'s Yeager Marcellus Shale gas drilling site in Washington County caused toxic air and groundwater pollution that damaged the health of nearby residents.
The Atlanta-based Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said this week it has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since March 2011 to assess health problems reported by residents living in a valley below Range's wastewater pond and a drill cuttings pit at the Amwell Township site.
Three of those families filed a personal injury lawsuit in Washington County Common Pleas Court last month alleging that their health was damaged and their risk of cancer increased due to exposure to toxic leaks, spills and air pollutants from Range's operations. Range has denied the charges.
A report from a new institute at the State University at Buffalo asserting that state oversight has made natural gas drilling safer is causing tumult on campus and beyond, with critics arguing that the institute is biased toward industry and could undercut the university’s reputation. 
The study, issued on May 15, said that state regulation in Pennsylvania had made drilling there far safer and that New York rules were even more likely to ensure safety once drilling gets under way in the state.
But a government watchdog group quickly raised questions about the study’s data and the authors’ ties to the oil and gas industry. And a newly formed group of professors and students is calling for a broader inquiry into the genesis of the institute, which issued the report only weeks after its creation was announced in April.
A federal court has rejected a bid by a coalition of environmental groups to stop the construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern Pennsylvania's endless mountains.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says that federal energy regulators were right to approve the 39-mile MARC 1 pipeline through Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties.
A midstate company is part of a state-sponsored delegation to the three-day Global Petroleum Show beginning today in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Philadelphia Mixing Solutions Ltd., based in Palmyra, Lebanon County, designs and sells fluid mixing equipment for a wide variety of applications. It is one of 12 companies showcased in the show's Pennsylvania Pavilion, put together by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.


Lately I have not had time to do much more than post news updates here.  By July I hope to have more varied content in my posts and more resources available.  There are a number of issues that come up related to fracking where either pro-drilling or anti-fracking folks (sometimes both) intentionally and unintentionally distort, ignore or dismiss any scientific findings that are not in lockstep with their views.  As a scientist I know that you cannot start with a conclusion and then interpret evidence (data) to fit it.  One can still have an informed opinion and accept that not every piece of the data and every example supports your contention. Science is just an analytical process through which we use data to explain the natural world.  That doesn't mean that you can't use scientific studies to form your opinions, to the contrary I think this should be the basis for any informed position. However the data itself is remains value neutral and the process must remain deductive.  So I plan to have more posts on misuse and attacks on science.  I have opinions as well, particularly on the politics of Marcellus development and there'll be some of these as well.

As for resources I will have pages with the geologic background for fossil fuel resources in Pennsylvania.  I also get tweets and e-mail alerts for various pro-development fora and anti-fracking meetings, I plan to start postung these on their own page.

Finally, my news searches, RSS feeds and e-mail alerts often provide me with news dealing with fracking and shale gas, but not related to Pennsylvania.  Since I realize not all readers are in the state or are interested in the subject in general I will tweet this particular stories even though I won't include them in my daily news update here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Weekend Marcellus News Update 6/8-10

