Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pa. Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates, Feb. 20-24

As always, click the headlines to read the complete stories.

Western Pa. inches closer to goal of energy independence
The once-distant concept of energy independence, given a national spotlight in the 2012 presidential race, is closer to becoming a reality on a regional level, energy analysts say.
Pennsylvanians rely on in-state sources for at least 64 percent of their energy, a relatively high figure among states, according to the Washington & Jefferson College Energy Index. Its most recent numbers show a one-year surge of nearly 10 percentage points from 2009 to 2010, driven by the popularity of domestic natural gas in manufacturing, transportation and power generation.
“I think it's safe to say those trends in general would be expected to continue,” said Robert Dunn, one developer of the index. “Natural gas will definitely impact all the other fuels.”
Interest in wind energy on rise, experts say
Electricity generated by wind farms powered more than 350,000 Pennsylvania homes last year, and that number is expected to grow.
“There's demand,” said Titus North, executive director of Squirrel Hill-based Citizen Power.
Citizen Power teamed with TriEagle Energy in August 2011 to offer renewable wind electricity service to residential customers. By the end of last year, its territory covered nearly all of Pennsylvania, North said.“We're seeing basically two sources of demand,” he said. “There's a lot of people concerned about the environment, and then there's a lot of people signed up to save money.”
Op-Ed:  Fracking foes play with a stacked deck, and DEP knows 'when to run'
Somebody is not telling the truth.
At issue is whether deliberate actions by state officials are letting Texas gas industry robber barons do more damage to the environment than was done by coal industry robber barons in the last century, and are endangering people's health in the process.
This past week, there was an opportunity for opposing sides in that debate to meet face-to-face and put their cards on the table. Gov. Tom Corbett's oddly named Department of Environmental Protection, it seems, contemplated the lyrics of "The Gambler" and reacted in a disturbingly revealing way. "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run," says the song. DEP officials anticipated a stacked deck and chose the last option. (They have played with their own stacked deck for two years and I guess they're not about to fiddle with the odds.)
Monongahela River traffic halted by damaged barge
Commercial boat traffic was halted all day Friday after a loaded coal barge was intentionally run into the bank of the Monongahela River at mile 59.6 below Brownsville, Fayette County to prevent the barge from sinking, according to the U.S. Coast Guard..
The towboat Francis J. Blank, operated by Towline River Service in Elizabeth, was pushing a loaded, three-barge tow down river when the lead barge hit bottom and began taking on water, according to the Coast Guard account of events. The towboat pushed the barges to shore at about 6:45 a.m., and the river was closed to commercial traffic in the area at 7:24 a.m.
No coal was spilled into the river but the coal transfer operations closed the river to commercial traffic all day while a crane barge unloaded the lead barge into a hopper barge that was brought to the scene. The Coast Guard expected the river would reopen to commercial traffic by 8 p.m.
The shale phenomenon: fabulous miracle with a fatal flaw
In 2000, the experts were unanimous: American oil and gas production was in terminal decline. By 2015, it was said, we’d need 10 supertankers a day, carrying 12 million barrels of crude, plus 10 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas.
Since 2005, however, this scarcity meme has been toppled. Domestic oil and gas production has grown 35 percent in seven years. Natural gas production is at record highs, and oil production has climbed almost 2 million barrels a day, faster here than anywhere on the planet...
Last fall, a Reuter’s analyst went so far as to suggest that North Dakota’s Bakken field might someday rival Ghawar, the largest oilfield on the planet.
That is not hype, it is a hallucination. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has launched its own euphoric ad campaign, assuring TV viewers that we have a “century’s worth of gas,” an unfounded contention, but one that President Obama seems eager to spread.
To make sense of the shale gale, we must celebrate what industry has accomplished. Then we must grasp how such a fabulous miracle may ultimately prove fleeting.
Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation Increases Proved Reserves 27 Percent to 3.8 Tcfe
Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (NYSE: COG) today reported year-end 2012 proved reserves of 3.8 trillion cubic feet equivalent (Tcfe), an increase of 27 percent over year-end 2011. This is 100 percent organically generated growth and represents the third consecutive year of reserve growth exceeding 20 percent, after adjusting for the sale of its Rocky Mountain properties in 2011. Total reserve replacement from all sources was 417 percent at a finding cost of $0.87 per thousand cubic feet equivalent (Mcfe). "In spite of a 33 percent decrease in the benchmark natural gas price used in calculating proved reserves in 2012, we grew year-end proved reserves significantly without an increase to our PUD percentage," said Dan O. Dinges, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "Our all sources finding cost of $0.87 per Mcfe is our lowest in 15 years and further highlights the capital efficiency of our portfolio."
Cabot's reserve growth was primarily driven by its drilling programs in the Marcellus Shale, Eagle Ford Shale and Marmaton oil play, which resulted in 926.8 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe) of additions for the year.
As EPA delays new coal ash rules, residents turn to the courts for relief
Sabrina Mislevy is tired of the odors, the way they “hit” her as she drives by the blue-tinted lake, the way they burn her nose. Like many of her neighbors, Mislevy has grown weary of living near the nation’s largest coal ash pond, Little Blue Run, which straddles the Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio state lines.
In Little Blue Run and beyond, coal ash, waste from the production of electricity, has fouled water supplies and endangered public health. “We want action,” said Mislevy, of Georgetown, Pa., explaining why she has joined some 200 other area residents in launching legal challenges against FirstEnergy Corp., the owner of Little Blue Run.
Her community is just one across the country pursuing legal challenges against coal-ash ponds, landfills and pits — a grassroots onslaught stoked, in part, by slow regulatory action by the Environmental Protection Agency.
DEP Secretary Krancer hit on Marcellus Shale, smallmouth bass

