Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Weekly Pennsylvania Energy & Marcellus Shale News Update, April 23 edition

Marcellus, shale gas, fracking, pipelines
Protesters occupy DEP's Washington Landing office
Demonstrators came by boat and bike trail to Washington's Landing on the Allegheny River Monday, loudly protesting what they said was the state Department of Environmental Protection's failure to adequately regulate fossil fuel industries, including Marcellus Shale gas, or support renewable energy development.
The float, march and rally, which was billed as an "Earth Day protest against fracking," ended with most of the 75 participants crowded into the lobby of the DEP's Southwest Regional office on the island, where they asked to speak with Susan Malone, the regional director. The protest was one of six planned at DEP regional offices around the state Monday by a coalition of more than 60 environmental and citizens groups.
The coalition is demanding that the DEP place a moratorium on all Marcellus Shale gas development activities, including issuing permits for new wells, compressor stations and pipelines; fully report chemical contamination for well water samples affected by shale gas development; fully enforce existing shale gas and coal regulations; and reopen the department's solar, wind and other renewable energy programs.
Penn State Reconsiders Controversial Pipeline Route
Much controversy has surrounded Penn State’s initial plan to run a 10-inch, high-pressure natural gas pipeline through parts of downtown State College to help convert the West Campus Steam Plant from coal to natural gas. Hordes of community activists have voiced their disproval with the project at Borough Council meetings over recent weeks, citing safety concerns, but the borough has maintained that state prohibits law local government from acting in areas such as the oil and gas industry.
“I am very sympathetic with your fears and your desires and what you want for the borough. I am also incredibly frustrated by the situation,” Councilman Peter Morris said at a previous council meeting. “I agree that certainly this thing violates the borough charter, but if we try to enforce that, eventually it would end up in the courts of Pennsylvania and almost certainly we would lose.”
Pa. legislative package would boost funding for natural-gas vehicle conversions
The Marcellus Works legislation package, introduced by House Republicans in recent weeks, looks to kickstart demand for Pennsylvania's natural gas through tax-credit programs and loans awarded to companies and agencies that convert vehicles to run on compressed natural gas.

The package of bills, named for the state's Marcellus Shale gas formation, has been branded since 2011 and even has its own website. The bills are in various states of development in Harrisburg -- one tax credit program for CNG fleet vehicles passed last week, while another encouraging transit agencies to buy more CNG buses will be under consideration this week.

It's a plan proponents say would make any Earth Day celebrant a happy camper: CNG vehicles have less air emissions than gasoline- or diesel-fueled cars. And natural gas is cheaper, too, costing about $1.90 per gasoline gallon equivalent.

But like anything involving the words "Marcellus Shale," the legislation has attracted controversy. Significant provisions of the bills that granted industry representation on some state committees haven't made it to the House floor, and critics say the millions of dollars in incentives could be better spent on programs that need the money more than the gas industry.
The week that was: Gas growing fertilizer
A horrific explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer facility last week left 12 people dead and demolished dozens of homes in the small community. And though there aren't any facilities like the Texas one in the Pittsburgh region, experts say gas drilling in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale is poised to contribute to a booming fertilizer market.
That's because the growth of the $10 billion fertilizer industry is contingent on cheap natural gas that can be used in the facilities. Companies had been locating in overseas markets where natural gas was plentiful and nearby, but hydraulic fracturing has unlocked domestic reserves in the United States that could tip that balance,
State College Area High School students part of shale monitoring group
A group of State College Area High School students is getting firsthand educational experience with one of the region’s most controversial energy issues — fracking.
The students are part of TeenShale Network, which helps monitor changes in water quality in waterways near where fracking takes place. They are led by learning enrichment and support specialist Nell Herrmann.
The project is also a part of the ShaleNetwork, an effort by scientists at universities including Penn State to collect and share water quality data.



Local group protests against oil and natural gas well fracking
While chanting “DEP, can’t you see you’re the case of all this misery?” and “No fracking way,” a crowd marched peacefully from Diamond Park down Chestnut Street on Monday while carrying a coffin to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s northwest regional office in Meadville.

