Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 Pa. Marcellus Shale and Energy News Updates, Mar. 26- Apr. 2

News reports are selected from national sources and local news outlets simply because they cover Pennsylvania-related energy and shale gas news, not to push any agenda of mine. Op-ed and other commentary reflect the opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect my views.

Please click on the headlines to read the full stories.

FirstEnergy files closure plan of Little Blue Run
Closing the Little Blue Run coal ash impoundment will involve covering 900 acres of it with a synthetic liner, topsoil and vegetation, a FirstEnergy spokesman said.
One of the primary goals of the voluminous closure plan, submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP) on Friday, is to prevent stormwater from seeping into the coal ash byproduct material being stored at Little Blue Run, spokesman Mark Durbin said.
"If (water) works its way into the topsoil, it would hit the liner and be wicked away so it won't mix with the coal combustion byproducts that are already in the ground," Durbin said. "The liner separates the coal combustion byproducts from any new moisture that comes in."
FirstEnergy Generation Corp., operator of the coal-fired Bruce Mansfield Plant in Shippingport, Pa., submitted the closure plan as part of a legal agreement, known as a consent decree, that it reached with PDEP last year. The consent decree requires that FirstEnergy stop disposing of wet coal ash material in the unlined impoundment by Dec. 31, 2016.
Problems With Pipeline?
Due to new EPA standards that go into effect in the next few years, Penn State University is converting the West Campus Boiler Facility from coal to natural gas.
The project will cost more than 48 million dollars and is part of a 30-year contract the school signed with Columbia Gas. But in order to do that, it needs a way to get the gas there. That's the problem, the school plans to install a pipeline to transfer the natural gas to the plant. It would run on the northeast side of State College, along Porter Road to the facility along North Burrowes Street. It's been in the works since 2009.
It was the hot topic at Monday night's State College Borough Council meeting. They were scheduled to vote on whether to give the green light on construction to start on the pipeline.
WTAJ News was there and found that while Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania's proposal is considered by some to be the best option, reaction from residents differs.
The State College Borough Council didn't vote on whether to give the final permit to Columbia Gas to start construction until very late Monday night. The public speaking portion ran late with more than 30 speakers that signed up. Each one got up to four minutes to speak. The overall opinion seemed clear. The public and some on the borough's council don't think building the pipeline is the right move.
Proposed Gas Pipeline Sparks Heated Response at State College Borough Council Meeting
Penn State University’s coal-burning West Power Plant is due for an upgrade—an upgrade that would mean digging up some State College streets and installing a high-pressure natural gas pipeline. It's clear from tonight's borough council meeting that some State College residents are in an uproar. “I think there has been a total lack of transparency,” said State College resident Janet Engeman.
Hot off the heels of a gas line leak that shut down part of Park Avenue over the weekend, residents want to know why the line will be laid under borough streets instead of the University’s campus. According to Mark Kempric, President of Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, placing the line on campus was never seriously considered. “We didn’t even do a cost estimate of putting a pipeline on campus after seeing the difficulties. We simply determined that they were not viable routes.”
Residents and council members alike are frustrated by the fact that, under public utility code, the borough council has no ability to block the placement of the pipe. Council has to make a decision based on whether or not construction standards are met.
Atlantic Coal seeks another extension to Pennsylvanian option
Atlantic Coal (LON:ATC) is in negotiations to extend the deadline on its option agreement to acquire additional anthracite mining assets in Pennsylvania.
The option, which is exercisable entirely at the company's discretion, has an exercise price of US$35 million.
Oil and gas production reporting may expand
The federal government wants to provide more frequent oil and gas production reports for Pennsylvania and other states that have seen a recent boom in drilling.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says it wants to include monthly production estimates from Pennsylvania and 11 other states in its reports.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based in Pennsylvania, says Monday that it supports the EIA proposal. Kathryn Klaber, the group's president, says they recognize the importance of more frequent reporting given the dramatic increases in production.
Numbers From the War on State Renewables Standards
At least twenty-two of the 29 state renewables standards have been attacked by legislators or regulators in the last year or are now under attack.Known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) or a Renewable Energy Standard (RES), these mandates require utilities to obtain a portion of their power from renewable sources by a certain date. Research shows they add less than 5 percent, on average, to the cost of electricity bills and are an effective driver of renewables growth.
Some of the attacks are part of a push led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and aligned advocacy groups funded by fossil and nuclear interests. Most lack significant force. "But if they slow things," Environment America Energy Program Director Rob Sargent noted, "they're having an impact." 
  • Pennsylvania's 18 percent by 2021 standard is under serious attack by an all-Republican legislature and Republican governor. One bill would allow natural gas to count toward the mandate, another would allow solid waste incineration to replace wind and solar, and a third would eliminate the tracking of new generation, allowing burned renewables to displace wind and solar.
Deals would export natural gas to India, Japan
The operator of a proposed Chesapeake Bay terminal that would liquefy natural gas for export has signed deals to ship the fuel to India and Japan, buttressing its application for an export license.

