Monday, July 9, 2012

Penn. Marcellus News Update 7/9/12

I'm back from my break in New England, where it was much more comfortable than it was down here. I'll start off with a news update on Marcellus developments for today.

As always, click on the headline for the original complete article.

Protesters lead to temporary shutdown of Pa. rig
Protesters demonstrating against hydraulic fracturing at a state forest led to a new gas drilling rig temporarily being shut down Sunday.
EQT Corp. spokeswoman Natalie Cox said the company shut down the rig in Moshannon State Forest in central Pennsylvania at midday. The rig was just being commissioned, and protesters said it had gone up in the last week.
Cox said the Pittsburgh-based company's primary concern was the well-being of its employees and contractors.
"The safety of everyone involved is our primary concern, including employees, contractors, police officers and the protesters themselves," Cox said. "Therefore, operations will not resume until we are assured it is safe to do so."
Gloria Forouzan of Marcellus Protest said 150 demonstrators had blocked an access road for trucks headed to the EQT rig.
State police are at the site monitoring the situation. No arrests have been made.
on Young, 60, has been a longtime critic of fracking, which has proliferated in the Barnett Shale formation that runs underneath the Fort Worth area. He also is the founder of a group called Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations.
His concern is shared by others in both rural and urban parts of Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio, where drilling for natural gas beneath homes, parks, churches, schools and even cemeteries has become commonplace. The fracking process, in which sand, water and chemicals are injected deep underground at high pressure to extract natural gas from rock formations, has been criticized by environmentalists and others who worry about its effects on groundwater and residents' health.
Cemetery owners lease their mineral rights to oil and gas companies to allow fracking, earning money that many have used to refurbish and maintain their grounds, fencing, sanctuaries and roads. Cemetery managers and oil and gas company executives said fracking, because it occurred at roughly 7,000 feet to 8,000 feet below ground, did not damage graves. And because of advances in horizontal drilling, they said, the wells and other equipment can be located more than a mile away to avoid disrupting the serene atmosphere of the cemetery.
As natural gas prices drop this year, the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania slows substantially. The number of rigs operating in the state is down 29 percent from its peak a year prior, according to Baker Hughes Inc., a tracker of the industry.
The slowdown is no surprise seeing as many exploration companies have been planning on shifting drilling equipment to areas where the oil and natural gas is more profitable. The warm winter, further depressing demand and prices, had an influence as well.
In the northern area of the state, where the most intensive drilling activity has taken place over the last few years, is particularly slowing down.
A new study enters the debate over the safety of hydraulic fracturing: researchers report that naturally occurring paths in the rock bed in northeastern Pennsylvania allowed some contaminants to migrate into shallow drinking aquifers. They found no direct connection between the contamination and shale-gas drilling operations in the region, however.
“The good news is there is no direct link between this finding with saline water and shell gas extraction,” said Avner Vengosh, a geochemist at Duke University and a co-author of the report, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The bad news is that we think there are natural pathways that exist between the Marcellus formation and the shallow groundwater.”
A vote on proposed rules for natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed is likely still more than four months away.
Carol R. Collier, the executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, said this week that she "would be surprised" if a vote on the regulations happens before November, a message she shared with leaders of a Wayne County landowners group during a private, informal meeting early last week.
The interstate commission that regulates water quality and quantity in the watershed appeared ready to adopt a basin-specific set of drilling rules in November 2011, but the vote was canceled after the commissioners — governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware and a federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers — could not reach an agreement on the proposal.
In an assessment of "undiscovered" oil and gas resources, a U.S. Geological Survey report released in June estimated that 876 billion cubic feet of natural gas may be contained in a geologic formation called the South Newark Basin. Formed about 227 million years ago, the South Newark lies under portions of Bucks and Montgomery Counties as well as part of New Jersey. The Marcellus Shale formation holds 160 times more gas, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The amount in the South Newark Basin is too little to be worth pursuing for now, said Dan Weaver, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, an industry group. "Do we foresee within the industry any major movement in that direction? No," he said.
But, Weaver added, "that's not to say you're not going to get a small company saying, 'Hey, why don't we drill a test well?' "
The uneven approach is bad not only for the environment but also for industry, because under the current system, mistakes by a few bad apples could lead to overregulation or even outright bans on drilling.
A better approach is one already reflected in many environmental laws: cooperative federalism. The federal government sets baseline standards, which states can exceed but not fall below. Ideally, these would be general “performance standards” rather than detailed specifications, giving the states flexibility to meet them.

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