Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013 Pa. Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates, Mar. 18- Mar. 25

Please click on headlines to read the articles.

Pa. DEP secretary Krancer stepping down
Gov. Tom Corbett's often-combative environmental protection secretary will leave the post next month after two years of guiding the agency that regulated Pennsylvania's natural gas boom amid clashes with environmental advocates, federal regulators and Democratic lawmakers.Michael Krancer, who was a state environmental law judge and lawyer for energy giant Exelon Corp. before joining the Republican governor's administration, helped oversee Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission and handled emerging issues of river and air pollution as Pennsylvania worked to modernize its laws to address new drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques.
Pennsylvania Judge Orders Records Opened in Fracking Case
A Pennsylvania judge, handing a victory to local media and health groups, ordered documents unsealed in a settlement between gas-drillers and homeowners who accused the companies of contaminating their water.
Common Pleas Court Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca said in a ruling today that the natural-gas drillers failed to overcome the presumption that the records should be open unless the companies, including Fort Worth, Texas-based Range Resources Corp. (RRC), showed they’d suffer harm to trade secrets or reputation.
“The defendants’ assertions of a right of privacy under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are meritless,” O’Dell-Seneca wrote.
In disputes from Wyoming to Texas to Pennsylvania, gas drillers have often demanded homeowners keep quiet about their complaints in exchange for buying their properties, delivering fresh water or paying out a settlement. Without the information about those individual cases, health and environmental groups say they can’t assess the risks of fracking.
Secrecy Lifted in Fracking Case
In December, a Pennsylvania appeals court had ruled in favor of two newspapers seeking to unseal court records in Hallowich v. Range Resources. The case is one of the most closely watched cases involving claims of health impacts and property damage against a Marcellus Shale gas driller. But when the case was settled, the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County sealed all the records at the request of Range Resources. Reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had been barred by court employees from observing a hearing that had been held several days before it was listed on the public docket. The paper’s publisher sued, and was later joined by another daily newspaper, the Observer-Reporter.
In a ruling issued in December, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania said the lower trial court erred in not considering the motion to unseal court records. The trial court had dismissed the newspaper’s motion because it was filed after the case was closed. The Superior Court ordered the Court of Common Pleas to take a look at the newspaper’s requests to unseal the record, and rule based on the merits of the case. On Wednesday, the Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the newspapers to unseal the records, saying the gas driller’s privacy arguments had no merit and the public had a right to know details of the case. StateImpact Pennsylvania has posted all 971 pages of the court document here.
$200M plant coming to Blair
A private company will spend $200 million to build a gas-to-liquids processing plant in Blair County.
Marcellus GTL LLC of Gilberton, Schuylkill County, will build its first Clean Energy Center near the Duncansville intersection of Route 764 and Old Route 22 on land that straddles Allegheny and Blair townships.
The Clean Energy Center will take natural gas and produce about 84,000 gallons per day of regular gasoline and propane to be marketed locally as transportation fuel and for heating uses.
Race is on to ship Pennsylvania natural gas liquids to Gulf sites
Traveling from Pennsylvania to Texas via pipeline has become the hottest ticket in the energy industry.
Over the past year, several energy infrastructure firms have announced plans to transport Pennsylvania liquids to the petrochemical facilities and export markets available in towns near the Gulf Coast like Beaumont. Oftentimes, the deals are financed with help from joint venture partners, all trying to solve (and cash in on) Pennsylvania's energy problem. What's the problem? We have the goods but nowhere to take them.
Enterprise Products Partners LP will start building a pipeline next month that will lead from Houston, Pa., to outside Houston, Texas, and should be in service by early 2014. This month, the Williams company announced plans for a joint venture with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners to transport Marcellus liquids from their "infrastructure-constrained" region in Appalachia to a site in Louisiana. Several other firms, including El Paso and Sunoco Logistics, have similar plans.
Fracking companies, environmentalists and philanthropies join forces
A first-of-its-kind effort to set cleaner shale gas development standards and reduce the industry's air and water impacts was launched today by a consortium of gas drilling companies, environmental groups and philanthropic foundations in Pittsburgh.
The new Center for Sustainable Shale Development is a collaborative attempt to reduce the environmental risks and improve the performance of companies working in all phases of Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale development by setting higher performance standards and independently certifying those companies that meet them.
The initial set of 15 performance standards includes limitations on gas well flaring, use of "green completion" including no-leak vales and piping, storage tank emission controls, reduced compressor station and fracking engine emissions, development of groundwater protection plans, improved impoundment integrity, reduced toxicity of fracking fluids and improving water recycling to at least 90 percent.
New Fracking Standards Not Supported by Environmental Organizations
EcoWatch
Environmental organizations are objecting to a misleading announcement coming from the oil and gas industry that says they have “made peace” with environmentalists by agreeing to voluntary fracking standards.
According to the announcement made, the oil and gas industry believes the new standards “could ease or avert some of the ferocious battles over fracking that have been waged in statehouses and city halls.” They’re wrong. In fact, the anti-fracking movement is large and getting larger as evidence mounts that fracking cannot be done safely, contributes to climate change, endangers the human and animal health and safety, tears apart communities, and pollutes our air and water.
