Monday, September 24, 2012

PA Marcellus News Digest 9/24/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
September 24, 2012


Sept 20
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC; held its quarterly business meeting today in Harrisburg, Pa.  Among its actions, SRBC approved:
- 22 water withdrawal and consumptive use applications and tabled 6 applications (see list below);
- the partial waiver of application fees when a project sponsor withdraws an application prior to SRBC beginning its technical review;
- request by Talon Holdings, LLC for a conditional transfer extension related to the Hawk Valley Golf Course, Lancaster County, Pa.; and
- a corrective docket to Nature’s Way Purewater Systems, Inc. (Covington Springs Borehole), Dupont Borough, Luzerne County, Pa.

Shale Gas Outrage speakers, marchers push to stop fracking, support renewable energy, efficience, conservation
Protesters from shale gas “sacrifice zones” and downstream communities protest industry conference, press for fracking bans and moratoria
Sept 21
People from throughout Pennsylvania and the shale regions of neighboring New York, Ohio, West Virginia and beyond, along with downstreamers from Maryland and Delaware, joined together to protest the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s industry convention in downtown Philadelphia yesterday, making a unified statement to “Stop Fracking Now.”


Who you callin' 'unreasoning'?
Pocono Record
Sept 24
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is treading dangerous ground by speaking of gas-drilling detractors as "unreasoning opposition." That insult is likely only to inflame anti-drilling sentiment — surely not the result the governor wanted.

Public invited to drilling impact discussion
Cheryl R. Clarke
Sept 23
WELLSBORO - A panel discussion about the impact on Tioga County of drilling in the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation and the signing of the Community Compact with the natural gas industry are on the agenda for the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health's annual meeting Thursday from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Deane Center's Grand Community Room, 100 Main St..
The public is encouraged to attend and is asked to reserve a seat by emailing to or calling 723-0520.

Carnegie Mellon effort puts shale data online
Pitt Trib
Matthew Santoni
Sept 24
Faced with a scattered body of research and background information about the booming Marcellus and Utica shale industries, officials and students at Carnegie Mellon University have compiled a searchable “bibliography” of more than 1,000 documents online.

Professor urges expansion of DEP’s responsibilities during environmental permitting
Times Leader
Tom Barnard
Sept 23
ON AUG. 25 this newspaper published a commentary authored by Michael Krancer, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that reviewed his department’s efforts to comply with Governor Corbert’s executive order. That order directed the department to develop and implement procedures to streamline the environmental permitting process. A draft policy has been published and the public has until Oct. 1 to submit comments.

As gas industry heats up, potentially radioactive waste materials are shipped out – but at what cost?
Times Online
Rachel Morgan
Sept 22
As the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania expands at a breakneck pace, drillers are looking outside the state to store radioactive brine wastewater from Marcellus shale well sites.

Natural-gas impact to last generations
Pitt Trib
Timothy Puko
Sept 21
PHILADELPHIA — The Marcellus shale rock layer is just one of three under the Appalachian region that could produce natural gas for generations, Range Resources Corp. Executive Chairman John H. Pinkerton said at an industry conference here on Friday.

Protesters urge damage payment
PennEnvironment comes to Wilkes-Barre to call for a halt to gas drilling for now.
Times Leader
Jerry Lynott
Sept 20
WILKES-BARRE – The environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment Policy & Research Center Thursday called for the halt of hydraulic fracturing by natural gas drillers in the state until they can provide long-term coverage of the costs associated with the “dirty drilling” practice.

Shaky Ground: Farmer fears for future as gas drilling begins near scores of abandoned well sites
"I thought Vietnam was the last war I was ever going to have to protest."
Pittsburgh City Paper
Charlie Deitch
Sept 19
[...]What was, in August, a neighbor's smooth dirt field will soon be the site of a natural-gas drilling rig. By Sept. 12, the large white-blue-and-yellow rig was resting on its side, ready to be lifted in position. Once that happens in the next few weeks, a subsidiary of Shell Oil and Gas will begin "fracking" operations: pumping large quantities of water laced with chemicals into the ground under high pressure, fracturing the rock and forcing the natural gas to the surface.

Video, Story: Westminster considers leasing for gas drilling
New Castle News
Sept 21
NEW CASTLE — Westminster College is weighing economic benefits and environmental unknowns as it considers leasing school property to drill gas wells.

Enviro group, reps at odds on ANF
Times Observer
Josh Cotton
Sept 20
A Philadelphia-based environmental group is crying foul over measures that, in its estimation, would put the Allegheny National Forest at risk.

