Thursday, November 8, 2012

PA Marcellus News Digest 11/8/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
November 8, 2012


Four more years: What the energy industry is expecting in a second Obama term
Emily Petsko
Nov 7
While the results of last night's election are beginning to sink in, many are already looking to the next four years and questioning whether President Obama's stance on energy will shift or remain the same.

DEP Secretary Krancer Continues to Battle Clean Air Council
NPR State Impact
Susan Phillips
Nov 8

Drilling water plant moves ahead
Randy Griffith
Nov 7
JOHNSTOWN — Site work is under way along Iron Street for a demonstration plant to be built as the first step toward development of an industrial wastewater treatment facility with a potential employment in the hundreds.

Worries about Kane taking aim at Marcellus Shale hot air?
Philadelphia Business Journal
Peter Key
Nov 7
Although the Republican Party of Pennsylvania tried to make Kathleen Kane’s positions on drilling in the Marcellus Shale an issue in the state attorney general’s race, the group that represents drillers there doesn’t seem upset about her victory.

Some Pa. towns will get more Marcellus cash
Pitt Trib
Tony LaRussa
Nov 8
A number of Western Pennsylvania municipalities will get substantially more in impact fees from Marcellus shale gas drilling than they were initially told by the state while others will get less, the Public Utility Commission said.

Experts discuss Marcellus shale drilling at Elizabethtown College roundtable
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
Ad Crable
Nov 7
An eclectic panel of high-profile observers of controversial Marcellus shale natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania feels the resource must be tapped — but not in the way it's been done so far.

Hearing board judge reinstates Dimock family's appeal of methane fix
Laura Legere
Nov 8
A state judge has allowed a Dimock Twp. man to resume his challenge to the methane contamination remedy designed by state regulators and a natural gas drilling company after his family's appeal was withdrawn without his consent.

NY anti-fracking candidates fared poorly at polls  (in Southern Tier local races, but not for state legislature)
Mary Esch
Nov 8
ALBANY, N.Y. — Anti-fracking candidates in the Southern Tier were beaten up and down the ballot after intense campaigns, some of which were framed as referendums on shale gas development.

Fracking debate called complex
Researcher looks at social impact
Times Leader
Matt Hughes
Nov 8
WILKES-BARRE – More divides backers and opponents of natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale than disagreements over the safety of its technical processes or its potential economic benefit; people’s homes, ways of life and social identity hang in the balance, according to ethnographic researcher Simona Perry.

With national politics in gridlock, drilling opposition goes local
E&E News, Energy Wire
Mike Soraghan and Ellen M. Gilmer
Nov 8
(full text below)
The battlefield of the shale drilling debate has moved from the corridors of Congress, past the statehouses, to the country's town halls and city clerks.

Tuesday's election results highlighted the shift in the debate over the drilling technique that many call fracking. Nationally, the results provided little clarity on drilling, because Congress is gridlocked and President Obama neutralized the issue by trying to accommodate both drillers and environmentalists.

But in Longmont, Colo., environmentalists won and drillers took a drubbing. Nearly 60 percent of the voters in the Denver suburb voted to ban hydraulic fracturing (EnergyWire, Nov. 7). They rejected a $400,000 campaign by national industry groups and large independent drilling companies to head off just such a result.

The industry also spent big in Mansfield, Ohio, but failed to convince voters there to vote against a ban on injection of drilling waste in the city (EnergyWire, Nov. 7). Similar measures passed in Ferguson Township, near State College, Pa., and Broadview Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.

The scattered, small-city victories highlight an increasingly important strategy among green groups. Activists in Longmont worked with an organizer from Food & Water Watch, a national anti-drilling group, whose efforts were quantified as $9,000 worth of in-kind contributions.

The supporters in Mansfield, Ferguson Township and Broadview Heights worked with the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. The legal fund has walked many communities through the process of asserting residents' rights to clean air and water. The group has organizers in Pennsylvania, New England and Washington state.

