PA Marcellus News Digest
May 30, 2012
PUC Issues Agenda for Forum Examining Increased Use Electric, Natural Gas Vehicles
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today issued the agenda for its Forum to examine the increased use of alternative fuel vehicles, specifically electric and natural gas.
“We are pleased to have so many senior representatives from companies that are actively involved in alternative fuel vehicle projects joining us for this discussion,” said PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson. “Our goal is to engage in a conversation on how the PUC and the Commonwealth as a whole can foster policies and regulatory frameworks that support investments in natural gas and electric vehicles and their required infrastructure.”
Senate panel backs mine water use in fracking
HARRISBURG - A bill to encourage use of coal mine water in hydrofracking operations by offering liability protection to drillers won approval last week from a Senate committee.
The vote by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee comes as state environmental officials are developing polices to offer Marcellus Shale drillers incentives to tap hundreds of millions of gallons of acid mine drainage.
Fatal crash highlights Gas Task Force discussions
LOCK HAVEN - A lethal combination of faulty equipment, fog and confused direction led to the recent death of a truck driver hauling water for a local natural gas drilling operation, Trooper Kevin Miller of the Pennsylvania State Police told the Clinton County Natural Gas Task Force Tuesday.
International Energy Agency Calls for More Transparency in Shale Gas Extraction
Charting Horizontal Wells’ Production Impact
Cheap Gas And Tougher Regulations Put Coal’s Future At Risk
Alan Walker: A Government Skeptic With A Complicated Environmental Record
DCED Secretary Weighs In On Future Of Natural Gas Industry
Shale-gas researcher is drawing criticism
Kevin Begos, AP
PITTSBURGH - A well-known expert on the natural gas boom is again facing criticism over his ties to industry and a lack of transparency in how he presents work to the public, fueling debates over research that has been published by major universities.
PA Dems’ Marcellus Compact is All That Stands Between the Natty Gas Industry and Hippies
Brad Plumer looks at a new IEA report that explains why fracking regulations are better for the natural gas industry than no fracking regulations or weak fracking regulations:
Under a scenario where countries and drillers adopt these rules, the IEA expects that production would boom and natural gas would replace coal as the world’s second-largest energy source by 2035, behind oil. (This is all assuming, by the way, that countries don’t take further action to curtail their carbon emissions — doing so could affect natural gas, which is still a fossil fuel, even if it’s cleaner than coal.)
Shaky streambed in Bradford County tied to stray methane
Methane bubbling up through a creek in Bradford County has covered the stream bottom with a pale mud and given the rocky streambed the consistency of wobbly pudding as the state and a natural gas drilling company investigate the source of the gas found in two streams, three water wells and a wetland in Leroy Twp.
Dinniman, Rafferty seek more data, new comment deadline for pipeline plan
WEST CHESTER — State senators Andy Dinniman and John Rafferty Jr. have asked to expand the public’s ability to comment on the installation of a natural-gas pipeline across the Brandywine Creek.
On Tuesday, Rafferty and Dinniman formally asked the state Department of Environmental Protection to convene a public hearing on a permit application from Transcontinental Pipeline Co. (Transco) for the stream crossing.
Upper Pottsgrove opposes state’s drilling exemption law
UPPER POTTSGROVE — Although there is little chance anyone will begin drilling for natural gas in Upper Pottsgrove Township any time soon, the commissioners nevertheless voted unanimously May 21 to support a resolution opposing a new state law that would result in them having no say in the matter should it happen.
Susquehanna River water quality status debated
HARRISBURG - The state Fish and Boat Commission wants a sister agency to designate the main stream of the Susquehanna River impaired so additional scientific studies can be done to determine the cause of a major decline in smallmouth bass.
EPA's Dimock results cloud Pa.'s pollution case
(full text below)
Dimock, Pa., has gone from being seen as the town destroyed by drilling to being known as the place where Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. got "crucified."
Dimock played a starring role in the Oscar-nominated anti-drilling documentary "Gasland" as the prime example of gas production gone bad. But after a high-profile round of testing by U.S. EPA, the drilling industry is touting the headlines that call Dimock's water "safe."
Those headlines, though, ignore the reality that Cabot did pollute the water in Dimock, at least according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Cabot says it didn't.
DEP still hasn't cleared Cabot to drill in the affected portion of Dimock Township. Three years ago, the agency shut down some of Cabot's wells, fined the company and eventually negotiated a $4.1 million settlement in which all the affected homeowners got at least two times the value of their home and kept any mineral rights.
John Hanger, who shut down Cabot's drilling back then and levied those fines in the previous administration as head of DEP, understands the confusion but finds it unfortunate.
"I'd say the exaggeration has boomeranged, because some could come to the conclusion that there was nothing wrong in Dimock, and that's not the case," Hanger said in an interview with EnergyWire. "The truth here was never what the gas companies or the activists were saying."
The confusion comes as EPA has beaten a retreat on two other drilling enforcement cases, including one where industry allies were able to cast EPA as out to crucify oil and gas companies.
Days after EPA released its final round of results for Dimock, Dallas-based Regional Administrator Al Armendariz resigned because of a 2-year-old video newly circulated by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) (Greenwire, April 30). Armendariz was recorded at a town hall meeting talking with people worried about contamination from drilling. He compared his strategy of making examples of violators to Roman conquerors' strategy to "crucify" random villagers.
The video took on added significance after EPA dropped the case Armendariz had pressed against Range Resources Corp., alleging contamination similar to what state officials smacked Cabot for in Pennsylvania.
Though a close reading of Armendariz's comments shows that his incendiary "crucify" remark applied to "people who are not compliant with the law," it played on cable news and other media as EPA trying to indiscriminately nail oil and gas companies.
In the second case, EPA agreed to collaborate with state agencies on further testing of water in Pavillion, Wyo., where preliminary results indicated groundwater -- but not drinking water -- had been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing.
No fracking fluid pollution
Pennsylvania DEP did back off from a demand that Cabot build a new water pipeline to the homes affected in Dimock. But it hasn't backed off its contention that Cabot's drilling polluted the drinking water in a portion of Dimock with stray natural gas.
What the recent EPA tests show, however, is that the water was not polluted by hydraulic fracturing fluid. Some of the residents have blamed the contamination on fracturing, and that's what many drilling opponents have staked their complaints on.
To do that, the pressure involved in injecting the frack fluid underground to release gas would have had to push the fluid upward through numerous layers of rock for about a mile.
"The general sense that fracking is poisoning the water is wrong," Hanger said. "The general sense that there's nothing wrong is also wrong."
Cabot, though, says methane in the water wells was naturally occurring and not caused by the company's drilling. The company participated in a study that found natural gas to be "ubiquitous" in the region's well water.
Cabot spokesman George Stark does agree that in the fierce Dimock debate, the issue of methane migration has gotten confused with the idea of fracturing fluid somehow getting into drinking water.
"It morphed from methane into testing for everything else," Stark said. "There's not anything that's not naturally occurring in that water."
Hanger says he doesn't fault EPA for going into Dimock. More testing can't hurt, he said. And he said the EPA officials who made the decision were under intense political pressure from environmental activists, including a protest outside EPA's regional headquarters in Philadelphia.
"There's a long list of people who have played games with the Dimock situation," Hanger said. "Methane migration was a finding that, at different times, neither side wanted to hear."