Sunday, July 15, 2012

Weekend Penn. Marcellus News Update 7/15/12

Special treatment: How did two counties rate a ban on gas drilling?
The Corbett administration and legislative leadership rejected the calls for exceptionalism, and the Post-Gazette generally agreed, welcoming this relatively new industry and its jobs to Pennsylvania so long as it received effective state regulation and contributed adequately to state coffers (one area where Act 13, the new drilling law, failed).
The state's we're-all-in-it-together approach was shattered two weeks ago when, in the General Assembly's flurry of activity to pass a $27.65 billion budget, seven paragraphs were slipped into the fiscal code giving Bucks and Montgomery counties a moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling*.
Though it has largely been brushed off by the industry because the Marcellus lies thousands of feet below the aquifer level, a new study by geologists from Duke University and California State Polytechnic University at Pomona suggests that water originating far below aquifers has entered Northeastern Pennsylvania drinking water sources in the past, and that geologic pathways for contamination exist.
The study, published in the most recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined water samples taken from more than 150 wells in six Northeastern Pennsylvania counties and found brine and other elements likely originating in layers of earth much deeper than the aquifer level. However, it also found no link with the proximity of natural gas wells.
The study has already become a political football. Some natural gas opponents champion it as evidence that drilling additives are polluting aquifers. Supporters, among them industry group Energy In Depth, question the validity and relevance of its findings. 
The Tour De Frack bike trek from Butler to Washington, D.C. is about protesting what riders call "the fracking free-for-all" that has begun in Western Pennsylvania.
"This is about the people from the community," said Shayna Metz, 26, of Industry, Beaver County, who noted the tour's slogan is Human Power-Human Stories. "We have community power because there are a ton of people behind us. And we're carrying stories with us because (some) are too sick to ride with us."
The 400-mile ride kicked off with a two-hour rally in Diamond Park in the City of Butler on Saturday morning. The group of four riders biked 22-miles to Blackberry Meadows Farm on Ridge Road in Fawn, where they pitched tents to spend the night.
Consol Energy said Friday that a Marcellus Shale well it drilled in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, achieved a peak 24-hour production rate of 17,900 Mcf, the highest of any well in the company's history.

The Pittsburgh-based company also said it drilled 17 Marcellus wells in the second quarter and placed 18 online.  
According to MarcellusMoney.org (which is a is a collaborative effort of Common Cause PA and the Conversation Voters of PA, environmentalist groups) report, the natural-gas industry has forked over $23 million to influence Pennsylvania state officials—including $8 million to state officials and candidates since 2000 and $15.7 million in lobbying between 2007 and 2012—to get them on board with drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
The biggest winner of cash money in Pennsylvania? Gov. Corbett. He’s received over $1.8 million in funds; while Senate President Joseph Scarnati, a Republican who represents parts of Jefferson, McKean, Elk and other counties, got $359,145.72 and House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai, of Western Pennsylvania, took in $98,600.
*editor's note: the geologic formation of interest in Bucks and Montgomery Counties is the Newark Basin, not the Marcellus Shale.

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