Fracking Aqua-PVR and the Riverdale Snipers
Garder54 calls Kevin June “a real scum.”
LadyDawg4 calls him a “sleazeball.”
Proud2bMom calls him a “liar and a thief.”
Kevin June is the reluctant leader for the 37 families of the Riverdale Mobile Home Village in Jersey Shore, Pa., who were evicted from their homes, most of which they owned and paid a monthly lot fee. Some of the residents lived there for more than three decades. Most of the residents are elderly, disabled, or living slightly above the poverty line. Several are employed; all are struggling to survive in a bad economy.
In late February, Aqua–PVR, a joint operation of Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resource Partners, bought the 12-acre trailer park for $550,000. It plans to build a pumping station to withdraw up to three million gallons of water a day from the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, and send that water through a newly-constructed pipeline system to natural gas companies that use fracking. The controversial practice involves forcing as much as 10 million gallons of water, sand, toxic chemicals and potential carcinogens deep into the earth to withdraw natural gas. The Marcellus Shale, primarily in Pennsylvania and parts of four surrounding states, is one of the nation’s largest sources for natural gas.  Health and environmental pollution problems are widespread near the wells.
Aqua-PVR had originally ordered the residents to leave by May 1, but then extended it a month. It dangled a $2,500 relocation incentive in its eviction. However, the cost to move each trailer is between $6,000 and $11,000 plus any sheds and ramps.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. said Friday it would sell its midstream business to Global Infrastructure Partners for $4 billion.
The Oklahoma City-based natural gas company, which has a significant presence in the Marcellus Shale, has been under fire for a large amount of debt and cash flow issues. The announcement, which Chesapeake said would be accomplished in three separate transactions, will give Chesapeake not only the $4 billion but also would reduce its capital expenditures by $3 billion over three years.
Federal health and environmental agencies are investigating whether Range Resources Inc.'s Yeager Marcellus Shale gas drilling site in Washington County caused toxic air and groundwater pollution that damaged the health of nearby residents.
The Atlanta-based Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said this week it has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since March 2011 to assess health problems reported by residents living in a valley below Range's wastewater pond and a drill cuttings pit at the Amwell Township site.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority board hired Texas-based Mead & Hunt Inc. Friday to develop possible business plans, including costs and flight schedules, for airlines that might be interested in starting service between Pittsburgh and 13 other airports in the state, including Latrobe, DuBois, Erie, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Lancaster and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Taxpayers could be on the hook for cleaning up pollution at a zinc smelter site in Beaver County, increasing the public price tag if Shell Oil Co. buys the property for a new petrochemical plant.
Shell, which would not have to pay property taxes for 15 years at the Horsehead Corp. site and could qualify for $1.7 billion in state credits, might have its environmental cleanup bills covered by federal tax incentives, state officials said on Friday.
Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh could not be reached for comment.
The news of additional subsidies for Shell, the world's second-largest company with more than $20 billion in profits last year, left state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, "very troubled."
"Wouldn't it make more sense for the company that caused the pollution to pay for the costs of cleaning it up, rather than the taxpayers?" asked Leach, who yesterday sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett questioning the various credits the state is offering Shell and called for public hearings on the matter.
Fish and Boat makes money from leases on timber and mineral rights, including Marcellus Shale gas, on agency-owned properties. But Arway said it's a proverbial drop in the bucket.
"We don't have as much property as the Game Commission," he said. "We have 44,000 acres, mostly boat launches and properties around lakes. I think we've had one sale of timber. We're making efforts to market shale gas on some of our properties, but it's not anywhere near the extraction phase. We have not withdrawn any gas. There have been no royalty payments yet."
Arway said the agency can't rely on income from resource leases to meet its wildlife management expenses.
"It was estimated that if we owned all the mineral rights on our properties -- and we're not sure if we own them -- we'd bring in over $50 million in 20 years," he said. "But that's not nearly enough to meet our obligations. We have a $120 million need just to fix our high-hazard dams that have been closed."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update, 6/7/12

Please click on titles to read complete stories
Pennsylvania County’s Dreams of Wealth Didn’t Work Out
Today there is no drilling in Wayne County, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its June 11 issue. The Delaware River Basin Commission, a regional regulatory agency, has declared a moratorium while it studies the environmental impact. Gas companies have invoked force majeure clauses to put their contracts with property owners on hold.
Investors who bought farmland are stuck, and farmers who expected to retire on gas royalties are back to eking out a living from agriculture.
Meanwhile, fracking opponents are brandishing the example of Wayne County as they fight shale energy exploration across the country.
Aubrey McClendon's and Chesapeake Energy's financial woes don't seem like they're going to improve in the very near future.
And that's good or bad news for the people of Pennsylvania -- depending on who you ask...