“The cynical intentions of the drillers are stated clearly in the announcement. They say they want to ‘hasten the expansion of fracking.’ They say they want to ‘bypass the often turbulent legislative process altogether.’ They say they want to make ‘drilling more acceptable to states and communities that fear the environmental consequences.’  Making drilling more acceptable and making drilling safer is not the same thing. These statements reveal the industry’s self-serving attitude known all too well to those whose lives have been impacted by drilling,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth.
Pennsylvania pushes drillers to frack with coal mine water
Each day, 300 million gallons of polluted mine water enters Pennsylvania streams and rivers, turning many of them into dead zones unable to support aquatic life. At the same time, drilling companies use up to 5 million gallons of fresh water for every natural-gas well they frack.
State environmental officials and coal region lawmakers are hoping that the state's newest extractive industry can help clean up a giant mess left by the last one. They are encouraging drillers to use tainted coal mine water to hydraulically fracture gas wells in the Marcellus Shale formation, with the twin goals of diverting pollution from streams and rivers that now run orange with mine drainage and reducing the drillers' reliance on fresh sources of water.
After Fracking Wastewater Spill, Residents and Regulators Believe Water is Safe
Paul Ruhf’s home is just 300 yards away from the gas well on the hillside, outside Tunkhannock, about 30 miles north of Wilkes-Barre.
When the spill was discovered, he spent the night in hotel with his wife and six-year-old daughter. Two other families were also evacuated over fears of a natural gas build up.
When he returned home, he found something waiting for him.
“On my porch was four cases of fresh water, if we didn’t want to use the water that we had for drinking, for now.”
The drill operator, Carrizo Marcellus, has agreed to provide the evacuees with bottled water until testing can be completed. The company has also said they’ll provide water testing to anyone in the neighborhood who asks for it.
Marcellus Production Tops Haynesville
Pipeline expansions serving the Marcellus Shale gas boom have helped boost production rates above seven billion cubic feet a day, according to an analysis by IHS. The report says the Marcellus now leads the Haynesville Shale as the most productive shale play in the country. The Haynesville Shale formation stretches beneath northwestern Louisiana, eastern Texas and southwestern Arkansas.
The largest winners according to IHS are two companies that began tapping the Marcellus ahead of the pack — Range Resources and Cabot Oil and Gas.
Fracking the Farm Part 1: Shale Gas Drilling Divides PA Organic Community
In June 2012, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) asked the governor and legislature of the Commonwealth to place a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction. Like NOFA-NY, they asked that hydrofracking be halted until studies could determine that the industrialized drilling practice will not harm farms, the food they produce and the people who eat that food.
Both NOFA-NY and PASA call for the federal government hold the oil and gas industry to the same environmental regulations as other industries – currently drillers are exempted from the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act. Both organizations call for drillers to report publicly what chemicals they are using, and to be held accountable for negative impacts.
As far as certification goes, NOFA-NY allows organic farmers to lease their land for drilling – as long as they provide a “safe” buffering distance between drilling activity and their organic fields.  But how close is too close when it comes to growing food near a gas well?
An Enlightening Study on Shale Gas and Water Quality
A team at Resources For the Future (RFF) led by Sheila Olmstead has a neat new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that takes a rigorous look at water pollution due to shale gas development in Pennsylvania. (Hat tip: John Quigley.) The team collected thousands of data points measuring shale gas activity and water quality across a wide geographic area and more-than-ten-year span, and then used careful statistical analysis to test a series of hypotheses about how shale gas development might have affected water quality. What’s particularly interesting about this study is that it doesn’t require physical assumptions. It can also shed light on the cumulative impacts of large-scale shale gas development, going beyond analysis at the level of single pads and wells.
The team’s conclusions are fairly straightforward. They find enhanced chlorine concentrations downstream of waste water treatment facilities but not downstream of drilling sites. Chlorine is a good marker of contamination from well flowback. What the RFF analysis suggests is that leaks or spills aren’t statistically detectable, at least at the watershed level, but that impacts of poorly processed wastewater are. That points to the value of focusing on wastewater treatment facilities if one wants to reduce the impact of chemical contamination resulting from shale gas development. The authors are clear to point out that Pennsylvania has made significant changes in the last couple years in how it handles wastewater; whether those are sufficient given the costs and benefits of additional controls remains to be seen.
Study: Shale Gas Fracking Taints Rivers in Pennsylvania
A study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows how two pollutants associated with shale gas — chloride and total suspended solids — enter rivers and streams. 
Used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States, hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped deep underground to break apart shale formations to release the natural gas trapped within the rock. There is concern that the chemicals used in fracking may contaminate groundwater and that the fracking process itself causes methane to seep into wells. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a study — to be released in 2014 — regarding the effects of fracking on drinking water.
Typically, groundwater gets most of the attention in the fracking debate, but rivers are also affected by the rush of shale gas development across the United States, according to Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, which are responsible for the PNAS study.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013 Pa. Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates, Mar. 5- Mar. 17

