Tuesday, October 9, 2012

PA Marcellus News Digest 10/9/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
October 9, 2012

Special: Sierra Club PA Chapter news release on Norbeck firing follows articles


Pennsylvania parks director says he was forced out by Corbett administration
Don Hopey
Oct 9
John Norbeck, head of the state's award-winning park system, said the Corbett administration forced his resignation last week because of "philosophical differences," including his opposition to commercial timbering, mining and Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the parks.

Barletta on shale caucus, owns gas stock
Daily Item
Rick Dandes
Oct 8
SUNBURY — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is a member of the Marcellus Shale Caucus, a group of members of Congress who have teamed up to explore issues related to the growth of the natural gas drilling industry in Pennsylvania.

Newton gas ordinance moves closer to reality
Michael Iorfino
Oct 9
NEWTON TWP. - Supervisors moved one step closer toward adopting an ordinance meant to regulate gas and oil drilling - should drilling ever arise.

Perilous Pathways: How Drilling Near An Abandoned Well Produced a Methane Geyser
NPR State Impact
Scott Detrow
Oct 9

Marcellus drilling the shale gas revolution
Arthur Sterngold
Aug 8
After four years of rapid growth, Marcellus gas drilling declined in Pennsylvania. According to Baker Hughes, the number of drilling rigs in the state fell 29 percent from its peak a year ago. The most recent data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection show the number of Marcellus wells drilled in July was 57 percent lower than it was for the same period last year, and the decreases were even greater for Lycoming, Bradford and Tioga Counties.

Region's gas drilling study in its infancy
Philly Burbs
Amanda Cregan
Oct 7
[...]No drilling can begin before 2018 unless the state completes a study of the South Newark Basin, the shale that lies beneath most of Bucks and Montgomery counties.
Activists push Pa. to restrict drilling in tract
Andrew Maykuth
Oct 9
Environmental activists are pressuring the state to restrict Marcellus Shale drilling on 18,780 acres in a popular recreational area of northern Pennsylvania, where they say the state has a rare opportunity to control natural-gas extraction because of a 1933 deed restriction.

Pa. guidance spells out what counts as single pollution source
E&E News
Ellen M. Gilmer
Oct 9
(full text below)
Pennsylvania regulators finalized guidance last week outlining how air quality permits should be issued for oil and gas operators in the state.

The policy addresses when clusters of pollution-causing equipment should be aggregated as one source and when each piece should be counted individually.

Aggregated pollution sources are more likely to hit higher emission levels that trigger stricter permitting requirements under U.S. EPA's New Source Review, Prevention of Significant Deterioration and other programs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's new guidance would effectively require aggregation only when pollution sources are within a quarter-mile of one another.

Aggregation also requires that pollution sources be under the same operator and be on contiguous or adjacent land.

Mark Szybist, an attorney for the citizens group PennFuture -- which submitted comments to DEP criticizing the proposal -- said the proximity requirement did not make sense for the oil and gas industry, which spreads out wells, rigs, compressor stations and other equipment over large swaths of land.

Under the guidance, many interdependent sources of pollution would be permitted individually and often be classified as minor sources -- and therefore move more quickly through the permitting process, he said.

DEP Secretary Michael Krancer celebrated the move as pragmatic for the industry and regulators.

"Our Air Quality program will use a practical, common-sense and legally sound approach as it makes aggregation determinations on a case-by-case basis, weighing all of the factors the law provides," he said in a statement.

But environmentalists argue that the various gas exploration and production equipment effectively work as one and should be regulated as such.

"Allowing multiple sources to be regulated independently when they effectively operate as a single source inappropriately allows operators to add more pollution to the environment than the law would allow, if the sources were recognized as being a single source," PennFuture wrote in comments to DEP last year, "and thereby shifts the cost of the industry's pollution from the company generating the air emissions to the public."


Enviros suspect departing parks director was forced out
E&E News
Oct 9
(full text below)
After six years of service, Pennsylvania parks director John Norbeck has announced he is leaving his post.

Although his resignation letter does not give a reason for his departure, Jan Jarrett, former head of the environmental group PennFuture, wrote on her blog that she suspects Norbeck was forced out of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) as part of an effort to open up state parklands to natural gas drilling.

"Abruptly yesterday, Norbeck submitted his 'resignation.' Word has it that he was fired," Jarrett wrote. "Why would [DCNR Secretary Richard Allen] fire an award-winning, competent senior official? Does the administration have plans for our state parks that would run counter to Norbeck's vision of what our parks should be and provide to all Pennsylvanians?"

Christine Cronkright, spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a drilling proponent, denied the connection.

"Any assertion that there is a correlation between John Norbeck's resignation and natural resource development on state lands is totally without merit," she wrote. "There is currently a moratorium in place with respect to additional leases of state forest land."

Norbeck's departure follows the resignation of 18-year volunteer Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council member Paulette Viola, who said she left the department because of a frustrating professional relationship with Allen. When Corbett appointed the secretary, Viola said, the council noticed a significant change, including a resistance to public participation, which the council is designed to foster.

"We're ineffective and inefficient at this point," Viola said in an interview. "We've tried to work with the secretary for the last six months, and it's not happening" (Susan Phillips, State Impact, Oct. 4). -- PK


(717) 232-0101

"Sierra Club condemns the firing of Pennsylvania's State Parks Director John Norbeck by the Corbett administration.  Mr. Norbeck has dedicated more than 30 years of his professional life to protecting public lands.   We are concerned that the Corbett administration sacked Mr. Norbeck for resisting its plans to compromise our public lands for short-term commercial gain.                   .

We now know that DCNR is planning to open our award-winning State Park system to commercial timbering, surface mining, and gas drilling.  Mr. Norbeck worked to limit these activities, and he has now paid the price by losing his job, while trying to defend our public lands from exploitation.

We are concerned that the Corbett administration will replace more dedicated conservation professionals in DCNR with political cronies that have no experience managing public lands.    These political appointments can pave the way for the mining, timber and natural gas industries to invade and exploit our precious parks and forests with impunity.  We don't think that campaign contributions to Gov. Corbett should drive policy decisions to overturn long-standing protections of our parks and forests.

We urge the Corbett Administration to halt its purge of conservation professionals.

We urge the General Assembly to investigate the firing of Mr. Norbeck to determine whether any improper actions occurred."

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette news article provides new details regarding John Norbeck's firing: http://pipeline.post-gazette.com/news/archives/24835-pennsylvania-parks-director-says-he-was-forced-out-by-corbett-administration

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