....And an article today from Pipeline editor Erich Schwartzel explains that Chesapeake also intends to hit up Ohio by putting up for sale more than 337,000 acres across 19 eastern Ohio counties. This will help the company's debt, regardless of whether or not it chooses to actually top the Utica Shale buried beneath.
My wife and I spend the summertime at a small farm in Susquehanna County in northeastern Pennsylvania, where our modest 18 acres (once many more) have been in her family since 1954. We in Hallstead, Pa., are smack-dab in the middle of hydraulic fracturing country, so the emerging fracking controversy in North Carolina is more than hypothetical to us.
The farm is only 19 miles from Dimock, the epicenter of gas drilling in the county and the small town featured in the opening scenes of “Gasland,” the HBO documentary on fracking. An indelible image from the documentary is of one Dimock homeowner turning on his kitchen faucet and igniting the methane that came out along with the water. The area has been full of methane for decades, though, and my wife remembers stories of flaming faucets from well before fracking began.
Four years ago, we signed a lease on our property to allow drilling. The money was attractive, and since literally everyone around us had signed up it would have been foolish for us to hold back. There was no way we could escape the widespread disruption of life in an area riddled with wells and active drilling operations.

Read more here:
A constitutional challenge by seven municipalities to Pennsylvania's new law regulating the growth of natural gas exploration is in the hands of seven Commonwealth Court judges upon a hearing on Wednesday in which they repeatedly challenged lawyers from both sides in the closely watched case.
The municipalities want the law overturned; the state wants the case thrown out. The judges could ask for more evidence before making a final ruling or could strike down only parts of the law. Lawyers said they expect a ruling within several months.
The heart of the argument is the extent of the state's power to tell municipalities where they must allow drilling-related activity, including rigs, waste pits, pipelines and the compressor and processing stations that help move gas from the underground Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania to consumers across the northeastern United States.
Amid Western Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling boom a common refrain from area manufacturers has been a frustration in breaking into the industry supply chain that largely reaches back into companies out of energy-rich states like Texas or Oklahoma.
With that in mind a new study released by the University of Pittsburgh’s  Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence aims to help local companies better understand the natural gas industry and then better see where they might fit into the supply chain.
Though natural gas is not being developed anywhere near Philadelphia, the Marcellus Shale Coalition on Wednesday launched an outreach effort to solicit questions from residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania about shale-gas extraction.
The coalition, an industry trade group, launched, an online forum that asks readers to list questions about drilling, which the trade group says it will attempt to answer in a "fact-based" manner. The site also surveys respondents about their support or opposition to drilling. The online forum will be live from June 6 through July 20.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 6/6/12

Proposed Shell tax break in Pa. worth $66M a year
Gov. Tom Corbett, who has been criticized for cutting state spending for schools and social services, is advocating future tax credits worth as much as $66 million a year for a petrochemical refinery planned by Shell Oil Co. in western Pennsylvania to capitalize on booming natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.