We we had a new addition to the family recently and I had to put off last week's update. Preparation for the little guy's arrival has limited my posts to these updates but I hope to expand back into the type of analysis and commentary I did last year.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Please click on headlines to read the full stories

Pa. pushes drillers to frack with coal mine water
Each day, 300 million gallons of polluted mine water enters Pennsylvania streams and rivers, turning many of them into dead zones unable to support aquatic life. At the same time, drilling companies use up to 5 million gallons of fresh water for every natural-gas well they frack.
State environmental officials and coal region lawmakers are hoping that the state's newest extractive industry can help clean up a giant mess left by the last one. They are encouraging drillers to use tainted coal mine water to hydraulically fracture gas wells in the Marcellus Shale formation, with the twin goals of diverting pollution from streams and rivers that now run orange with mine drainage and reducing the drillers' reliance on fresh sources of water.
Lawsuit targets FirstEnergy in coal plant waste disposal

Environmental groups are speaking out against a recent trend of local coal plants storing waste at a coal mine dump in La Belle, Pa.
Attorneys from the Environmental Integrity Project and Public Justice filed a notice of intent to sue local contracting company Matt Canestrale Contracting Inc. for what they say was the improper disposal of hundreds of thousands of tons of coal-ash waste at the La Belle coal mine dump in Fayette County.

The suit was filed on behalf the Citizens Coal Council based Bridgeville, Pa., and alleges that the company violated Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law, Air Pollution Control Act, and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; and the Clean Air Act. Matt Canestrale Contracting disposes of coal ash generated by the GenOn Energy-owned Elrama plant and the FirstEnergy plant in Mitchell, Pa.
Western Pennsylvania workers make inroads in landing shale gas jobs
Western Pennsylvania building contractors and tradespeople say they're gradually making inroads into the shale gas business — meaning fewer Texas and Oklahoma contractors' license plates are spotted on area roads these days.
About 1,600 of the 30,000 laborers, pipefitters, electricians and operators in the Pittsburgh Regional Building and Construction Trades Council's territory work for Marcellus or Utica shale natural gas producers, midstream businesses that build and run pipelines or other industry players, said Rich Stanizzo, the council's business manager and chairman of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania.
“We weren't getting any of this work when they first came into town” about four years ago, Stanizzo said on Tuesday as the guild and the Marcellus Shale Coalition hosted a forum in the South Side for about 100 contractors and workers on how to land opportunities in shale development....
...“We're getting 5 or 10 percent of the work? Why shouldn't we be doing 40 or 50?” said Ken Broadbent, business manager for Steamfitters Local 449, referring to mechanical contractors in the region.
Corbett and His Wife Took Over $15,000 in Gifts from Law Firm Representing Oil and Gas Industry
During his time as State Attorney General and Governor, Tom Corbett and his wife took thousands of dollars in gifts from an influential Philadelphia law firm whose clients include oil, gas, and chemical companies fighting state and federal environmental regulators.
According to a StateImpact analysis of the couple’s ethics filings, the law firm Blank Rome LLP has given them $15,447 in gifts since 2007.
The gifts include tickets to Phillies games, dinner at the swanky Pennsylvania Society gathering in Manhattan, and an annual gala benefiting the Philadelphia Orchestra —where their tickets cost $2,500 apiece.
Fracking's 'revolving door' draws a warning
Many of Pennsylvania's policymakers, regulators and enforcement workers have come from the oil and gas industry they oversee, or they leave state jobs for industry jobs, according to a recent report that questions the impacts of such a "revolving door" on public policy decisions.
A report titled "Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania" identified 45 current or former state officials who have links to the energy industry and gas drilling and fracking regulation, including 28 who have left to take industry jobs.
The 30-page report, released two weeks ago by the Public Accountability Initiative (public-accountability.org), a Buffalo, N.Y.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization focused on corporate and government accountability, said that attrition from government jobs to positions in the regulated industry calls into question the commitment of those employees to enforce regulations on companies they could soon work for.
N.J. Sierra Club against fracking and pipeline project
Sierra Club speaks against pipeline
Dear Editor:
A number of polluting gas pipelines, compressor stations, and other transportation infrastructure have been proposed across the Delaware River Basin to service the development of drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale. These new projects and expansions are having devastating impacts on resources in the watershed, and the New Jersey Sierra Club is joining other environmental groups and hundreds of citizens in calling on the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to exercise its full authority over all pipeline projects proposed in the region. We need full DRBC review to determine the secondary and cumulative impacts these projects have on the watershed as more and more projects are being proposed. New Jersey has already had waterways destroyed and forests cleared as a result of these pipeline projects and we need the DRBC to act now to stop further damage.
Exelon seeks to boost nuclear output amid declining power prices
While many energy companies have sold off power plants to battle declining electricity prices, Commonweath Edison parent Exelon Corp. is still hedging its bets on nuclear energy to power its growth.
The Chicago company, which is one of the nation's largest operators of nuclear power plants, said last month it was deferring plans to spend $2.3 billion on expanding capacity at its nuclear power plants and other projects because of low natural gas prices and slowed electricity demand. But this week it got a step closer to its scaled back goal of adding more than 1,100 megawatts of carbon-free energy by 2021.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this week accepted the company's application to modify its Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania to increase the plant’s capacity by 12.4 percent, Reuters said. The two reactors at the plant currently have a capacity of 1,122 megawatts, enough to power more than 1 million homes. 
Casey questions what led to fracking wastewater communication breakdown
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton, announced Thursday that he wrote a letter to the National Response Center, urging them to improve their notification system and efforts after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection didn’t receive notice of the illegal dumping of thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater into a storm sewer that led to the Mahoning River, which eventually leads to the Beaver River.
Federal Legislation Aims to Close “Fracking Loopholes”
Pennsylvania Representative Matthew Cartwright (D-17) has introduced legislation to remove oil and gas industry exemptions from the federal Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Cartwright is from Scranton, and his district stretches over six counties including Schuylkill, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, and Northampton County. 
The “FRESHER” Act would remove federal regulatory exemptions related to storm water run-off at drill sites. And the “BREATHE” Act would require air emissions generated by the oil and gas industry be subject to federal aggregation regulations. 
“The lack of oversight and permitting of storm water in the oil and gas industry represents a danger to the nation’s waterways and other key assets. This is especially true in areas where hydraulic fracturing has increased in prevalence,” said Rep. Matt Cartwright in a press release. “Both of these pieces of legislation are common sense and I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to get on board.”
Op-Ed: DON'T FRACK LOYALSOCK STATE FOREST
Loyalsock State Forest is the heart of Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains Region, and provides thousands of visitors amazing hiking, canoeing and camping experiences. 
But, just days after Gov. Corbett's top forest protection official said their highest priority is protecting Loyalsock, a leaked memo showed they were negotiating a a deal to open up the Loyalsock to gas drilling—and was just trying to agree on a price with the Texas-based gas drilling company Anadarko. [1] 
If the governor allows Anadarko, a Houston-based gas company, to drill in Loyalsock, the park’s land would be torn up and vulnerable to pollution. In fact, Anadarko has already been cited for over 150 drilling violations in Pennsylvania and is already surveying lands for drilling around some of the best hiking paths. [2]
 Pa. Lawmaker Aims To Publicize Fracking Water Test Results (paywall)
Pennsylvania state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, introduced legislation Friday requiring the state Department of Environmental Protection to give homeowners the results of water tests that analyze contamination from natural gas drilling, continuing a challenge to the DEP's transparency over water supply damage.
The bill would require the DEP to post water testing results on its website and provide individuals who own private water supplies with testing and a lab report if they suspect their water supplies have been polluted or diminished because of natural gas drilling....
Venture proposes 'Bluegrass Pipeline' to the Gulf Coast

