Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PA Marcellus News Digest 4/10/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
April 10, 2012


DRBC budget cut could affect ability to administer gas regs
News Eagle
Peter Becker
April 9
Narrowsburg, NY — While speaking about a possibly dry summer, Carol Collier, Executive Director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), shared about a financial drought the multi-state partnership agency is experiencing. Their current budget dilemma, she advised, makes the agency less ready to administer natural gas permits once regulations are approved.

New concerns about gas compressors expected at DEP hearings
Laura Legere
April 10
State regulators will hold two meetings in the next week to gather public comment on five natural gas compressor stations proposed in Wyoming and Susquehanna counties.

Washington County township receives support for legal challenge of shale law
Andrea Iglar
April 10
Robinson, Washington County, has received hundreds of emails, phone calls and letters from governments and individuals supporting its joint legal challenge of Act 13, the state's new Marcellus Shale law.

Environmental Group Says EPA’s Dimock Results Show Fracking Polluted Water
NPR State Impact
Susan Phillips
April 9
Water Defense, the anti-fracking environmental group formed by actor Mark Ruffalo, disputes the EPA’s conclusions about Dimock’s water tests. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released water test results from 20 households in the Susquehanna County township. The EPA says analysis of those tests reveal the water is safe to drink.

Judge to hear suit to halt Pennsylvania gas-drilling law
April 10
HARRISBURG — A state judge will hear a request for an immediate injunction against Pennsylvania's new Marcellus shale law filed by a group including seven municipalities that says it unconstitutionally takes away local powers to control land use.

Study throws water on emissions benefit of CNG vehicles
E&E News
Saqib Rahim
April 10
(full text below)
Powering vehicles with natural gas could take 80 to 280 years to benefit the climate more than today's auto fuels, according to a peer-reviewed report released yesterday.

At the tailpipe, natural gas-powered cars release less carbon dioxide, but getting the fuel to the car takes infrastructure -- pipes and pumps that leak methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times stronger than CO2.

All that methane means natural gas-powered cars are no cleaner than their gasoline and diesel counterparts, unless the industry begins tightening up the leaks, said the paper released yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"What we're talking about are leak rates in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 percent of the gas that's produced is getting to the atmosphere. It's a relatively small number, but that's lost product," said Ramon Alvarez, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and the paper's lead author. "Even though it's small, though, it matters, because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas."

If natural gas goes to a power plant, Alvarez said, about 2 percent of the gas produced at the well is lost through leaks. Even with that leakage, the report found, natural gas does less climate damage than coal does.

If the gas goes to a vehicle, though, there are even more steps, and more chances for methane to escape. By the time it gets there, 3 percent has leaked.

Natural gas-powered vehicles could be better than conventional cars today, though, if the energy industry reduced methane leakage 45 to 70 percent, the researchers wrote. The paper's authors include two EDF scientists and professors from Princeton University, the Rochester Institute of Technology and Duke University.

Methane is elusive because it is under high pressure, Alvarez said. During drilling, gas escapes because it is difficult to close off all possible routes. Some gas is vented on purpose, left to seep out of tanks that contain valuable liquids from underground. Even more gas drifts away when it is transformed and transported through pipes.

The exact leakage levels, however, remain hotly contested. Alvarez and his co-authors used figures from U.S. EPA, which estimated that 2.8 percent of the gas produced from a well each year leaks away.

A February study, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found an average of 4 percent, while a controversial study from Cornell University found a range of 2.2 to 3.8 percent.

Each figure, including EPA's, has had its detractors in industry and outside of it. The energy industry has aggressively questioned data sources and methods, claiming that methane leakage is far below the estimates.

"The Environmental Defense Fund study is based on EPA data that the EPA itself has publicly said is outdated and incomplete," Dan Whitten, vice president for strategic communications at America's Natural Gas Alliance, said in a statement yesterday. "In fact, EDF knows new and additional data is being provided by natural gas producers. We are surprised EDF would release such a report with this knowledge in that they are aware it is premature to draw any conclusions."

Alvarez defended the paper, saying that it is not trying to offer definitive numbers on methane but trying to show that, given the best figures available today, there are choices to be made on where to use natural gas.

"We don't claim to be using the right number here; we're using the number derived from EPA's estimates and other estimates derived from the literature," he said.

Industry has criticized the figures that have come out so far, he said, "but again they haven't produced a set of data that has been accepted by EPA or the scientific establishment. There's just no definitive information out there."

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