The Corbett administration is seeking legislative approval now to demonstrate its willingness to share the costs of the multibillion-dollar project, even though the credits would not become available until 2017. The credit would be worth nearly $1.7 billion over the 25 years they would remain in place.
Gov. Tom Corbett wants Pennsylvania to promise a 5-cent-a-gallon tax credit for Shell Chemical L.P. and other manufacturers using Pennsylvania ethane, a Marcellus Shale drilling-zone product the governor says could be the base for a new plastics industry.
Steve Kratz, spokesman for Corbett’s Department of Community and Economic Development, which gives out business subsidies and tax breaks when it’s not forcing cash-strapped city governments to pay their bondholders, called Monday to explain the thinking behind the idea, after columnist Peter L. DeCoursey posted an account of a "secretive" ethane-tax proposal in Corbett’s budget.
Defending a proposed $1.7 billion tax break for a planned petrochemical refinery in western Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett said Tuesday the facility would be a major step toward rebuilding the state's manufacturing sector.
"My whole goal is to grow good, sustaining jobs for the people of Pennsylvania, not just today but for decades to come," Corbett said in his first public comments about the tax proposal during an appearance on the R.J. Harris show on WHP Talk Radio in Harrisburg.
Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) condemned the planned giveaway of $1.7 billion in taxpayer dollars that Gov. Tom Corbett promised to Royal Dutch Shell as an inducement to build a cracker plant in Beaver County to process the wet gas from drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Shell posted $7.3 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2012 (over $80 million per day) and had more than $10 billion in cash reserves as of January 2012.
"The governor's proposal violates his own belief that the free market, and not government, should pick winners and losers," said George Jugovic Jr., president and CEO of PennFuture. "Let's be clear -- by choosing to offer Shell a $1.7 billion dollar tax break while proposing to cut nearly $900 million to public education, the governor is choosing winners and losers and he has cast his lot with choosing to further help a multi-billion dollar corporation over the education of future generations of Pennsylvanians.
"The governor's proposal to give Shell tax credits worth $67 million a year for 25 years will mean that not one, but two generations of Pennsylvanians will pay be on the hook for his largesse," said Jugovic.
The first word that comes to mind as details begin to leak about what carrots were hung from what sticks to lure Shell to Beaver County to build a multibillion-dollar ethane "cracker" plant is "BLECH!" (as in "disgusting"). For Pennsylvania has been down this road before. Think Volkswagen, Sony, Kvaerner and Comcast, among others.
The proposed plant is designed to appropriately exploit the region's growing Marcellus shale natural gas industry. It's an exciting new industry with the greatest of promise -- for jobs, the economies of local communities, support industries and for companies such as Shell, which stands to make huge profits from the cheap and abundant shale gas byproduct.
So, why should Shell be offered an "incentive" package that, by one accounting, totals $67 million annually for a quarter of a century or nearly $1.7 billion? In fact, according to another accounting, not only would Shell end up not paying any taxes, taxpayers effectively would end up paying Shell -- and all with no guarantee of jobs created.
Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, says Pennsylvania taxpayers should not be forced to invest in any project that should be able to forecast sufficient profits to justify building the facility. He sees the "incentives" as "little more than an insurance policy" against future "market vagaries."
Just as government has no business turning taxpayers into venture capitalists, "Taxpayers should not be in the insurance business," Dr. Haulk reminds us in an email.
Maybe there’s a case to be made for the tax breaks Corbett is offering Shell; and, if so, he should be out front making it.
Instead, on Tuesday he went on a local Harrisburg radio talk show to offer what’s believed to be his first public comment on the plan.
"My whole goal is to grow good, sustaining jobs for the people of Pennsylvania, not just today but for decades to come," Corbett said, according to an Associated Press report.
Few could argue against such a goal.
But if you’re pushing the largest government/business deal in the commonwealth’s history, you’d think there’d be a little more offered to the people who’ll pay for it.
IT’S WELL-KNOWN to most by now that Gov. Corbett doesn’t much like welfare programs. His recent initiative to deny food stamps to anyone with assets exceeding $5,500, the banishment of about 90,000 kids from the Medicaid rolls, and the elimination of cash-assistance grants for the disabled and others are among recent moves that makes his position clear.