White joins other lawmakers in Act 13 appeal
Scott Beveridge
Sept 20
State Rep. Jesse White has joined 43 other House Democrats in filing a legal brief before the state Supreme Court supporting those who believe state Act 13 is unconstitutional by eliminating local zoning ordinances regulating the booming Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.

At Philly gas conference, fortune, failures and, of course, Dimock
David Falchek and Laura Legere
Sept 21
PHILADELPHIA - Big players in the Marcellus Shale industry met in a city far from Pennsylvania's drilling boom towns for the second year in a row on Thursday to project a future for abundant shale gas as a low-cost energy source and savior of the manufacturing sector that will benefit all corners of the commonwealth.

Environmental group presents study on effects of natural gas drilling
Elizabeth Skrapits
Sept 21
WILKES-BARRE - A new study says natural gas drilling can have negative effects down the road, and an environmental group wants the gas companies to stop until they're ready to pick up the tab for future expenses.

Christie vetoes fracking wastewater ban
Wall Street Journal
Sept 21
TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Friday that would have banned wastewater generated by gas drilling from being treated or disposed of in New Jersey.

Dominion's LNG export bid sparks legal dispute
Debate over 'fracking' tests 40-year pact with environmental groups
Baltimore Sun
Timothy B. Wheeler
Sept 21
LUSBY — — For four decades, the owners of the liquefied natural gas terminal at Cove Point in Calvert County have given a pair of environmental groups a say over expansion of the sprawling complex, originally built to import fuel from abroad via the Chesapeake Bay. By all accounts, it's been a cordial, cooperative relationship.

Pennsylvania is ‘reaping bounty’ in Marcellus shale
Pitt Trib
Timothy Puko
Sept 20
PHILADELPHIA — The state’s gas industry faces tough new environmental rules, but Gov. Tom Corbett said at a Marcellus shale gas industry conference on Thursday that “Pennsylvania is getting it right” as the industry takes off and manufacturing begins to recover.

NRDC expands effort to strengthen local fracking bans
E&E News Energy Wire
Pamela King
Sept 20
(full text below)
A new program by the Natural Resources Defense Council aims to assist residents looking to increase restrictions on hydraulic fracturing or prevent the energy extraction technology from being used in their communities.

NRDC's Community Fracking Defense Project -- launched yesterday in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and North Carolina -- will provide legal and policy advice to fracturing opponents. Critics of fracturing, or fracking, say the process of sending chemical-laced fluid into underground shale fractures poses a risk to the surrounding air and groundwater.

"For too long, communities around the country have had little defense against the oil and gas companies that sweep into their neighborhoods and start fracking without regard for the impacts on the people who live there," Kate Sinding, a senior attorney in NRDC's New York office, said in a statement. "If a city or town decides it doesn't want fracking, or wants to restrict it, their voice should be heard and respected."

The project is an expansion of NRDC's current efforts in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.

NRDC's work in the Empire State is heating up as reports circulate that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is considering a plan to allow fracturing in communities that are in favor of the technology. Use of the process has been on hold in New York for the past four years as state regulators review environmental impacts.

Anticipating an overturn of the state fracturing moratorium, New York towns like Meredith, Dryden and Middlefield have created or are working on their own local bans. New York judges upheld bans by Dryden and Middlefield, but those cases face industry appeals. NRDC has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the towns.

Colorado-based Anschutz Exploration Corp., which sought to develop leases in Dryden, said the NRDC project could end up hurting rather than helping the residents it is meant to protect.

"Communities in the project's target states should know they risk hindering economic development and job growth where it may be sorely needed," company spokesman Brent Temmer wrote in an email. "Regulation of energy development is handled effectively at the state level, and reputable companies know that they must work responsibly and comply with regulations to remain in business."

John Krohn, spokesman for industry research and outreach group Energy in Depth, also criticized the move.

"NRDC's long-standing opposition to natural gas extraction utilizing hydraulic fracturing is well known and this is just the latest manifestation of their anti-energy agenda," he wrote in an email. "What's interesting is the fact that the very technology they are seeking to curtail, whose safety is affirmed by multiple government regulators and presidential administrations, is the reason the United States is leading the world in carbon emission reductions."

Illinois and North Carolina have so far seen little drilling, but Sinding said including those states provides an "opportunity to get in early and get some protections in place" before industry builds up a bigger presence there.

Although NRDC has not made plans to add other states to the project, Sinding said the council hopes to eventually expand its capacity to reach other parts of the country.

"This is not a five-state issue," she said.