State lawmakers hit Pennsylvania’s top environmental officer hard with questions about issues from Marcellus Shale to smallmouth bass.
In the third day of budget hearings Thursday, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer took his turn facing Republicans and Democrats in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

He said he expects his department to remove a backlog of 6,000 applications for permits related to oil and gas wells, mining and water by summer.
At least one lawmaker expressed disappointment in the agency’s enforcement of Marcellus Shale violators.
Firm accused of bullying fracking foes
When a Texas landowner took his fear that a gas driller had poisoned his well to federal regulators, the company, Range Resources Corp., turned around and sued him for conspiring "to harm Range."
Critics say the Fort Worth-based company, which pioneered the use of hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale, has taken a hard line with residents, local officials, and activists. In Pennsylvania it stopped participating in town hearings to review its own applications to drill because local officials were asking too many questions and taking too long...
Range filed two applications to drill in Robinson Township, near Pittsburgh, last year. As the town moved to review those bids, Range said it faced a series of hurdles to get clearance to drill, and it filed a letter with the town saying the delay "violates Range's due-process rights."
Range's lawyer declined to answer questions at a township hearing in December to discuss its own application. Robinson was unfairly dragging out the process and should just approve its application, the company said in documents filed with the township. Pitzarella blamed the delays on the township attorney, who has a private practice taking on drillers, including Range.
Pipeline Protests Shift From Courts to Direct Action
Two protestors in northeast Pennsylvania are trying to halt the clearing of trees to make way for an expanding natural gas pipeline in Pike County.
Allison Petryk and Alex Lotorto handcuffed themselves to a gate in the Delaware State Forest on Monday and Tuesday, blocking access to tree felling crews. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Upgrade project would expand an existing 13,900-mile natural gas pipeline that begins in the Gulf of Mexico and serves the Northeast region. The expansion would add almost 40 miles of additional pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to transport Marcellus Shale gas to the lucrative East Coast market.
The protests follow a series of failed legal efforts to halt the project. Environmental activists say the expanded pipeline will scar the landscape, and cause irreparable harm to sensitive watersheds. The upgrade project includes loops around existing pipelines, traveling through wooded forests and across wetlands.
Pennsylvania Marcellus gas production doubles in 2012 to 6.3 Bcf/d
Natural gas production from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale more than doubled to 6.3 Bcf/d last year from 2011 despite a declining rig count in the region, the state Department of Environmental Protection said late Tuesday.

The semi-annual production report, compiled from producers' reports, only covers dry gas from unconventional wells; it does not include natural gas liquids or condensate volumes.