There is an exception to his aversion to welfare, though: If you’re a corporation, you can get plenty of state aid, and you won’t be subjected to any kind of means test. That’s the only explanation we can figure for his recent proposal to give almost $2 billion in tax breaks over the next 25 years to the second-richest company in the world, Royal Dutch Shell.
OK, SO THINGS aren’t looking so good right now for flamboyant Oklahoma City oil-and-gas mogul and possibly now ex-billionaire Aubrey McClendon.
The CEO of Chesapeake Energy has federal securities agents asking hard questions about $1.3 billion in personal loans; famed corporate raider Carl Icahn is outside his doorstep; and McClendon has watched the company stock that’s the bulk of his fortune lose half of its value since August.
But not to worry: McClendon has a plan.
You could call it, "frack, baby, frack."
And a corner of Pennsylvania is ground zero.
Last month, McClendon told Wall Street analysts in a conference call that the troubled energy giant that bills itself "the world’s biggest fracker" plans to save itself by shifting from "a strategy of asset capture to a strategy of asset harvest."
Brian O'Neill's May 31 column ("It's Not Dirty to See Gas as Energy Solution") makes some false assumptions about natural gas and clean energy.
We still don't know which chemicals the natural gas industry uses when fracking. The industry continues to fight all safeguards aimed at making sure the public knows which chemical cocktail is being used for fracking -- claiming it's a "trade secret." Here in Pennsylvania, the natural gas lobby helped make sure that the latest law won't even allow doctors to tell their patients which fracking chemicals could be affecting their health.
Mr. O'Neill ignores the growth explosion in the clean energy industry. In the first quarter of 2012, one of the industry's best quarters ever, the United States installed 1,695 megawatts of wind -- up 53 percent from the same time last year -- according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 6/4/12

Please click on titles for the complete stories. 
In Pennsylvania Coal Country, Voters Not Thrilled With Their Choices (Uniontown, Pa.)
This is coal country, even if there's hardly any coal anymore. The elders can name the coal veins and describe their dimensions. People will still say, "I grew up in the patch." That means they were raised in a cluster of company houses back in a hollow near the mouth of a mine. The kids would play king-of-the-hill on gobheaps of broken slate and mining waste.
The company houses are still there, but the gobheaps are overgrown. Hidden in the brush are the ruins of the beehive ovens that turned coal into coke and blackened the skies along the western slope of the Alleghenies.
The big play now is natural gas. Fayette County, which borders West Virginia about an hour's drive south of Pittsburgh, is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale. Civic leaders hope that fracking — the hydraulic fracturing of the shale rock to liberate the gas in its pores — can reverse the fortunes of this depressed region.
This part of Pennsylvania is a political and economic battleground, a transitional place loaded with history, with memories of prosperity but also of vicious poverty. It's on the front line of America's economic doldrums, and it is not incidentally a swing county in presidential elections.
In response to a call for solidarity from the Save Riverdale campaign, Occupy Cleveland will drive 4 and a half hours to Jersey Shore, PA to stand with Riverdale residents in a blockade to prevent the fracking industry from evicting 37 families from their homes.

On June 1, 2012, residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park and supporters set up barricades at the entrance of Riverdale to stop the community from being displaced by Aqua America's plans to construct a fracking water withdrawal facility and send a powerful message to perpetrators of environmental and economic injustice. Occupy Cleveland stands with the Occupy Wall Street movement in national support and solidarity with the residents of Riverdale against Aqua America. 
Waterways in the commonwealth are considered publicly owned if they are, or have ever been, used for commercial trade or travel. The list and maps of the waterways compiled by DCNR include hundreds of streams throughout the state's Marcellus Shale region.
Where the state owns the streambeds, it also owns the mineral rights beneath them.
DCNR spokeswoman Christina Novak said the state is developing a standard agreement for companies who either want to drill horizontal wellbores under streams or who will, through hydraulic fracturing, draw gas from rock formations deep under the waterways. Unlike standard lease agreements for drillers who operate in state forests, the leases will not address surface impacts because there won't be any on state property, she said.
"This would just allow an operator to access underneath a navigable waterway from nearby but to compensate the commonwealth because it is the owner of the resource," she said.
The agency alerted gas drillers in March that the state would begin seeking compensation through lease payments and royalties for gas removed under the waterways.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekend Marcellus News Update 6/3

