Pennsylvania officials to appeal ruling on shale drilling law
The fight over who should control zoning rules for Marcellus Shale drilling moved to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday, when state officials announced they were appealing a court decision that thwarted attempts to create statewide zoning.
The anticipated announcement came one day after a panel of Commonwealth Court judges ruled that Pennsylvania can't require municipalities to allow drilling in areas where their local zoning rules would prohibit it.
"We very much expected that ... whoever lost would appeal to the state Supreme Court," said David Ball, a councilman from Peters, one of several municipalities that sued to challenge the creation of statewide zoning. "We felt we had a good case. We still believe that much, and the act is unconstitutional."
State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Clearfield County, applauds the Commonwealth Court’s ruling that struck down provisions in Pennsylvania’s Act 13 Marcellus shale gas law that obstructed local zoning protections.
“I feared that Pennsylvanians seeking responsible Marcellus safeguards would run out of words — such as unfair, inadequate and slanted — to describe Act 13,” said George, Democratic chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “However, the court gave us one more – unconstitutional.”
One local lawmaker called Thursday’s state Commonwealth Court ruling to strike down portions of Act 13—the state’s newly enacted legislation regulating Marcellus Shale drilling—a “major victory” for residents and local government bodies....
But other local officials said they were “disappointed” in the ruling because it leaves many questions on how the industry will respond, as well as many others.
“Are we back to square one? Does this throw the cracker plant out the window? I hope not,” state Sen. Tim Solobay said. “I don’t know how the industry will respond to this.”
And he said that while Act 13 was not perfect in its final form, it was a “blessing to many communities” that didn’t have zoning regulations or the cash to implement them.
And he criticized municipal officials who said they made the challenge because they had the responsibility to protect its residents.
Published Penn State geology maps show it can take on average twice the distance to drill into the Marcellus shale gas formation in Pennsylvania than it does in neighboring New York State or Ohio where shale formations are much closer to the surface. As drilling depths play a key role in the industry regarding total extraction costs, such geology may be playing a significant but unrecognized factor driving the recent downturn in shale gas drilling in the Pennsylvania Marcellus.
Much shorter drilling depths in Ohio and New York State
In Ohio, it can take less than 2,000 feet to reach the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. In New York State, reaching the Marcellus shale begins at a depth of less than 2000 feet. But due to the way the Marcellus shale formation dramatically dips down into the earth under Pennsylvania, drillers must often go 5,000 to 6,000 feet or more down into the earth before they reach varying parts of the formation considered productive. Depths of 7,000 to 9,000 feet are not unknown. Adding to difficult extractions costs, Pennsylvania’s Marcellus region produces less profitable dry shale gas. To reach the Utica shale formation holding wet oil infused gas which is more valuable to the industry, the drilling depths again favor Ohio and New York State at an average depth of 3,000 feet while in Pennsylvania it can take 10,000 feet or more to reach the Utica as it lies below the Marcellus shale.
Marcellus Shale natural gas is helping to create family-sustaining jobs in Blair County and across Pennsylvania, Lt. Governor Jim Cawley said today during a tour of New Pig Corporation in Tipton.
"Whether it is at one of the drill sites in the southern end of the county or right here at New Pig, Marcellus Shale is creating good, family-sustaining jobs. Governor Tom Corbett and I want to see more of this happen across the state," said Cawley.
Cawley cited recent Department of Labor and Industry statistics showing that 29,000 people are working in the drilling industry in the state with average annual earnings of $81,000. There are about 238,000 people working in related industries.
"We're taking the time to present the facts in a reasoned and well-thought out manner," said Dennis Holbrook, an East Aurora resident who is the executive vice president of Norse Energy and - as a 40-year veteran of the gas industry - favors using hydraulic fracturing in the state.
"There's been so much misinformation out there," Holbrook said. "I think it's critically important for people to understand what a tremendous opportunity this really is."
But many of the roughly three dozen or so in attendance seemed unmoved by either Holbrook's explanation or those offered by the two other panelists, Scott Cline of Petroleum Engineering and John Holko, owner of Lenape Resources.
Those opposed to hydraulic fracturing chuckled and offered several catcalls during the 34-minute film that features Pennsylvania mother and landowner Shelly Depue, on a her personal pursuit for "the truth" about the hydro-fracking process after she and her family watched Josh Fox's 2010 documentary "Gasland."
Twenty-one high school students from Pennsylvania and New York recently participated in a different kind of summer camp experience. Rather than go on hikes, paddle canoes and tell ghost stories around a campfire, the teenagers learned about career paths in the shale gas industry while attending the inaugural Marcellus Camp 2012 at Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.
"This camp was designed to teach high school students about the development of shale gas resources in our region and the career and educational opportunities available after high school," said Lindsey Sikorski, interim director of The Marcellus Institute at the university, which is located in Tioga County, Pa.
The shale industry remains phenomenally controversial. Not a week goes by without a study proving or disproving whether hydraulic fracking of the sedimentary rock poses dangers to area residents — and then is immediately contested by the opposing side.
Without acknowledging or accepting which side is correct (we believe both sides have strong cases), we wanted to present the economic effects the booming Marcellus shale resource industry has had on Pennsylvania's economy.
Lead author Charles "Chip" Groat, of the University of Texas, told reporters when the research on hydraulic fracturing was presented at a major science conference in Canada in February that the university had turned down all industry funds for the study. However, an investigation by the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) found that Groat himself has been on the board of the Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Company for several years. Groat was paid more than $400,000 in cash and stock by the company in 2011, and holds a near $1.6 million stake in the company's stock, it said. Kevin Connor, the director of the nonprofit PAI, told AFP the report was presented as if it were an independent study on fracking, when it actually represented a "conflict of interest" that should have been disclosed. A University of Texas spokeswoman told AFP that an investigation has been launched and an independent panel was being convened to review the study, with its findings expected in a few weeks.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-author-fracking-gas-industry-ties.html#jCpLead author Charles "Chip" Groat, of the University of Texas, told reporters when the research on hydraulic fracturing was presented at a major science conference in Canada in February that the university had turned down all industry funds for the study. However, an investigation by the Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) found that Groat himself has been on the board of the Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Company for several years. Groat was paid more than $400,000 in cash and stock by the company in 2011, and holds a near $1.6 million stake in the company's stock, it said. Kevin Connor, the director of the nonprofit PAI, told AFP the report was presented as if it were an independent study on fracking, when it actually represented a "conflict of interest" that should have been disclosed. A University of Texas spokeswoman told AFP that an investigation has been launched and an independent panel was being convened to review the study, with its findings expected in a few weeks.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-author-fracking-gas-industry-ties.html#j