Sequentially, the DEP data showed a 45% increase in gas production between the first half of last year and the second half, to 6.3 Bcf/d.from 4.36 Bcf/d, as more wells were completed and other infrastructure came online.
Lawmaker: DEP Chief Michael Krancer Denies Climate Change
Democratic State Rep. Greg Vitali, chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, says Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer refused to acknowledge climate change during a House budget hearing on Wednesday. In a release, the Delaware County legislator says Krancer avoided his questions on climate change, and was later grilled by other lawmakers.
Krancer repeatedly told the lawmakers that he does not acknowledge the validity of climate change and said he does not know Gov. Tom Corbett’s position on the issue. Vitali said he has been unable to find any public statements Corbett made about climate change during the governor’s first two years in office.
Activist investors put climate-change issue up for vote at bank
Activist investors have succeeded for the first time in placing a shareholder resolution on the risks of greenhouse-gas emissions up for a vote at a major bank, a step toward making climate change an important consideration for corporations.
The resolution, which follows years of protests over banks financing certain coal operations, is to be included in proxy material being sent to shareholders of PNC Financial Services Group of Pittsburgh before the bank's April 23 annual meeting.
It asks PNC to assess and report back to shareholders on how its lending results in greenhouse gas emissions that can alter the climate, posing financial risks for its corporate borrowers and risks to its own reputation.
PNC is the only major bank based in Appalachia, a region where coal and gas extraction is a major business. It has long lent to mining companies, including those engaged in mountaintop removal, which involves blowing up peaks to reach coal seams below and has been blamed for degrading landscapes, destroying habitat and polluting streams.
Geologist’s provocative study challenges popular assumptions about ‘fracking’
With debate over hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” running at a fever pitch, it seems the only thing everyone can agree on is that, for better or worse, there is plenty of natural gas down there for the taking.
Now a provocative analysis of unconventional fuel reserves in the United States aims to slap a big question mark over that assumption. In a comprehensive look at all the major shale gas plays currently being tapped across the U.S., the study focuses on the rapid decline of individual gas wells, along with entire fields, and concludes that optimistic projections for a long-running boom that will unleash cheap gas for decades to come are unwarranted.
“The hype around shale gas is just that,” said David Hughes, a geologist and former research manager with the Geological Survey of Canada who authored the study, which was release on Tuesday.
Dr. Hughes is not exactly reporting from neutral ground. The study was sponsored by the Post Carbon Institute, a California-based think tank that promotes sustainable energy. Yet, Dr. Hughes says, the numbers are there in black and white, drawn from a widely used industry database.
Pittsburgh International Airport drilling contract OK'd
Drilling is set to come to Pittsburgh International Airport, but if Tuesday's vote by Allegheny County Council is any indication, it still isn't entirely welcome.

County council voted in favor of accepting a contract from Consol Energy to drill for natural gas in the 9,000 acres surrounding the airport, a deal that proponents say could bring nearly $1 billion to the area.

But that came over the objections of four council members, some of whom voiced concerns about the deal's high velocity through council. And it certainly was not favored by the dozen-odd residents who showed up in masks and with placards to protest shale drilling, saying the county hasn't given thought to long-term risks.

"I'm not completely convinced that we've done what we've needed to do in the short amount of time we've been given," said council member James Burn Jr., D-Millvale. He joined Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square; Amanda Green Hawkins, D-Stanton Heights; and William Robinson, D-Hill District, in voting against the contract.

Victory went to members such as Robert Macey, D-West Mifflin, who held aloft the banner of jobs. His constituents in former steel towns are tired of losing their careers, he said. He is not going to deny them the chance to work again.

"There are so many jobs that are related to this in my neck of the woods, and I haven't heard of one person who has told me to vote against this," he said. "I'm voting for this because it means a heck of a lot to our communities."

Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, abstained, saying her law firm has represented Consol. The balance of the board voted for the deal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pa. Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates for Feb. 11-19, 2013

Been very busy the past week and missed the Sunday deadline and some daily updates, but here it is:

As always, click the headlines to read the complete stories.
PA State Rep. Greg Vitali wants law to hike renewable energy production
Counting on shifting sentiments about climate change, a Democratic state legislator on Friday introduced legislation to force Pennsylvania utilities to generate more power from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
State Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), whose recent efforts to boost renewable-energy mandates have failed to get sufficient support, said he hoped the political climate had changed in the aftermath of several destructive storms.
"Superstorm Sandy was a reminder of the consequences we face if we ignore the climate change issue," said Vitali, who is the chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
Allegheny County Council approves drilling at airport
Allegheny County Council approved a contract to drill for natural gas on Pittsburgh International Airport land Monday night, but not without disagreement.