Please click on titles for the complete stories.
Fracking’s Interstate Pollution Needs U.S. Rules, Scientist Says
The process, known as fracking, uses chemically treated water to free gas trapped in underground shale formations. It also releases benzene and ozone into the atmosphere and can pollute surface water, Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said in prepared remarks for a hearing today by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“The pollution from unconventional oil and gas development moves across state lines in surface waters, in the air and in gas pipelines,” Howarth said. “This interstate pollution clearly calls for federal oversight of environmental and public- health regulation.”
Howarth’s testimony put him at odds with Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and committee chairman, as well as industry representatives and state regulators who support standards at the local level and say Obama administration rules are slowing energy development.
Dimock, PA (WBNG Binghamton) Cabot Oil and Gas is fracking wells throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, and prides itself on the ability to recycle the water used during the Hydrofracking process.
Cabot Oil and Gas is working with Comtech Industries to recycle 100% of the water that comes back to the surface during the fracking process.
Defending his approach to taxing companies drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett said the most important question before those companies — and all companies considering doing business here — is the total tax bill they face. “These are business people,” Corbett said during a recent meeting with editors and reporters at The Times Herald headquarters in Norristown. “When you are a business person, you are going to look to see where you got the best deal,” he said Wednesday. So his approach to the Marcellus shale debate — during which critics have charged Corbett should push for a “severance tax” like other states have in order to help plug Pennsylvania’s budget holes — should be viewed in the context of his overall approach to attracting business to Pennsylvania, he said.
Fracking involves sending millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals thousands of feet down wells to literally fracture shale rock, releasing previously inaccessible stores of natural gas. This process has sparked fears of potential groundwater contamination, either through the fracking fluid or natural gas entering aquifers.

While a number of studies have come out showing that the technique can be safely used, an Environmental Protection Agency preliminary draft analysis of data from last December linked fracking with groundwater contamination in Wyoming. While industry insiders point out that the incident was very unique, the public perception that "fracking equals danger" remains.

In part to combat these social and environmental issues, the International Energy Agency released a report titled, " Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas ."