Dominion Resources announced Monday that it had secured buyers for essentially the entire capacity of the proposed plant at Cove Point, Md., which is tied directly by pipeline to Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale gas field.

The Virginia energy company also announced it had signed engineering contracts for the Cove Point project and filed a formal 12,000-page application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Construction would start in 2014 and the plant would begin shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2017. The project is estimated to cost from $3.4 billion to $3.8 billion.

Gas producers, eager to find new markets, are promoting LNG as a way to improve the nation's balance of trade and to boost domestic job growth. Some consumers, including the powerful petrochemical industry, say exports will drive up prices and retard manufacturing. Environmentalists fear harm from more drilling. 
 Pennsylvania High School to Host Bizarre Swim Meet – in Fracking Fluid
In what one concerned parent is calling “outrageous,” the Pennsylvania Department of Environment is allowing two eastern Pennsylvania high schools to stage a bizarre boys swim meet this coming Friday—in a swimming pool filled with fracking fluid.
The event is being held to demonstrate the safety of the fluid, a byproduct of the oil and gas extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. Some politicians have pulled similar scientifically questionable stunts to reassure the public that fracking fluid is benign. Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO), for example, went so far as to drink a glass of the fluid in 2012.
The swim meet is sponsored by the American Oil and Gas Council, whose member companies believe that fracking could bring 3,500 jobs to the Lehigh Valley alone.
Administrators at Allentown Senior High School and Jefferson High School in Easton are facing a backlash from angry parents who claim they were never notified that the idea was under consideration. “The fluids might be completely safe,” said Sharon Petaluma, a mother of one of the swimmers. “But I feel that we as a community have the right and responsibility to know more about what exactly is in them before we allow our children to swim around in it.”
Natural gas fracking topic of local lecture
This year’s Dr. Bernard Cobetto Lecture Series on Contemporary Ethical Issues at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg will feature environmental philosopher Wendy Lynne Lee, PhD, a professor of Philosophy at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

Her talk, entitled “When the Earth Moves Under Our Feet: The Pennsylvania Marcellus Gas Rush,” will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at Pitt-Greensburg’s Ferguson Theater (150 Finoli Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601). Lee will discuss natural gas fracking as it pertains to Pennsylvania. A community panel representing various viewpoints on the topic will also participate. This event is free and open to the public. Pre-event registration is suggested, and may be done by calling 724-836-9911. 
Fracking: The next bubble?
Coal and nuclear power industries in the United States have seen better days. The main culprit, energy industry analysts say, is the low cost of domestic natural gas, coupled with carbon-reducing regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the efforts of environmental groups.
Instead of paying the high costs to upgrade coal-fired plants and repair aged nuclear facilities to meet environmental regulations, power companies across the country have been making the switch to natural gas....
But what if cheap, domestic natural gas isn’t actually sustainable? What if rosy claims of fracking our way to energy independence is just an industry pitch that Washington has bought?
Two new reports reveal that the natural gas narrative may be more hype than reality and warn that putting too much of our eggs into this energy basket could be detrimental to our future economic health.
Consol working in Blacksville No. 2 mine
Consol Energy Inc. teams are back in the Blacksville No. 2 mine that was evacuated March 13 after a fire, but there's still no word as to when production will resume.
The mine normally produces about 400,000 tons of coal a month but has been offline since the fire and the employees have been off work. But since last Wednesday, teams from Consol (NYSE: CNX) have been working to examine the mine and make sure that it's safe.
Texas Eastern Transmissions plans gas pipeline improvements in Lebanon County
One of the nation's largest natural-gas-transmission companies is making plans to expand a pipeline that passes through the Lebanon Valley.
Houston-based Texas Eastern Transmission, a division of Spectra Energy Corp., is seeking federal regulatory approval to install 33.6 miles of new, 36-inch diameter pipeline and other related above-ground facilities in Lebanon, Dauphin, Berks, Fayette and Perry counties. The underground pipeline carries the natural gas produced in the western part of Pennsylvania and distributes it throughout the country.
The work is a small part of Texas Eastern's massive $520 million Texas Eastern Appalachia to Market Expansion, or TEAM 2014 Project, which also includes installations and  upgrades in several other states to meet customer demand, said Marylee Hanley, director of stakeholder outreach for Spectra Energy.
Engineers push for collaboration on shale gas research
Recently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon have traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with policymakers and share their recently completed 30-page policy guide on shale gas.
The team that traveled to Washington included engineering and public policy professor of the work and assistant director of policy outreach for the Scott Institute Deborah Stine, civil and environmental engineering professor Jeanne VanBriesen, associate professor of engineering and public policy and professor in the Tepper School of Business Michael Griffin, head of the mechanical engineering department Allen Robinson, and Ph.D. student in engineering and public policy Austin Mitchell. All are also associated with Carnegie Mellon’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, which was launched last September.
The team’s main goal in Washington was to give policymakers and members of government a primer on shale gas, and inform them of the current research that was occurring at Carnegie Mellon in regards to water resources, air pollution, and gas wells. The group also focused their attention on pushing for a research initiative between universities, government, and industry.
Thousands of UMWA Members, Supporters Arriving For Rally In Charleston
Thousands of mine workers, family members and community supporters are expected to fill the streets of Charleston Monday for a massive rally.
The demonstrators plan to stand up for health care for active and retired miners at Patriot Coal.
The United Mine workers of America will be bringing in more than 50 busloads of people from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. They plan to protest outside the state offices of bankrupt Patriot Coal.