Four council members voted against the measure in a contentious meeting that saw strong public turnout against drilling.

A recurring theme? Doing due dilligence in safety and environmental impact.

"I'm not completely convinced that we've done what we've needed to do in the short amount of time we've been given," said council member James Burn Jr., D-Millvale, who joined Barbara Danko, D-Regent Square, Amanda Green Hawkins, D-Stanton Heights, and William Robinson, D-Hill District, in voting against the contract.
Questions Linger in Ohio Fracking Waste Spill
The unlawful disposal of thousands of gallons of fracking waste in Ohio is drawing the ire of residents and environmental groups. The Ohio EPA is investigating the intentional dumping of an estimated 20,000 gallons of crude oil and brine into a storm drain in Youngstown by Hard Rock Excavating. The incident occurred on Jan. 31, but was not reported for five days... More than 6 million barrels of fracking waste from Pennsylvania and West Virginia were dumped in Ohio in 2011. Boggs complained that no proper regulations are in place for disposing of fracking waste from Ohio and other states.
"With millions and millions of barrels of this stuff coming over the border from Pennsylvania, and more being created here in our own state," he said, "it's becoming a serious problem that we're not adequately dealing with."
Penn State to study Marcellus Shale
Wyalusing Area School District voted unanimously Monday to allow a team of Penn State University researchers to conduct interviews with students and staff about Marcellus Shale development.
The team, consisting of Dr. Kai Schafft and graduate student Catherine Biddle, will be gathering information for a Center for Rural Pennsylvania project. The project's goal is to generate policy-relevant research on issues of importance to rural Pennsylvania that will then be funneled back to legislators and policy makers.
The proposal, which was made to Superintendent Dr. Chester Mummau, stated that at present time, "...it's hard to imagine an issue that has a larger profile for rural Pennsylvania than Marcellus Shale development...."
The project will be looking not only at the impacts of the gas industry on education and youth, but also government, housing, health, agriculture.
Marcellus shale gas boom expected to slow in 2013
Energy experts say the boom in Marcellus shale natural gas production will slow this year but not because there's any lack of supply.
The slowdown is happening because drillers are waiting for pipelines to expand, markets to develop and wholesale prices to rise.
“The hiring has tapered off. What we see is a holding pattern,” said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group.
That's a big difference from the last four years, when production doubled or tripled every 12 months and companies spent tens of billions of dollars on leases, well drilling and related infrastructure.
Pa. Communities Craft Creative Escape Hatch from Drilling Law
While the Pennsylvania Supreme Court continues to deliberate the constitutionality of restrictions to local, Marcellus Shale, zoning regulations in the state’s new drilling law, a handful of communities across the Commonwealth are trying a unique approach to keep the industry away. “Community Bill of Rights” ordinances have been adopted by cities as large as Pittsburgh to ban fracking, and as small as Highland Township, Elk County, to prevent an underground wastewater injection well.
About 500 people live in Highland Township, a forested, rural area near the Allegheny National Forest in the northwestern part of the state. In January, Highland Township Supervisors passed the “Highland Township’s Community Rights and Protection from Injection Wells Ordinance,” essentially banning a planned injection well proposed by Seneca Resources.
 Professor looks at contamination, environmental impact of fracking