"The technology and the know-how already exist for unconventional gas to be produced in an environmentally acceptable way," IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said in a release. "But if the social and environmental impacts are not addressed properly, there is a very real possibility that public opposition to drilling for shale gas and other types of unconventional gas will halt the unconventional gas revolution in its tracks. The industry must win public confidence by demonstrating exemplary performance; governments must ensure that appropriate policies and regulatory regimes are in place."
Grassroots activism is the core of the environmental movement. Nowhere have I found that to be more evident than at Heartwood Forest Council gatherings. Last weekend, I attended the 22nd Annual Heartwood Forest Council in Northwest Pennsylvania, at which nearly 100 of the most passionate and dedicated activists gathered in the Allegheny National Forest next to the land of the Seneca Nation of Indians.
The three-day gathering, Become Your Place, Defend Your Self!, was filled with workshops, discussions, keynote speakers, field trips to oil and gas drilling sites in the Allegheny National Forest, late-night revelry at the campfire, live music, and the greatest local and organic vegetarian food prepared by chefs Shane McElwee and Mia Manion.
The following is a press release from State Sen. Andy Dinniman's office.
State Senator Andy Dinniman will participate in a panel discussion on natural gas drilling hosted by the Sierra Club of Chester County on Tuesday, June 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chester County Library’s Struble Room.
“Pennsylvania sits atop one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world – the Marcellus Shale formation. The natural gas industry has provided an economic boon to our Commonwealth, but it also has an impact on our landscapes, on our waterways and on our wildlife,” Dinniman said.
Although no shale deposits lie beneath South­east Penn­syl­va­nia, Philadel­phia res­i­dents are reap­ing some ben­e­fits from the Mar­cel­lus Shale boom. Philadel­phia Gas Works announced today that they’re drop­ping their rates, cut­ting res­i­den­tial heat­ing bills by an aver­age of 2.5 percent.
“In the last year alone, PGW’s nat­ural gas rate has fallen from $1.562 per hun­dred cubic feet (Ccf) on June 1, 2011, to today’s rate of $1.35623 per Ccf for res­i­den­tial cus­tomers. On an annu­al­ized basis, the aver­age PGW res­i­den­tial cus­tomer, using 880 Ccf of nat­ural gas a year, now pays $181 less than they did twelve months ago.”
Williams Partners LP is holding a nonbinding open season to expand its Transco interstate natural gas pipeline, providing incremental firm transportation capacity to markets in northern Georgia and Alabama by 2016. The Dalton Expansion Project would ship up to 600 MMcfd from interconnections accessing Marcellus gas production at its Zone 6 Station 210 pooling point.
Ed Rendell
Throughout my tenure as governor, I witnessed Pennsylvania become an epicenter for natural-gas development. This influx of jobs and investment spurred an unprecedented economic boom for our state and, thanks to a resource found right here in Pennsylvania, this economic revitalization continues. Cheap, clean, and abundant energy is available to heat our homes, fuel our cars and trucks, and power our state’s economy. It’s not a campaign slogan, it’s reality.
Natural gas stands to make significant strides in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in particular, especially when used for transportation. By transitioning SEPTA to natural gas, Philadelphia could lower taxpayer costs and refocus funds while making significant strides to be a better steward of the environment.
Natural gas burns much cleaner than traditional fossil fuels, with tailpipe emissions 25 percent cleaner than gasoline and diesel. As a former mayor of Philadelphia, I know how important air quality is to the city’s families and residents. Using natural gas to power our buses, heavy-duty trucks, and other fleet vehicles will dramatically reduce hazardous pollutants, making our air cleaner and safer to breathe.
Like a runner who's gotten a big head start in a race, Pennsylvania might be set to dominate natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale region for many years, experts say.
With billions of dollars already invested in leases, wells and related infrastructure, the state is a cost-effective place to do business. A plunge in wholesale prices has made being thrifty a must for some companies, dealing a potential blow to would-be upstart New York.
Fadel Gheit, an oil and gas analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. in New York City, said he expects Pennsylvania to be the center of activity for the next few years, if not longer.
"The industry will always stay with what they've got," said Gheit,
For the tiny Columbia in Bradford County, the new gas drilling impact fee will yield a check later this year nearly equal to the township's annual budget.
The northeastern Pennsylvania township's 1,200 residents have witnessed about 125 gas wells being drilled due to the Marcellus Shale boom -- the most of any town in the commonwealth, according to the most recent state data.
While that data remains somewhat in flux as state officials and drillers fact-check a list of more than 4,800 gas wells, even conservative estimates show that the town is eligible for a check this fall of more than $1.1 million.
More appropriate settings for the song that renowned naturalist John Burroughs termed "the finest sound in nature" lay miles to the east and north amid the upper reaches of hemlock-shaded hillsides flanking Laurel Ridge, and all across the vast hardwood forests of north central Pennsylvania's high plateau. Here the hermit thrush population has been steadily increasing for five decades, a trend attributable to expanding and maturing forest cover.
Current shale gas development practices, however, threaten to dramatically reduce the populations of hermit thrushes and many other species because of forest fragmentation. The term denotes the process whereby blocks of wooded property are converted to other uses or, more subtly, split into increasingly smaller parcels by roads, pipelines or power lines.
This alteration of forest patterns is routinely listed among the issues related to Marcellus Shale development but seldom discussed. In hopes of remedying that, I brought a stuffed hermit thrush to the WQED forum.
“It’s had mostly a good impact,” said Steve Quillin, local Farm Bureau president. “Just driving around, we saw farmers making improvements and updates to their properties.”
Money from oil and gas leases has allowed agriculture to expand, added Jerry Lahmers, chairman of the policy development committee for the organization. The influx of cash has prompted some older farmers to retire, but their farms have been absorbed by others or have been rented...Following the tour, they attended a working lunch that featured several speakers. Among them were two Washington County commissioners; a farmer who does consulting on leasing and pipeline construction; a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group; a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature; and an investment advisor from the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.