The union has staged multiple protests in St. Louis, where some people were arrested. Buses will arrive in Charleston 8:30 a.m. at the Charleston Civic Center. The rally then starts at 10 a.m. Protesters will then march to Laidley Tower, where Patriot Coal has offices, for a 12:15 p.m. rally.Featured speakers will include U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, W.Va. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, UMWA President Cecil Roberts and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 
Ed Rendell's payments from gas drilling interests not disclosed in pro-fracking column
Former Gov. Ed Rendell, whose Democratic Party usually comes down on the side of protecting the environment, once called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "crazy" for backing a moratorium on gas drilling until environmental concerns could be resolved.
This past week, Rendell had a strongly worded op-ed column in the New York Daily News, attacking "vocal critics … who continue to push a false choice" by putting environmental concerns ahead of the "economic growth" of the gas boom.
"I know, because as governor of Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2011, I saw this [the economic growth] happen up close," he wrote...
The very next day, a bunch of online troublemakers known as ProPublica divulged something that Rendell "forgot" to tell the editors of The Daily News.
He was not just speaking as Pennsylvania's former governor; he was speaking as a paid consultant for a company that has invested in the gas drilling industry.
Cause of Wyoming County Well Spill Still Unknown
More than two weeks after a natural gas well began spewing fracking wastewater in Wyoming County, some residents who were evacuated from their homes are still using bottled water.
The accident, which remains under investigation, began on the evening of March 13 at a well north of Tunkhannock in Washington Township. More than a quarter million gallons of highly pressurized fracking wastewater came out of the well before it was successfully capped the following afternoon.

At one point, it was gushing 800 gallons a minute. The wastewater – which the industry calls “flowback” – is typically very high in salt, has chemical additives, and may contain radioactive material.
RR acquires U.S. nuclear service company
Rolls-Royce of Britain has acquired PKMJ Technical Services of the United States, expanding its presence in the nuclear services market.
Completion of the acquisition was announced Friday but no details were provided on financial details of the transaction.
PKMJ Technical Services is a nuclear engineering services business with headquarters in Pennsylvania.
Is the U.S. Exporting Coal Pollution?
The good news is that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to decline. "Over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen," said President Obama in his State of the Union address last month.
The bad news is the United States is exporting its polluting gases, particularly in the form of coal, like never before.
Figures released earlier this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration show U.S. coal exports reached a record of more than 115 million tons in 2012, more than double the 2009 figure.
Pennsylvania still a top energy producer
Coal, natural gas, nuclear power — we’ve got it all.
Pennsylvania ranks fourth in terms of coal production, eighth in natural gas production and second in electricity generation from a nuclear plant, data shows.

Pennsylvania is the fourth largest coal-producing state in the nation, with an output of nearly 60 million tons in 2011, says the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance’s annual Coal Data Book, released Wednesday.
EPA Announces Fracking Study’s Peer Review Panel
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board has named members of the independent panel tasked with reviewing the agency’s draft fracking study.
The federal study won’t be released until 2014, but the agency recently published a progress report. The EPA is examining five stages of hydraulic fracturing, and assessing each step’s risk of contaminating drinking water. That includes everything from where drillers withdraw their water, to what chemicals they mix in, to how fracking fluid is stored on drilling sites. The study will also probe well construction standards and waste disposal methods.
The study includes an extensive look at drilling in Bradford and Washington Counties. The EPA is also looking at spill data from Pennsylvania drilling sites, and using computer models to predict how much water will be withdrawn from the Susquehanna River Basin in the future.
Sand From Fracking Could Pose Lung Disease Risk To Workers
When workplace safety expert Eric Esswein got a chance to see fracking in action not too long ago, what he noticed was all the dust.
It was coming off big machines used to haul around huge loads of sand. The sand is a critical part of the hydraulic fracturing method of oil and gas extraction. After workers drill down into rock, they create fractures in that rock by pumping in a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. The sand keeps the cracks propped open so that oil and gas are released.
But sand is basically silica — and breathing in silica is one of the oldest known workplace dangers. Inside the lungs, exposure to the tiny particles has been shown to sometimes lead to serious diseases like silicosis and cancer.
Op-Ed:  Another fracking tool...Ed Rendell
Pennsylvania's revolving door isn't just making me dizzy, it's making me sick. Is there anyone -- anyone -- out there willing to serve the people of the commonwealth for four or even eight years with nothing in their hearts and their minds but love for Pennsylvania's natural beauty and a burning desite to keep citizens' tap water from, um, burning? Who doesn't show up in Harrisburg with dollar signs spinning in his eyes like a slot machine, thinking of all the chips that he or she will cash in on the very day they leave what we like to jokingly call around these parts "public service"?
Ed Rendell, our former Democratic governor, is a tool of the fracking industry. He wrote an op-ed in that other Daily News, the New York one, today, telling New Yorkers that they should allow fracking in their state so the industry can do all the wonderful things they've done here in Pennsylvania. His article covered a lot of ground but somehow it failed to mention this:
Reached Wednesday, Rendell told ProPublica that he should have disclosed to the Daily News his work at the private equity firm, Element Partners, and that the newspaper “should have included it.”