Although the demand for energy resources is high, methodologies used to extract these resources could potentially be harmful to both people and the environment.
About 50 people attended the “Hydraulic Fracturing of Shale and Water Quality” lecture sponsored by the Rutgers Energy Institute yesterday at the Wright-Rieman Auditorium on Busch Campus to listen to a seminar by Pennsylvania State University Professor Susan L. Brantley about her research on hydraulic fracturing.
Who's recycling wastewater from 'fracking'?
The primary method of wastewater disposal in Ohio is injection wells, where the stuff is pumped thousands of feet underground. Tom Stewart, vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said the industry believes that recycling is a cheaper option. Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials say they are studying the recycling issue with the help of Battelle scientists...Businesses that recycle fracking water for reuse in future operations are common in Pennsylvania, where the promise of plentiful oil and gas in the Marcellus shale is creating a drilling boom. A similar boom is unfolding in Ohio as companies are beginning to exploit the Utica shale below the ground.A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection database lists at least 29 businesses that treated 3.35 million barrels of wastewater from Marcellus shale wells in 2011.
 Oil and Gas Feeding Off Each Other While They are Fueling Economic Recovery
Consider: The Marcellus Region in the East is best known for shale gas plays and the natural gas liquids that spinoff from those searches, or ethane, propane and butane. The cost of that acreage has been high relative to the present low price of natural gas, although such lease prices are falling as some drillers pause.
That dynamic is giving the largest players such as Exxon a competitive advantage because they can hold their leases for decades and can afford to wait until the price of natural gas rises. Before the smaller players drill, they must factor in such issues as their capital and lease costs, as well as the price of the underlying commodity.
Pennsylvania fracking study on health impacts gets $1M grant
A Pennsylvania health company said it has been given a $1 million grant to study possible health impacts of natural gas drilling on the Marcellus shale.
Geisinger Health System said Monday that the Degenstein Foundation had awarded the money to help underwrite what it called a "large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment" of the drilling.
Most of the money will be used for data gathering, and some will go toward developing studies of the data. Officials said they expect other funders to come forward.
The study will look at detailed health histories of hundreds of thousands of patients who live near wells and other facilities that are producing natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation thousands of feet underground. The boom in drilling has generated jobs and billions of dollars in revenue for companies and individual leaseholders, but it also raised health concerns.
In the Marcellus, as the Rig Counts Drop, so Do the Jobs
The Marcellus-based operations of EXCO Resources (NYSE: XCO  ) will be even lighter as the company is slashing its staff in Pittsburgh. With the company's rig count in the area falling from four to just one, it has made the decision to eliminate 70 of the 120 employees in its regional headquarters. While the company said that about half of the employees would be transferred back to its corporate headquarters in Dallas, it's still tough to see jobs being shed. It's especially tough when natural gas drilling was supposed to bring a hiring boom in the region.  
Westinghouse to Lay Off 5 Percent of Its Workforce
In a video circulated among employees Tuesday, Westinghouse CEO Daniel Roderick announced the company will cut jobs amounting to roughly five percent of its global workforce.
Westinghouse had hired about 5,000 people over the last five years as dozens of new nuclear plants were proposed in the U.S. and abroad. While the company is building its AP1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle, at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant and in China, Roderick cited a weak economy, the accidents at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi and fewer proposed reactors moving into construction as reasons for the reduction, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The 665 positions will come from unfilled openings and from layoffs across the organization, including its Pennsylvania headquarters.
The Pittsburgh Business Times noted that Westinghouse has consolidated its headquarters office space in Cranberry Township, Pa., and reduced its workforce by 200 last May.
DEP: Future bright for area gas drilling
As natural gas drilling slows, some have feared that Lycoming County's golden-egg laying goose is about to fly the coop. However, Michael Krancer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, anticipates that natural gas production will benefit the state for many years to come.
"Pennsylvania stands at a crossroads because we are the source of a product in high demand. I believe the state will see the benefits from the gas and oil industries for years to come," Krancer said.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 20 new oil and gas permits have been issued in Lycoming County alone, according to information on the department's website.
"People think that production is slowing down, because there's not as much drilling as there was before. But those wells are expected to produce for years and years," he added.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates for Feb. 3-10, 2013

Follow wtf_PA for daily updates.

Click on headlines to read the complete stories.