More natural gas liquids extracted from underneath Pennsylvania will start flowing to petrochemical facilities and export markets near the Gulf Coast through a new pipeline project announced Thursday. 
Williams, an energy infrastructure firm, and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP said their proposed joint venture will build new pipelines and upgrade existing ones to provide a pathway for liquids like ethane to move from the Marcellus region in Appalachia to facilities in Texas and Louisiana. 
The so-called "Bluegrass Pipeline" would transport up to 400,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids from Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Gulf Coast, where the liquids can either be processed by that region's bevy of petrochemical facilities or shipped to other markets.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pa. Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates, Feb. 25- Mar. 4

Please click on headlines to read the full stories

SEC Investigating Outgoing Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon
Outgoing Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon is being formally investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for a controversial financial perk that allowed him to personally invest in the company’s oil and gas wells.
The Associated Press reports Chesapeake revealed the investigation Friday in an annual filing with the SEC:
According to the report, the SEC opened an investigation in December, stepping up what had begun as an informal inquiry started in May.
The probe is looking into a deal that McClendon, who founded Chesapeake in 1989, has long had with the company that allows him to invest personally in the oil and gas wells the company drills.
Marcellus shale businesses have ties with regulators

It’s a revolving door between the oil and gas industry and environmental regulators and government officers, a new report says.
The report, released by the Public Accountability Initiative, says several government officers and environmental regulators in Pennsylvania have left their public jobs for careers in the oil and gas industry or vice versa — left their industry jobs for government posts.

“The oil and gas industry frequently argues that fracking means jobs,” the report says. “This appears to be especially true for former regulators and other public officials in Pennsylvania, many of whom have taken lucrative jobs working for the industry.”
The report details the ties between the industry and Pennsylvania’s governors, state officials and environmental regulatory bodies.
 Exasperated by EPA Inaction, Residents near Coal Ash Dumps File Lawsuits
Residents in at least a handful of states are separately suing energy companies for allowing coal waste to pollute streams, lakes and rivers. Coal ash, a euphemism for the solid waste produced by coal-burning power plants, contains arsenic, barium, boron, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium and thallium, which have been linked to cancer, birth defects, digestive illnesses, reproductive conditions, and other health problems.

Many of the plaintiffs have claimed they have no choice but to take legal action against polluters because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has refused to act. In June 2010, EPA presented two proposals for dealing with coal ash; one would classify it as “hazardous” and the other as “non-hazardous.” More than two and a half years later, the agency has yet to make a choice. According to government figures, there are 1,161 coal ash ponds and landfills in the United States.

Crestwood Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2012 Financial and Operating Results and 2013 Outlook
Crestwood Midstream Partners LP (NYSE: CMLP) ("Crestwood" or the "Partnership") reported today its unaudited financial results for the three months and year ended December 31, 2012. Key financial and operating results for 2012 included the following:


  • Repositioned and further diversified the Partnership with substantial future growth visibility from liquids rich basins through the acquisition of approximately $560 million of gathering, processing and compression assets. Including Crestwood Marcellus Midstream LLC ("CMM"), gathering volumes in rich gas areas represented 62% of Crestwood's total gathering volumes in the fourth quarter 2012, compared to 26% in the fourth quarter 2011;
  • Acquired a strong growth position in the rich gas portion of the Marcellus Shale, located in Harrison and Doddridge Counties, West Virginia, through the purchase of midstream assets and a 20 year fixed-fee services contract from Antero Resources Appalachian Corporation ("Antero") in March 2012. Results from Antero in the region vastly exceeded expectations with volumes growing from approximately 200 million cubic feet per day ("MMcf/d"), in early 2012 to approximately 400 MMcf/d at year end 2012. In response to Antero's rapidly expanding activity in the area, Crestwood opened regional operating offices in Clarksburg and Charleston, West Virginia and has increased its Marcellus staff to 20 full time equivalents. By year end 2013, volumes from Crestwood's Marcellus region are expected to surpass its Barnett Shale segment as the largest segment contributor in Crestwood's portfolio and Antero will become Crestwood's largest customer by volume;
  • More Marcellus shale taxes urged

    “The cost of the impact fee to the industry is about one-third of what it would have been in severance taxes as Gov. Rendell proposed,” said Jeff Schmidt, director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club. “By spreading it around, everyone gets a little piece of it, but doesn’t go nearly as far as it would if it were a severance tax.”
    Schmidt said that in other states with unconventional drilling, a severence tax of 5 percent of the value of the gas coming out of the wellhead is common. He also said some operators deduct that from royalities paid to residents.
    “While (impact fees) may have brought in around $200 million, estimates were that annual revenues would have exceeded $500 million from a severence tax like there is for other states,” Schmidt said. “The state is letting the drillers off the hook too easily. They are not requiring the drillers to pay their fair share, as the drillers pay in other states.”
    Pennsylvania collected more than $204.2 million in impact fees, 40 percent of which was allocated to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, according to Public Utility Commission data. The state collected $50,000 for each horizontally drilled well and $10,000 for vertical well from natural gas operators.
    Latest Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Gas Well Production Data Shows Natural Gas And Oil Hot Spots
    The latest Marcellus gas production data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Oil and Gas Management shows the Marcellus Shale Play is continuing as a major contributor to the Nation's natural gas production. According to the data, as of December 31, 2012, 3,551 wells reported gas production. Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation claimed 9 of the top 15 gas producing wells, with Citris Energy, Chief Energy, and Rice Energy rounding out the top 15 in the 6 month reporting period.
    For Marcellus Drillers, Profits Rise
    Good news seems to keep pouring in for Pennsylvania’s shale drillers. Last week, Cabot Oil and Gas reported record production volumes and earnings for 2012.
    Speaking at a hearing in Philadelphia City Council Wednesday afternoon, David Yoxheimer, from the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, says Marcellus wells produced 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2012, representing 10 percent of the nation’s annual demand. And this afternoon, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on how Range Resources did last year.
    “During the fourth quarter, the Southern Marcellus Shale Division brought 30 horizontal wells online alone, taking advantage of the liquid-rich area of southwest Pennsylvania. An additional eight wells were drilled and cased in the northeast Marcellus during the fourth quarter. The company met its year-end production target of 600 Mmcfe per day. Range Resources had a total of $1.5 billion in revenue for the year, marking an 18 percent increase over 2011.”
    Youngstown gas driller indicted, accused of dumping fracking waste into river
    A federal grand jury returned an indictment against the owner of an oil and gas drilling company on Thursday, charging him with violating the Clean Water Act by dumping more than 20,000 gallons of fracking waste into a river in Youngstown.
    In addition to the charges against Benedict Lupo, 62, of Poland, Ohio, the grand jury also returned Clean Water Act indictments against Lupo’s company, Hardrock Excavating, and an employee of the company, Michael Guesman, 34, of Cortland (Benedict Lupo is the owner of Hardrock Excavating and D&L Energy, which operates numerous fracking wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York).
    Special report: Hunting for Pennsylvania’s abandoned gas wells
     Laurie Barr is a hunter. Each year, around November, when the trees in Pennsylvania lose their foliage and the shrubs are nothing but bare sticks, offering no hiding place or cover, the hunting season begins. But Laurie Barr doesn’t carry a rifle or a crossbow; she doesn’t wear camouflage, and no faithful hounds lead the way.

    She doesn’t have to tread silently across the forest floor or keep her voice down because her quarry, if she is lucky enough to find it, is already dead – has been dead for decades. Armed with just a digital camera and a GPS device, Laurie Barr is hunting for what few in Pennsylvania have heard of: orphaned oil and gas wells.
     Fracking Under a Historic Farm
    In its ongoing campaign to win over opponents of hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas industry has succeeded in persuading the owner of a historic Pennsylvania farm to allow gas to be extracted from beneath her property.The owner, Denise Dennis, initially rejected an approach from Cabot Oil and Gas to lease part of her 153-acre farm in gas-rich Susquehanna County in northeastern Pennsylvania. But late last year she changed her mind and signed a lease that allows the company to drill horizontally below her land without sinking any wells within its boundaries.
    Pa. DEP considers fracking in Dimock water pollution case Tainted water wells in no-drill zone, but fracking allowed
    Pennsylvania environmental officials are attempting to track the source of explosive levels of methane in two private water wells in a shale gas field in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