Pa. GOP's shale boosters come out swinging against Obama
E&E News Energy Wire
Joel Kirkland
Sept 21
(full text below)
PHILADELPHIA -- With election season in full bloom, Republican politicians in Pennsylvania are taking aim at U.S. EPA and the Obama administration's handling of the natural gas boom in the Northeast.

In comments made at a natural gas industry conference here yesterday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) trumpeted the economic benefits of the Marcellus Shale gas formation that stretches across the state.

He also accused Pennsylvania residents who criticize the rapid expansion of the industrial drilling process as "unreasoning," just as local opposition groups gathered outside of the city's convention center with placards asserting public health had taken a back seat to energy industry profits in Pennsylvania.

Inside, surrogates for the campaigns of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Obama fought over the federal government's role in regulating oil and gas drilling.

In Pennsylvania and Ohio, gas drilling is embedded in broader debates about economic growth in Rust Belt areas that have long struggled to replace dying industries and lost jobs. To some towns around Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, access to cheap natural gas and liquid byproducts in the Marcellus and nearby Utica basins is expected to attract plastics and chemicals makers.

But the rapid expansion of gas production in the state remains a lightning rod for ideological differences about environmental regulation.

Corbett's environmental secretary, Michael Krancer, speaking for Romney's campaign, accused EPA of heavy-handedness and the administration of not doing enough to cut through regulatory barriers to domestic gas production.

Speaking for the Obama campaign, Kathleen McGinty, a former top environmental regulator in Pennsylvania, said the continued development of gas under private land is part of the White House's economic agenda. She and other Democrats talking about energy are trying to beat back Romney campaign assertions that Obama is fundamentally opposed to fossil fuels.

Economic benefits aside, McGinty defended EPA's ongoing study into how the process of cracking gas formations a mile underground could affect freshwater basins, as Krancer put EPA front and center.

"Nobody called EPA into Dimock," Krancer said, referring to EPA's investigation of water wells near gas drilling operations Dimock, Pa. "EPA called EPA into Dimock," he said. "To do what?"

Two years ago, Dimock took center stage for drilling opponents after homeowners in the northeastern Pennsylvania town accused Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. of poisoning water wells. Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) gave Cabot the green light to continue gas production in Dimock after a nearly two-year moratorium imposed by the agency (EnergyWire, Aug. 22).

This summer, EPA found that the water wells had not been tainted by chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process of extracting gas. But state officials said methane had found its way from poorly constructed gas wells to water wells (EnergyWire, July 26).

To GOP critics of Obama's environmental policies, EPA's role came to represent an insidious form of federal intervention, despite the agency's finding that widespread contamination had not occurred.

"There's fearmongering going on, and it's coming out of Washington," Krancer told attendees of the conference sponsored by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents most of the state's gas field operators.

McGinty, who was a member of Energy Secretary Steven Chu's advisory panel on shale gas, rejected characterizations suggesting EPA water studies are aimed at sidelining the industry. Rather, she asserted, the administration supports "policies that enable the investments to be made" in domestic energy development.

In an interview with EnergyWire, Krancer pointed to a stage outside the convention center's wall of windows. There, high-profile activists including "Gasland" filmmaker Josh Fox and Bill McKibben, a writer and founder of global warming advocacy group, had helped lead a rally to drum up support for local and statewide drilling bans.

"Some of the ideological, emotional reaction to this will go away when people see the sky isn't falling," Krancer said.

Placards and speeches spoke about cancer and money. "What we're talking about today is big business, the 1 percent of the 1 percent," Fox said during a press conference across from the convention center.

Contentious state drilling law looms large

Hanging over the debate in Pennsylvania is the state's revised oil and gas law known as Act 13. The law includes a highly contentious provision that strips local governments of the broad discretion to zone land in a way that restricts drilling.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to hold a hearing in October after the lower Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck down those Act 13 provisions in July, along with another measure in the law that would allow the state to waive certain environmental safeguards for drillers (EnergyWire, July 27).

Municipalities and local grass-roots organizations say those provisions are the product of a Republican-led Legislature and governor's mansion. But yesterday some also blamed one of the nation's largest environmental organizations, the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund.

Increasingly, EDF has come under fire from local organizations calling for bans. They accuse EDF of being too industry-friendly during tough negotiations in state capitals and in Washington about regulations and working too closely with industry to hatch compromises that do not have broader support from within the environmental community.

For its part, EDF in recent weeks has defended its position through press releases and opinion columns. Natural gas is cleaner than coal, EDF officials have said, and it is more useful to help develop regulatory solutions to air- and water-quality issues tied to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing than to advocate for sweeping bans.

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