Pa. Lawmaker Wants to Spend Impact Fee Money on Fracking Health Study 
Suburban Philadelphia Republican State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf is working on a bill that would allocate $2 million from the state’s impact fee fund to study the public health impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling. 
Greenleaf has circulated a memo about the bill, which would amend Act 13, the state’s new drilling law. Despite attempts by the state’s public health community, Act 13 passed without funds for a health registry.
Allegheny County, Consol strike $500M airport gas drilling deal
For years, Pittsburgh International Airport has been viewed as an economic engine for the region. Little did anyone know that the big money -- half a billion dollars -- would be in the ground, not in the sky.
That appears to be the case, with Thursday's announcement that Consol Energy Inc. will pay an estimated $500 million over the next 20 years for the right to drill for shale gas on 9,263 acres surrounding the Findlay airport.
In discussing the agreement at a public hearing Thursday night in Moon, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said it would include an upfront bonus payment of $50 million and an estimated $450 million in royalties over the next two decades.
Mr. Fitzgerald said Cecil-based Consol also plans to invest another $500 million in drilling-related infrastructure and other costs.
Rendell Downplays Role in Range Contamination Case 
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says gas driller Range Resources never authorized him to speak on their behalf to the EPA about a Texas contamination case. On Tuesday, EnergyWire published a piece quoting email exchanges between EPA officials that would suggest Rendell went to bat for Range over a high-profile methane migration case in Parker County, Texas.

Shale permits not on 'trigger list' for extra review in poor areas
The state Department of Environmental Protection has granted hundreds of permits for Marcellus Shale gas development in Pennsylvania's poor and minority communities.
None of those permits for gas wells, wastewater impoundments or compressor stations has triggered intervention by DEP's Office of Environmental Advocate to inform residents of those communities about potential health and environmental impacts from proposed industrial developments.
That's because the state's rapidly proliferating Marcellus Shale gas facilities are not included on the list of "trigger permits" the DEP uses to determine when to provide enhanced notification, information and public participation opportunities in those "environmental justice" communities.
And Holly Cairns, new director of DEP's Office of Environmental Advocate, said there are no plans to change that...
Fracking for State Dollars
But states collect vastly different amounts of severance tax revenue on oil and gas. North Dakota, for example, imposes an 11.5 percent severance on oil, subject to certain exemptions, and collected nearly $1.9 billion in all severance taxes in 2011, up from just $83,000 in the pre-fracking days of the 1990s.
Pennsylvania has no severance tax at all. Instead it has an impact fee that helps localities fix roads and other drilling damage. The impact fee brought in $204 million in 2011, but that was only about half of what the state could have collected had it used a tax comparable to that of neighboring West Virginia, by one estimate.
“There should be a tax like other states have,” says Pennsylvania state Representative Gene DiGirolamo, a Republican who last session pushed a 4.9 percent tax on companies drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale field, the largest such gas deposit in North America, and one that also covers parts of Ohio, West Virginia and New York, among other states. “We’re not chasing the gas industry out of the commonwealth,” says Republican state Representative Tom Murt, who is cosponsoring the legislation. “We just want the industry to pay their fair share.”
Pennsylvania is the only state with substantial oil and gas reserves that does not have a severance tax. Even tax-averse Texas has one: It levies 7.5 percent on natural gas and 4.6 percent on oil, which helped to bring in $2.7 billion in combined severance taxes for the state in 2011.
A Clash in Pennsylvania Over Fracking and Water Tests
A war of words has broken out between environmentalists and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over the cancellation of a meeting on the state’s testing of water from water wells near natural-gas drilling sites.
A meeting of 25 environmentally themed groups, the department’s oil and gas division and the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Laboratories had been set for Jan. 24 after the disclosure last November that department scientists had omitted data on some toxic metals found in water taken from a site in southwestern Pennsylvania.
On Jan. 22, the department informed the groups that the meeting was being deferred until an unspecified date, according to Iris Marie Bloom, director of Protecting Our Waters, a group based in Philadelphia that had planned to take part.