Rendell said the Pennsylvania-based firm pays him about $30,000 per year. Still, he insisted he is not conflicted on the issue of fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected deep into the ground to extract previously unreachable natural gas from rock. He said he does not own equity in Element Partners or any fracking companies.
Commentary: Is This Shale Oil and Gas Play Overhyped?
A couple of years ago, Chesapeake Energy's (NYSE: CHK  ) outgoing CEO Aubrey McClendon touted the Utica Shale as "the biggest thing to hit Ohio since the plow." In mid-2011, he even went so far as to claim that the 1.3 million acres of Utica property that Chesapeake had leased contained hydrocarbons worth roughly $20 billion.
But since that time, McClendon has scaled back his expectations about the Utica's oil potential substantially, as have executives at some other major companies operating in the play. This waning optimism, fueled by wells that yielded far less oil than initially expected, has led some commentators to question whether or not the play will live up to its initial hype.
As Utica drillers continue to derisk their acreage, will they stumble upon huge reserves of oil? Or will the Utica's initial comparison to Texas' prolific Eagle Ford prove overblown? Let's take a look.
Commentary:  Breaking promises: Shed billions and earn bonuses
I saw a story in the Wall Street Journal this month about how some retired coal miners in West Virginia might lose their health insurance because the coal company they once worked for - the one that promised them health insurance for life - had been sold and resold and was now owned by another big company that was asking a court to allow it to break that promise. The promise was no longer convenient or profitable.
The company was also making another request to the court: for permission to pay its managers a $7 million bonus. Presumably, they were doing a heck of a job.
I know a little about coal, not from ever getting my hands or lungs dirty mining it. I never went into a mine except as a reckless teenager sneaking around where my parents told me never to go, or when I visited an old mine reborn as a tourist attraction. But I grew up around coal, in Mount Carmel, in the Anthracite Region....
As for promises, we all make them, and most of us try to keep them. One dictionary definition says that to promise is "to assure somebody that something will certainly happen or be done . . . to cause somebody to expect something." I guess that covers the miners' situation.
There is another type of promise, one that can be enforced at law, a contract. Of course, there are many bright, maybe brilliant, lawyers from the best schools who have perfected the art of breaking even those promises.
Commentary: To Frack Or Not? Just One Of The Questions
It's apparent why a great number of Americans wonder about the risks of fracking and whether states and the federal government ought to shut the technology down. The breakthrough that now enables developers to recover oil and natural gas from hydrocarbon-rich shales 6,000 to 10,000 feet beneath the surface is potentially fraught with danger.
No new technology comes without assorted risks, especially one as environmentally significant and economically powerful as fracking. But along with the risks come benefits. The question is whether the U.S. has the capacity to significantly reduce the threats through regulatory safeguards, or is there one or more aspects of the technology that are so inherently dangerous that fracking should not be allowed at all?
Answering the question involves distinguishing the difference between "potential" and "actual" risks and benefits. On the potential side of the discussion, the risks seem fearsome.
Op-Ed: Quality drilling: It's time for higher standards on Marcellus Shale
In Pennsylvania's battle between gas drillers and environmentalists, it's good to see someone reaching for higher ground. And it happens to be gas drillers and environmentalists.
With the help of two foundations and strong civic leadership, an unlikely band of energy companies and environmental groups have collaborated to raise operating standards in the Marcellus Shale drilling industry for the benefit of everyone -- workers, businesses and people who care about clena air and water.
The Center for Sustainable Shale Development was introduced on March 20 as an initiative to certify the adoption of higher performance procedures in 15 areas that are protective of air quality, water resources and climate.

No comments:

Post a Comment