    That in itself is not especially newsworthy. The small town in northern Susquehanna County has been the focus of state and national investigations since 2009, when gas linked to nearby drilling by Cabot Oil & Gas seeped into the aquifer and caused a water well to explode. It’s significant, however, that the recent problems emerged in the middle of a 9-square mile area where the DEP banned drilling four years ago due to chronic methane migration problems. It’s also significant that the agency allowed fracking to resume at two nearby gas wells.
    Developers complete 139.4-MW Pennsylvania project
    Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES Americas) has announce the completion of the 139.4 MW Twin Ridges Wind Farm located in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The project was completed in December of 2012 and is now operational.
    RES Americas served as the balance-of-plant contractor for the project, which was developed and is owned by EverPower. The Twin Ridges Wind Farm consists of 68 2.05 MW REpower MM 92 turbines that will interconnect to PJM through the Potomac Edison affiliate of FirstEnergy Corporation. The project employed hundreds of workers during the construction phase and up to twelve operations and maintenance staff will be employed during operations.
    Op-ed: Leveraging Marcellus shale to pay for pension reform
    Pennsylvania faces unfunded public sector pension obligations of $41 billion. And proposals are proliferating to reform pension parameters in ways which are likely to face protracted legal challenges. 
    Also, we are confronting harsh budgetary trade-offs in which education, infrastructure, health care and public safety are underfunded due to the budgetary pressure from longer term liabilities. Apparently, we will be tied in binding budgetary and legal knots for many years to come. Could it be otherwise? Might someone undo the knot, as in the Gordian legend?
    Perhaps Pennsylvania should start acting as the energy-rich state that it has become. Thanks to the thousands of Marcellus shale wells, and the expected growth of such activities, the state could obtain resource royalty revenue, if a bold policy pivot can be accomplished.
    Other energy-rich states realize sizeable revenue streams from royalty fees on oil and natural gas; our closest competitor, West Virginia, imposes a 6.1% effective royalty rate. Other states such as Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Alaska, all receive significant royalty revenue. Pennsylvania is truly exceptional in its forgoing of such revenue.
    Op-ed:  Carpenters In The Forehead/ It’s A No-Brainer: Maintain The Moratorium On Gas Drilling
    Drilling for natural gas deep within the Marcellus shale fields: a divisive issue now before the Maryland State legislature that is certain to have significant long-range effects on the people and environment of the Appalachian Mountains within our state borders.
    Would it be advisable to support an outright ban on drilling? Should the current moratorium be continued until the Marcellus Shale Commission concludes its mandate? Should the gas companies be given permits to start drilling?
    For the past week or more, I have been doing research on the internet to see if I could come to some definitive conclusion as to whether or not I would be in favor of gas-drilling in western Maryland.
    This is of vital interest to those of us who live in Garrett or Allegany County, as we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences.
    Let’s be honest from the get-go. We all want our energy. We want to drive our cars and trucks, we want our air-conditioners, and we want heat in the bitter winter months. We just don’t want the problems associated with energy production to be in our back yards. .
    As I was reading through reports on various health effects from gas drilling, I found myself thinking of a pertinent analogy as to how research is done in clinical medicine. For example, a study may be designed to evaluate a particular treatment and its outcome on patients. Suppose the benefits in this initial investigation are found to be quite favorable compared to the risks and negative effects. One study, however, doesn’t usually become the standard of care right off the bat. Instead, other studies of a similar nature will be done, and they may, or may not, validate the first findings. Peer review takes place. Consensus panels make recommendations.
    Sometimes what seems like a good idea at the onset proves over time to be not so good, and it falls out of favor. I have seen this occur on many occasions. That’s one reason why doctors don’t necessarily jump on the bandwagon right off the bat when it comes to new treatments. It’s not a bad idea to let the facts and studies play themselves out.
    On the other hand, there are definitely times when initial studies go on to become the standard of care and hold up to the scrutiny of time. What sounded good indeed turns out to be good care.
    Op-ed: The energy potential of fracking
    Say you were a politician, and there was a domestic energy source available that's clean and abundant. One that has the potential to create new jobs and revitalize local economies. Would you do more to encourage it?
    Silly question, you may be thinking. Why wouldn't you do more to encourage it?
    Well, this scenario is more than just hypothetical. I'm talking about natural gas, which is proving in these energy-hungry times to be more of a boon every day. The United States has plenty of it, and thanks to technological advancements in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), it's more accessible than ever.