Study shows shale boom provides boost to trucking.
Benesch, an Ohio based firm with expertise in transportation law, recently collaborated with National Tank Truck Carriers in Washington, D.C. and the Ohio Trucking Association to develop and execute a survey examining the shale boom’s impact on trucking on both a national and state level.
Members of each trade association were asked to complete a digital survey designed to explore the current status of trucking as it related to the oil and gas industry and expectations for the future. Surveys were sent to all members of each association, who are spread out geographically across the U.S. and Ohio respectively.
“We decided to look at trucking because, as many economists will tell you, it is an important harbinger of economic vitality and change,” says Richard Plewacki, a partner with Benesch’s Transportation & Logistics practice. “Increases in trucking activity signal corresponding changes in manufacturing and industry. After all, you can’t make or sell a product without transportation playing a key role in the process.”
The survey found shale activity is having a positive impact on the trucking industry, that this increase in opportunities and presumably profits is expected to continue and significant job growth will be a byproduct of the trend. The study also sought to identify possible obstacles to future growth in the transportation sector.
Washington Gas Energy Services Receives Green-e Energy Certification of New WGES PA WindPower Renewable Energy Product
Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) today announced that Washington Gas Energy Services' WGES PA WindPower renewable energy product is now Green-e Energy certified. Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) is part of the growing network of renewable energy providers that offer products certified by Green-e Energy, North America's leading certification and verification program for renewable energy. "The new PA WindPower product is an excellent addition to WGES's renewable energy portfolio," said Alex Pennock, manager of Green-e Energy. "Now households and businesses in Pennsylvania have even more opportunity to source their electricity from 100 percent home-grown wind power." 
New Rail Traffic Data Reflects Big Shift Away From Coal
The recent shift away from coal and toward natural gas to generate electricity in the U.S. has had major impacts across the country, from rapid economic growth and pollution concerns in rural Pennsylvania and Ohio to lost jobs in the coal-mining belt of Appalachia. So, too, has the record expansion in U.S. oil production from newly accessible deposits, such as the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. crude oil production increased by a record 780,000 barrels of oil per day in 2012.
Now another ripple effect can be added to the list of energy market-related shifts, with data from freight railroad operators showing a major decline in the amount of coal transported by train in the U.S. in 2012, at the same time as oil shipments have dramatically increased. That is significant since most of the coal that is burned by U.S. power plants is shipped via rail, so the drop in coal transport clearly reflects the broader market trends. The trend may be concerning to freight rail operators, since according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), “no single commodity is more important to America’s railroads than coal.” Coal accounted for 43.3 percent of freight rail tonnage and 24.7 percent of rail gross revenue in 2011, AAR said on its website.
Gassed in Pennsylvania: Green Jobs, Black Men, and the Dirty Hope of Fracking
After an intense six-week training program, the only thing that stands between Aaron Alton and a $90,000 fracking job is a commercial driver's license. It's August of 2012. The job, at a natural gas drilling company, is Aaron's ticket out of Harrisburg, PA.
Waiting at the PennDOT, the state's motor-vehicle office, Aaron thinks he's all set until they run his information. They tell him that his driving privileges are suspended. He remembers being pulled over a year ago for tinted windows on a Lincoln Navigator.
Driving with tinted windows is not illegal.
It is, however, the pretext used to pull over lots of drivers in Pennsylvania who happen to be black and Puerto Rican. 
Corbett talks cracker in budget address
Shell's multibillion-dollar proposed ethane cracker in Beaver County got not just one but two references in Gov. Tom Corbett's budget address Tuesday.
Shell still hasn't decided whether to make the investment in the facility, which would be built at the site of a soon-to-be-closed Horsehead Holding Corp. (Nasdaq: ZINC) factory. But Corbett told lawmakers it will mean thousands of jobs "when we succeed in attracting the new petrochemical plant and the hundreds of new businesses that will spring up around it." 
Twin Ridges Wind Farm Powers Up In Pennsylvania
Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES Americas) says it has completed the 139.4 MW Twin Ridges Wind Farm, located in Somerset County, Pa. RES Americas served as the balance-of-plant contractor for the project, which was developed and is owned by EverPower.  
Mehoopany Wind Farm Now in Full Commercial Operation
BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas and Power announced in early January 2013 that their $250 million wind farm project in Pennsylvania has gone into full commercial operation. The Mehoopany Wind Farm, located about twenty miles northwest of Scranton, is the state’s largest wind project.
“This is a great project all the way around,” said Sempra US Gas & Power president and CEO, Jeffrey W. Martin. “The State of Pennsylvania has been a recognized leader in providing critical fuels to help grow our nation’s economy for over a century. This project continues in that proud tradition by harnessing clean, sustainable wind energy that will benefit mid-Atlantic customers for decades to come.”


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates for Jan. 27 - Feb. 2, 2013

Stories I tweeted last week, follow wtf_PA for daily updates.

There is confusion over who regulates fracking waste in Pennsylvania:

With new evidence pointing to potentially dangerous levels of radiation in fracking wastewater, questions arise over just who regulates this stuff.

The short answer: No one, really.
Does the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or U.S. Department of Transportation step in, because this water is often transported across state lines? Does the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation regulate the tanker trucks being driven around on the state’s roads? What about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which monitors every radioactive molecule emanating from nuclear power plants?
The answer, it seems, is a resounding no from every regulatory body except perhaps from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Along those lines, Pa. Dept of Environmental Protection plans tighter monitoring of radioactive fracking wastes:
Pennsylvania will step up its monitoring of naturally occurring radiation levels in water, rock cuttings and drilling wastes associated with oil and gas development in a yearlong study that will be peer-reviewed, the state’s environmental agency reports.
The study will also assess radiation levels in the pipes, well casings, storage tanks, treatment systems and trucks used by the natural gas industry, which has drilled thousands of wells in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale over the last five years.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which already reviews radioactivity data in wastes generated by the oil and gas industry, said Thursday that it had so far found only “very low levels of natural radioactivity” in landfills and streams. It will be expanding that work to conduct a comprehensive study of the industry, it said in a statement.
 EQT is claims that, "Marcellus Shale Production Growth To Continue Unabated In 2013"
EQT is projecting its company-wide production to grow by another ~30% in 2013 following 33% year-on-year growth in 2012, driven by the Marcellus. After a significant beat on Q4 '12 production volumes, the first quarter 2013 production is expected to be sequentially flat (but still up more than 35% year-on-year). Rapid growth should resume in the second quarter, with double-digit sequential gains.
Consol Energy is fighting the DEP over stream cleanup (full article behind paywall):
A unit of Consol Energy Inc. on Monday challenged a review by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection finding that the company failed to comply with a 2008 agreement in which it agreed to clean up five streams contaminated by coal mining.

In the appeal filed with the state’s Environmental Hearing Board, Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co. LLC alleged that it has met all its obligations in mitigating the damage to the streams, which are adjacent to its massive Bailey Mine in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Calkins Media and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting has produced an international investigation of fracking with:

Calkins Media, publisher of The Intelligencer, has partnered with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting on an international investigative reporting project about the practice of natural gas extraction commonly known as fracking.
Published on Calkins Media’s Shale Reporter website, as well as the Pulitzer Center site, the series focuses on Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe and explores the risks and rewards of gas drilling in that region. In the United States, the project examines gas drilling conflicts in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Featured in this joint project is the work of print journalist Dimiter Kenarov and video journalist Steve Sapienza.
Mining fatalities were near all time lows in 2012 and  there were none in Pa. :
Mining fatality rates in 2012 reached an all-time low for the second year in a row, federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials said on Thursday.
MSHA chief Joe Main said that 36 miners died in work-related accidents — 19 in coal mines and 17 in metal and nonmetal mines. None of the deaths was in Pennsylvania...
....Of the 36 fatalities — one more than the 2009 historic low of 35 — seven died in West Virginia, five in Kentucky, three each in New York and Alabama, two each in Montana and Florida, and one each in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.
Tom Wilber's take on Pennsylvania's handling of radioactive fracking waste:
The Pennsylvania DEP responded to these concerns last week, by announcing a plan to sample and analyze the naturally occurring radioactivity levels in flowback waters, treatment solids and drill cuttings, as well as associated matters such as the transportation, storage and disposal of drilling wastes “at dozens of sites.” Details and timing of the plan were not yet public as they are pending peer review.

Why this and why now? The study was announced after reports that fracking waste trucked to conventional landfills periodically began tripping radiation alarms.
To their credit, DEP officials are trying to stay on top of the issues. The plan would go well beyond a few data points down stream from water treatment disposal sites and include points in the industry’s poorly defined waste delivery system. Yet, the wording from one DEP overview the plan represents a kind of agency-speak that appears to try very hard to tell us a lot without telling us anything.

“Current industry practices are such that data do not indicate the public or workers face any health risk from exposure to radiation ... The data will assist in
determining the need with respect to any issues as they exist during extraction,
transportation, treatment and disposal.”