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.

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