Wednesday, November 7, 2012

PA Marcellus NEws Digest 11/7/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
November 7, 2012

MSC Statement on the Presidential Election
Nov 7
Pittsburgh, PA – Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) president Kathryn Z. Klaber issued the following statement congratulating President Barack Obama on his re-election:
“We congratulate President Obama on his re-election and look forward to continuing to work with his administration over the next four years on issues related to American natural gas, a powerful engine of job creation.


The whole truth on water tests
Pocono Record
Nov 7
This newspaper isn't quick to jump on conspiracy theories and call for a Congressional investigation.
But when the public health and well-being are put into question, a thorough investigation is in order.

DEP plans hearing on compressor station
Herald Standard
Steve Ferris
Nov 6
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will host an open house and public hearing on a permit application from Laurel Mountain Midstream LLC for the construction and operation of a natural gas-burning turbine, emergency generator and other new equipment at its Shamrock Compressor Station in German Township on Nov.13.

Ferguson Township approves environmental bill of rights
Jessica VanderKolk
Nov 6
FERGUSON TOWNSHIP — With five of eight precincts approving, voters passed a referendum to add an environmental bill of rights to the township’s home rule charter Tuesday.
According to unofficial county numbers, the measure passed 4,235 to 3,883.

Krancer Responds To Claims State Withheld Water Contamination Data
NPR State Impact
Scott Detrow
Nov 6

DEP Boss Addresses Call for Investigation, Lawmaker Responds
Canon McMillan Patch
Amanda Gillooly
Nov 6
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer on Thursday released a statement addressed to an area lawmaker who last week called for an investigation into the government agency over the reporting methods involved with water testing near Marcellus Shale drilling areas—saying it appeared the legislator “misapprehended some important facts.”

'War on Coal' still resonates in Greene County elections
Erich Schwartzel
Nov 7
Even on the last day of the election, the signs really were everywhere in Greene County: in front yards, near coal mine entrances and -- at least in the case of the Classy Cuts salon near Waynesburg -- next to advertisements for perms and spray tans.

DEP rejects water testing allegations
Beaver Co. Times
Rachel Morgan
Nov 6
HARRISBURG — The state Department of Environmental Protection is denying allegations that it does not fully test residential drinking water for contamination from commercial oil- and gas-drilling operations.

Conventional wells could be significant source of contaminants
E&E News, Energy Wire
Gayathri Vaidyanathan
Nov 7
(full text below)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Treatment facilities in Pennsylvania that process oil and gas wastewater are discharging radioactive elements and salts into streams and rivers, according to preliminary research from Duke University.

The trace metals and radioactive elements have settled and built up in the sediment beds over time, with significant implications for the environment, said Avner Vengosh, a researcher at Duke University who has previously published on water contamination by shale gas development in the United States. He was presenting at a meeting of the Geological Society of America here from ongoing, unpublished research.

The contamination is ongoing and was not fixed when Pennsylvania updated its regulations in 2010 to set stringent discharge limits for wastewater treatment plants that accept oil and gas wastes.

That's because the contamination documented by the Duke researchers is not from wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale. Instead, the contaminants are probably linked to wastewater generated from conventionally drilled gas and oil wells.

"I think the distinction between shale gas and the conventional oil and gas and their impact on the environment should not be made; I think it's all the same package deal and the effect is very similar," he said.

The issue of water contamination has received great attention with the increased use of hydraulic fracturing, in which companies blast pressurized water, sand and chemicals at shale rock to release trapped oil and gas. The process uses about 4 million gallons of water, and a fraction returns to the surface containing salts, radioactive ions and other toxic chemicals.

The wastewater, called "produced water" or brine, is typically disposed of through injection deep underground, but Pennsylvania's geology does not allow for this. Companies have adapted by treating the wastewater to remove contaminants, and Pennsylvania updated its rules in 2010 to tighten regulation of the practice (EnergyWire, May 10).

Meanwhile, conventional wells have not received as much attention, even though the brine generated after drilling them has high levels of radioactivity and salt content comparable to the Marcellus, Vengosh said. These wells could be a significant source of contaminants to surface waters, he added.

The researchers studied one treatment facility in western Pennsylvania that discharges into a stream. The stream has a salt content of 100 milligrams per liter of water. The treatment facility was adding water to the stream containing about 200,000 mg of salt per liter as well as metals and radioactive elements. In comparison, seawater has about 35,000 mg of salt per liter.

The vast excess of salt has created a dead zone stretching 500 meters downstream, Vengosh said.

In addition, the sediments at the bed of the stream had absorbed the metals, causing a buildup of contaminants and radioactivity, he said. The discharges have continued even after the 2010 update of Pennsylvania's laws, he said.

Further analysis of the chemicals showed the originating brine is not from the Marcellus Shale, he said. Rather, the brine is from conventional wells drilled into other formations.

And the contaminants may have been accumulating in the sediments from before the advent of the Marcellus Shale drilling, he said.

The treatment facility "is supposed to prevent contamination of the environment, and I don't think it does."

Citizens group seeks to determine baseline methane levels
E&E News, Energy Wire
Ellen M. Gilmer
Nov 7
Grass-roots environmentalists are trying to find out just how much methane sits in their northeastern Pennsylvania township.

Damascus Citizens for Sustainability released a study: that attempts to establish baseline data for naturally occurring methane in Damascus Township in Wayne County.

It's a hot topic in the state where faulty casing in oil and gas drilling has been linked to some cases of methane migration, including in neighboring Susquehanna County. The environmental group touts the new data as an opportunity to sort out whether the industry is responsible for any future methane fluctuations.

Communities "will now be able to establish causality and accountability for increases in methane levels attributable to shale gas drilling, giving them a powerful new tool to protect their communities from the consequences of drilling," said Barbara Arrindell, director of the Damascus group. Shale drilling is on hold in the area until the Delaware River Basin Commission develops rules for oil and gas development.

The analysis was performed over four days in August and September by Gas Safety Inc., a leak detection firm whose website and blog warn of hazards related to natural gas. The firm, which collected air samples while crisscrossing the township on public roads, found "relatively low and reasonably consistent" methane concentrations.

Pennsylvania's geology is prone to natural pockets of methane that can shift toward the surface, making it difficult to determine whether changes in methane levels are attributable to drilling activity.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, slammed the study as biased, and a spokesman stressed a multitude of safeguards put in place by drillers.

"To be clear, our industry has in place sweeping operational efforts to ensure that groundwater and air, and the overall environment, are protected. This, and the safety of our workforce, remain our highest priority," Travis Windle said.

The coalition last month released its recommended practices: responding to stray gas incidents, which include measures such as placing a vent on water wells with high levels of methane and installing methane detectors in buildings.

"Each of these key steps helps ensure that public safety and environmental concerns are mitigated and resolved in a responsible and timely manner," coalition President Kathryn Klaber said in a statement.

No comments: