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.

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