"It's not a movement yet," said Eric Belcastro, Pennsylvania organizer for the group. "But I do expect there to be more [interested] communities."

Environmentalists have lobbied Congress unsuccessfully to pass increased federal regulation for several years, but failed. Green groups have written off most state governments as too beholden to the oil and gas industry. So they say local governments are the most effective place to turn opposition to drilling into action.

"Because Congress is not acting, local governments have acted," said one Washington-based environmental activist.

The strategy is being picked up by more mainstream national groups. The Natural Resources Defense Council recently launched its Community Fracking Defense Project to provide support to cities that want to add new restrictions to drilling within their borders (EnergyWire, Sept. 20).

Industry groups are very aware of the trend and have been developing more lobbying and public affairs operations outside Washington.

"It does have a political influence, though I question how long it will last," said Tom Shepstone, a businessman and drilling supporter in Honesdale, Pa. He's an example of the trend. After speaking in support of drilling in northeast Pennsyvlania, he joined up with Energy in Depth, a public affairs campaign of the Washington-based Independent Petroleum Association of America.

"It's pure politics," Shepstone said of the local bans and moratoria. "They know they're not legal."

In some places, like New York, drilling companies have been losing challenges to such local restrictions.

But many local restrictions face legal headwinds. The Pennsylvania Legislature specifically tried to block cities from zoning out drilling operations. State officials in Ohio have noted that they have authority in the area Mansfield voted to regulate.

In Longmont, a legal fight is nearly certain. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are already suing the city to overturn a ban on drilling and fracking in residential areas. Drilling supporters warn the city is also likely to draw suits from those blocked from profiting from their oil and gas rights.

But even if they lose in court, green groups expect that the effects will spread beyond the borders of the jurisdictions involved, and force state governments to address the complaints of drilling critics.

"Local organization has an impact," said Mark Schlosberg, national organizing director of Food & Water Watch. "When legislators see things going on in their communities, they take notice."

That could be the case in Colorado. State legislators from the Longmont area have already been pushing bills to give local governments more say in drilling, and the lopsided margin in Longmont gives them momentum going into next year's legislative session. The Democratic takeover of the state House, giving Democrats control of both chambers, also helps their cause.

"Industry spent that money not only to defeat it, but to inoculate themselves from having to deal with it again and again," said Denver political consultant Eric Sondermann. "Since they failed, the pressure is certainly going to dial up."

Water pollution from shale wells is major concern for Pa. homeowners -- study
E&E News, Energy Wire
Nov 8
(full text below)
Concerns over water contamination from shale gas wells could lead property owners located near such wells to suffer a major loss in value, according to a new report from economists at Duke University and the nonprofit research institute Resources for the Future (RFF).

The study, which looked at property values of all homes in Washington County, found that Pennsylvania homeowners who rely on local groundwater for drinking saw up to a 24 percent cut in their property values if they are within a mile and a quarter of a shale gas well.

For those who pipe in their water, values rose nearly 11 percent, likely due to lease payments from gas drillers and freedom from worries about polluted water, the report says.

"The perception of how much risk there is of groundwater contamination from fracking is tremendous," said RFF fellow Lucija Muehlenbachs. Fracking refers to hydraulic fracturing, the process drillers use to draw oil and gas from tight shales. The technique involves high-volume injections of chemical-laden fluid into those formations.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the drilling industry's top trade association in Pennsylvania, dismissed the study.

"Making sweeping assessments based on a narrow data set may help advance a certain narrative, but the facts are clear. Safe, job-creating American natural gas development is bolstering our region's economy," coalition spokesman Steve Forde said in an emailed statement.

An earlier study on county home values found that drilling had less of an impact on property values. Researchers from Ohio State University measured a 4 percent drop in property values for households that draw water from a private well within a mile of a shale gas well. That study looked at a narrower time period -- about two years, rather than five.

The Duke and RFF researchers plan to continue their work by taking a broader look at property values throughout Pennsylvania (Sean Cockerham, Miami Herald, Nov. 6). -- PK

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