A group of 60 calling itself the Northwest Pennsylvania Coalition to Protect the Environment rallied in observance of Earth Day to protest against oil and natural gas well fracking in Pennsylvania.
Pa. Governor Corbett Cuts Ribbon at Waste Management's Compressed Natural Gas Refueling Facility in Bucks County
Governor Tom Corbett today attended a ribbon cutting for Waste Management's new compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling facility in Bristol, Bucks County.
The facility will be used to refuel Waste Management's fleet of CNG trucks. The station will also be open to the public.
"Pennsylvania's natural gas development is changing the way we live, work and save," Corbett said. "The cost of heating our homes and running our cars and trucks is falling while employment and innovation are on the rise."
Commonwealth Pipeline plan officially suspended
The Commonwealth Pipeline, a $1 billion trunk-line project proposed last year by three companies to transport Marcellus natural gas from Williamsport to Washington, has officially been suspended, according to the venture's website.
There was insufficient demand for the 200-mile, 30-inch pipeline that could carry 800 million cubic feet of gas a day.
The project's suspension was attributed to low gas prices, a slow economy, and the expansion of existing pipelines, said Simon Bowman, a spokesman for UGI Corp., the Valley Forge energy firm that is one of the project's three partners.
The sponsors say they are just deferring plans until market conditions improve.
Pa. firm opens new plant to treat Marcellus Shale wastewater
A Pennsylvania firm has opened a new plant to treat and recycle wastewater generated by Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.
Aquatech International Corp., which is based in Canonsburg, says the new plant opened in Tioga County on Wednesday. That’s in northeast Pennsylvania near the New York border.
The company says the Tioga facility has a central treatment plant that uses a combination of technologies to treat drilling fluids, the highly salty brine that flows back from wells, and other oil and natural gas wastewaters.
Aither Chemicals mulls plans for cracker and PE plant in Marcellus Shale region
Aither Chemicals LLC has its eye on building a natural gas-based cracker unit that would make polyethylene and related products at a location in Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia.
Access to newly discovered natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region is a key to the project for South Charleston, W. Va.-based Aither.
"The purpose is to locate a cracker at the source of the raw material," spokesman Jason Keeling said in an April 18 phone interview. "We're still in the process of identifying various partners and looking at potential sites."
Pa. House OKs tax breaks for natural gas vehicles
Pennsylvania House Republicans pushed through three tax credit programs Wednesday that are designed to capitalize on the Marcellus shale drilling boom by encouraging companies to use more natural-gas powered vehicles and to give them more convenient places to refuel.

Supporters of the measures, which are part of the House GOP's "Marcellus Works" package, said they would increase employment, improve the environment and lead the state away from dependence on foreign oil.

"It's time for us to understand that if this state is to grow and prosper, we've got to get out of the 20th century and into the 21st," said Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-York.

But Democratic opponents called them hand-outs to big business and expressed skepticism that the job creation predictions will prove accurate.

"These unfunded corporate giveaways help the few at the cost of the many," said Minority Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton.
EPA: 2 Pa. natural gas companies to improve safety
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says two natural gas companies have agreed to improve their operations in western Pennsylvania.
In a statement released Tuesday EPA alleges that Mark West Liberty Midstream & Resources and Laurel Mountain Midstream Operating failed to comply with safety aspects of federal clean air regulations to prevent accidental releases of flammable substances.
The EPA says Mark West has agreed to install new emergency equipment and adopt an approved maintenance schedule at all 14 of its compressor stations in Washington and Butler counties.
Pennsylvania Judge, Citing 1776 Law, Orders Fracking Compensation Disclosure
A Pennsylvania judge surprised the corporate world by ordering the unsealing of a settlement between a family and a fracking company, saying businesses do not enjoy the right of privacy under the state’s constitution.

Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca of the Washington County Court of Common Pleas ruled last month that the details of a $750,000 payment by Texas-based Range Resources to Stephanie and Chris Hallowich for potential harm to their children must be disclosed to the public.

The decision will enable newspapers, which had sued to have the settlement unsealed, as well as environmentalists and community rights advocates, to examine the court case’s health issues and causes.
Anti-fracking groups dismiss drilling certification as ‘publicity stunt’
The proposed gas-drilling certification process created by a partnership of the fracking industry and regional environmental groups is getting harsh criticism from grass-roots activists throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The newly formed Center for Sustainable Shale Development, based in Pittsburgh, announced March 20 that it will create a testing and certification program to codify industry “best practices” and hold fracking companies to a high standard to protect communities from environmental damage.
Anti-fracking groups, however, are suspicious of the new collaboration, and many question the CSSD’s legitimacy.
“This is a publicity stunt,” said Gloia Forouzan of Lawrenceville, Pa. She has spent two years fighting the fracking industry in her hometown and throughout Pennsylvania through Marcellus Shale Protest, a collective of like-minded residents who want to see theprocess banned. The group doesn’t have a spokesperson or leader.
“It’s a way for the drilling companies to make themselves a little bit more appealing to the general public,” Forouzan said. “Their PR has not worked until now, so they’re trying a different approach.”
Shareholders take on fracking: Why do gas companies spend so much on politicians?
By now, companies that extract natural gas in Pennsylvania by fracking are used to protests. They've got talking points to answer those who complain that fracking fouls drinking water and makes people sick. They've devised ways to deflect critics who say they've invested millions of dollars in lobbying and political contributions to neutralize state and local regulators.
But on Wednesday, when the oil and gas company EQT holds its shareholders' meeting in Pittsburgh, the company and its spin doctors will face a different kind of challenge -- from their stockholders. The agenda includes a resolution that asks whether pay-to-play politics is a sustainable way to run a business and calls on EQT to "assess the financial risks of refraining from political expenditures."
The resolution brings to EQT's investors -- the company's real owners -- a debate that has raged in the streets of Pittsburgh, in the halls of the state capitol and in hundreds of towns across Pennsylvania.
Coal

Read more here: http://www.centredaily.com/2013/04/20/3587519/state-college-area-high-school.html#storylink=cpy Coal Cumberland thermal coal mine returns to production: Alpha Natural Resources
Alpha Natural Resources' 6.4 million short ton Cumberland underground thermal coal mine in Greene County, Pennsylvania, is back in production, a company spokeswoman said Monday.

Cumberland had been idled since April 8 after the US Mine Safety and Health Administration issued an "imminent danger order" because of elevated methane levels.

The mine's longwall started back with the Sunday afternoon shift "and we are back to normal operating schedules" Monday, company spokeswoman Samantha Davison said in an email.
Washington community worries coal mine will encroach on way of life
Along the ever-changing line where southward suburban growth abuts rural living, a Kentucky company's desire to reopen a coal mine in Washington County faces opposition from some residents who worry it threatens their bucolic surroundings along Mingo Creek.
“If this goes through, it will completely wreck everybody's home values and quality of life,” said Lorraine Noel, who posted signs against the project on her Nottingham property at the corner of Sugar Run and Little Mingo roads. “It literally doesn't fit. It doesn't fit with the intentions of why we moved here.”
Ramaco Inc., a Lexington-based company, wants to build a mine on 42 acres zoned agricultural along Little Mingo Road. Township officials are expected to vote on May 6 on a conditional-use and land development permit so that Ramaco could erect a portal, bathhouse and other facilities.
Deadline set to remove explosives from Luzerne waste dump
Federal officials intervened at a coal waste dump in Fayette County where a company has 130 boreholes in the ground full of small explosives, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said on Tuesday.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration is working with the DEP to remove the explosives at the LaBelle dump in Luzerne, DEP spokesman John Poister said. Federal officials are demanding a removal plan from CGG, a contractor working for Chevron that placed explosives there to do seismic testing, even though its permit explicitly prohibited work at sites such as LaBelle.
14 arrested at protest against Peabody Energy
Fourteen protesters were arrested this morning in front of Peabody Energy's headquarters in downtown St. Louis following a protest by the United Mine Workers of America at Kiener Plaza.
An estimated 2,000 attended the protest, the fifth such protest in St. Louis, according to Phil Smith, director of communications for UMWA. One of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department sergeants who monitored the police presence at the rally estimated that between 1,000 and 1,500 protesters attended, according to Leah Freeman, a public information specialist with the department.
Union members planted 1,000 white crosses at Kiener Plaza. According to union officials, the crosses were “in memory of the 666 fatalities that have occurred at mines operated by Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal or their subsidiaries since 1903 and symbolize the more than 22,000 active and retired miners, dependents and surviving spouses who will be at risk if Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal succeed in their efforts to effectively eliminate contractually-guaranteed health care benefits.”
PVR Disappoints As Natural Gas Operating Costs Rise
With rising costs and declining commodity prices, PVR Partners (PVR), a natural gas master limited partnership (MLP) has been disappointing the investors with sub-par results.
In view of the cloudy outlook, investors should avoid this Zacks Rank # 5 (Strong Sell) stock for the time being.
Nuclear
First terror drill at U.S. nuclear plant a success: officials
The first simulated test of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant was a success, federal officials said on Friday of the event that was coincidentally scheduled a day after the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday.

The test's location at Three Mile Island outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - the site of the worst commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history - had no special significance, according to state and federal officials.

The test on Tuesday simulated an attack by a group of eight armed men, according to Peter Herrick Jr., spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Areva signs nuclear fuel fabrication services contract with Exelon
France-based Areva has secured a contract from the US-based energy firm Exelon to provide nuclear fuel fabrication services to Dresden and Quad Cities nuclear power stations in Illinois, US.
The agreement also requires Areva to continue providing fabrication services to Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.
As per the deal, Areva will supply a total of twelve reloads to the four power units in Dresden and Quad Cities, starting in 2016.
The company will also provide six fuel reloads to Three Mile Island and continue to provide both fuel and engineering services.
Refueling, Turbine Repairs for Susquehanna Reactor
Unit 2 at Pennsylvania's Susquehanna nuclear plant shut down for refueling and maintenance Saturday, including repairs to turbines that have caused issues at the plant since its last refueling outage.Crews will replace about 40 percent of the reactor's fuel while conducting a wide range of upgrades and routine maintenance tasks. They will also replace several components within its steam turbine assemblies.

