Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weekend Penn. Marcellus News Update, 8/5/12

Pa. environmental chief locks horns with activists

Michael Krancer, Gov. Corbett's chief environmental regulator, seems to delight in doing battle with critics of the state's oversight of the Marcellus Shale gas boom.
In May, Krancer said that Delaware "smells like the tail of a dog" because of its opposition to drilling regulations proposed for the Delaware River Basin. In a congressional hearing, he challenged a Cornell University scientist to a duel over hydraulic fracturing (just kidding, Krancer said).
Then there were Krancer's snarky skirmishes with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over regulation of drilling, which is traditionally a function of state agencies like Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection, the agency Krancer heads.
"We realize and recognize that EPA is very new to all of this and the EPA's understanding of the facts and science behind this activity is rudimentary," Krancer wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson this year.
In an interview last week, Krancer said he was not out to pick fights with opponents, only to engage in mutual enlightenment.

Local officials confident in Marcellus Shale zoning ruling

A panel of Commonwealth Court judges ruled July 26 that zoning provisions in Act 13 were unconstitutional, and the state cannot force towns to allow natural gas drilling and facilities in areas where local zoning rules prohibit them.
The state immediately appealed the finding to the state Supreme Court and requested an October hearing. Among plaintiffs in the lawsuit are South Fayette, Cecil, Peters, Mount Pleasant and Robinson, Washington County.
Brian Coppola, Robinson supervisors chairman, was pleased with the ruling that the statewide zoning requirements were unconstitutional.
"We got everything that we had asked for before this [Act 13] legislation had passed," Mr. Coppola said. "We got the impact fees, but we maintained local zoning control."
He was confident the Supreme Court will uphold the decision.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency will make state funds available for low-income housing projects in the Marcellus Shale region, the agency announced Wednesday.
In February, WPSU reported an uptick in homelessness and the rising cost of rent as Tioga County and others saw an influx of drillers with plenty of dollars move into the area.
That caused rent for some properties jump from $800 to $3,000 a month, according to the WPSU report, leaving some residents homeless.
Sometimes, even in politics, you have to admit you’re wrong. Gov. Tom Corbett and members of the Legislature were wrong to strip local municipalities of their zoning rights in Act 13, the Marcellus Shale law. Even zoning land “residential” would not make any difference if drillers want access to the land. That part of the Marcellus Shale bill has become so unpopular that it is being challenged in court, and the “little guys” are winning. Commonwealth Court struck down that part of the law last week, going so far as to call it “irrational.”
Alcoa AA +2.32% announced today that Alcoa Oil & Gas was awarded a contract from Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) to produce 3,500 feet of aluminum alloy drill pipe for gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation of Central Pennsylvania.
Alcoa's 4.5" drill pipe will extend the reach of the carrier-mounted drilling rig used on natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale formation to a total depth of approximately 7,500 feet. This is 1,000 feet deeper than conventional steel drill pipe can penetrate without using larger, more costly rigs.
Reserves in the Marcellus shale may be underestimated.
"I think it's possible we'll find, as production data begins to come in — Pennsylvania is a state that has significant lags in reporting of production data — we will begin to see those numbers inching up," said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski.
Sieminski testified Aug. 2 at a hearing of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee titled "The American Energy Initiative: A Focus on Growing Differences for Energy Development on Federal vs. Non-Federal Lands." The hearing was part of the House Republicans' ongoing American Energy Initiative.
Natural gas drilling -- also called hydraulic fracturing or fracking -- recently became a more immediate concern for Montgomery and Bucks counties after a U.S. Geology Survey published in June revealed a large natural gas reserve lies beneath the densely populated region. The South Newark Basin, which stretches across central New Jersey into eastern Montgomery County, may contain up to 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to the report. That’s almost enough gas to power the country for just one month.
Local Legislative Reaction
The realization that fracking in the county was a possibility led to swift legislative action by the region’s representatives. On the last day of the session, June 30, state legislators slipped a ban on drilling in the South Newark Basin into a tax law, which passed. The ban on granting drilling permits will extend to 2018 to give the state time to evaluate the potential of the reserves and the impact on the environment.
The ban was also an attempt to protect the region from the new natural gas development law, Act 13, which negated municipal zoning regulations and gave state agencies sole authority in determining where drilling for natural gas can occur.
Penn State Extension will host a web-based seminar on Thursday exploring the ramifications of the recent court decision that struck down part of the state’s recently passed law governing Marcellus Shale natural-gas development.

Titled “A Blow to Act 13?: The Impact of the Commonwealth Court’s Decision on Local Zoning and Natural Gas Development in Pennsylvania,” the one-hour webinar will begin at 1 p.m. Free and open to the public, the session will be of special interest to municipal officials and attorneys.

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