"The modifications will address the turbine blade issues that have affected both Susquehanna units," PPL Susquehanna Chief Nuclear Officer Timothy S. Rausch said in a release. "After the refueling outage, we will continue to closely monitor the turbines throughout the next two years to confirm the modified equipment is performing as expected."
Eastern U.S. Wholesale Power Gains as Nuclear Reactors Shut
Wholesale electricity from New Jersey to North Carolina gained on lingering heating demand and the biggest drop in Northeast nuclear generation since October.
Spot power rose for the first time in three days as Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG) shut a nuclear plant in New Jersey. Electricity usage in the mid-Atlantic states has been about 3 percent to 5 percent above yesterday’s forecast since 7 a.m., according PJM Interconnection LLC, which manages the largest electricity market in the country.
Wind
Pa. wind energy soars in 2012, but total is small
Wind energy installations almost doubled in Pennsylvania last year, but the industry still provides only about 1 percent of the state's electricity, far behind Iowa, Texas and others.
Pennsylvania now ranks 16th in the nation in wind power, with 1,430 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association's Annual Market Report for 2012, which was released this month.
Iowa leads the nation, getting 24.5 percent of its electricity from wind power in 2012. South Dakota was at 24 percent, Minnesota 14 percent, Colorado 11 percent and Texas just over 7 percent. New York was at 2.2 percent, and Maine led the Northeast at almost 6 percent.
Even some advocates of renewable energy wonder if Pennsylvania will ever reach the wind energy levels of Iowa and some other leaders.
Penn tops EPA's green-power challenge, again
The University of Pennsylvania maintained its green-power superiority for the seventh straight year, finishing in first place once again in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's nationwide challenge of universities that buy renewable power.
Penn purchased 200.2 million kilowatt hours of wind power last year, 30 percent more than the next closest challenger, the University of Oklahoma.
EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.
Penn State chosen for DOE's inaugural wind competition
Penn State has been named one of only 10 universities to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) inaugural Collegiate Wind Competition, the agency announced April 11.
Over the next year, student teams will be challenged to design and construct a lightweight, transportable wind turbine that can be used to power small electronic devices. The 10 teams will compete head-to-head in spring 2014 at a site to be announced later.
North East group wants tight restrictions on wind farms
A group of North East Township residents is urging township officials to strictly regulate commercial wind farm development.
The group, called Neighbors for a Responsible North East and led by Matt Putman and Paul Crowe, is lobbying for limits on the size of wind turbines that can be built in the township and a ban on commercial turbines, or windmills, within 1 mile of any neighborhood.

The group additionally wants the township to require developers to set money aside to cover any private property depreciation after a wind farm is built and the cost to remove nonfunctional turbines.

More immediately, the group wants more time to educate the public about plans to build a commercial wind farm in North East Township before township supervisors consider any ordinance addressing wind farm development, Crowe said.

"The thing we've been trying to promote is delay of any kind of decision for at least 60 days, so there's time for people in the community to get a grasp of what's going on," he said.
Opinion
Pennsylvania: You Are Fracked
The history of energy exploration, mining, and delivery is best understood in a range from benevolent exploitation to worker and public oppression. A company comes into an area, leases or buys land in rural and agricultural areas for mineral rights, increases employment, usually during a depressed economy, strips the land of its resources, creates health problems for its workers and those in the immediate area, and then leaves.
It makes no difference if it's timber, oil, coal, nuclear, or natural gas. All energy sources are developed to move mankind into a new era; all energy sources are developed to bring as much profit to cor porations as quickly as possible, often by exploiting the workers. 
Sunday Dialogue: Gas Drilling and Our Energy Future
Readers discuss whether natural gas from shale is a promising resource or a misguided risk.-
Several states, including New York, are now considering whether to permit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in areas under their authority. Fracking has made important changes to the American energy budget but has also raised significant concerns about environmental impacts.
The resulting natural gas production has lowered natural gas prices and reduced American dependence on foreign oil. Yet videos of residents near fracking operations setting their kitchen faucets on fire because of methane gas in the drinking water are routinely summoned to condemn the technology.
A reasonable case can be made that the gas resource is too important to ignore, but also that the environmental issues are too important to dismiss. The country must find a way to make this technology work in an environmentally sound way.

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