Friday, January 18, 2013

PA Marcellus News Digest 1/18/13

PA Marcellus News Digest
January 18, 2013


Kroll Bond Rating Agency Releases Report “Fracking the Marcellus and Utica Basins: Potential Credit Implications”
Business Wire
Jan 15
NEW YORK-Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA) releases report on the potential credit implications of fracking. The report is an update to KBRA’s report of January 27, 2012 – “Potential Impact of Natural Gas Fracking on Municipal Bond Issuers.” This update examines the proposed high-volume hydraulic fracking of the Marcellus and Utica Shale Basins, located below New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, as it relates to state and local credit risk.

Auditor General DePasquale Initiates Audit to Ensure Safe Drinking Water
Pledges that audit will be constructive and productive
Jan 16
Harrisburg – On his first day in office, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale notified the head of the state Department of Environmental Protection that a performance audit of water programs related to the development of the state’s shale gas reserves would begin next week.


State silent on gas drilling study
Philly Burbs
Amanda Cregan
Jan 18
Pennsylvania officials continue to remain silent on a study of the South Newark Basin, the shale that lies beneath most of Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon tour Susquehanna County gas drilling sites
Michael Rubinkam
Jan 17
DIMOCK, Pa. (AP) — Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Susan Sarandon are touring gas drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Film depicts realistic environmental abuse
Ann Pinca
Jan 16
“Promised Land” deserves more credit than given by Don Gilliland's disparaging review. Tactics portrayed in the movie were all-too-familiar and painful to watch for many who have experienced land men in their communities. Gilliland's statement that the image of dead cows was misleading evidence of the dangers of fracking was completely in error.

Marcellus Shale, movie star
'Promised Land' doesn't begin to address the real questions raised by shale gas development
Terry Engelder and David Yoxtheimer
Jan 17
In "Promised Land," the new movie set in rural Pennsylvania where a big company is looking to drill for natural gas, the main character played by Matt Damon acknowledges to a crowd gathered in a school gym that there are real environmental risks associated with Marcellus Shale drilling.

EPA ends its restrictions on gas driller over water contamination after company refuses to join fracking study
Jan 16
WEATHERFORD, Texas — When a man in a Fort Worth suburb reported his family's drinking water had begun "bubbling" like champagne, the federal government sounded an alarm: An oil company may have tainted their wells while drilling for natural gas.

AP: Range Resources Gets EPA to Reverse Course in Texas Contamination Case
NPR State Impact
Susan Phillips
Jan 17

"FrackNation" Filmmakers decry 'death, destruction' myths as they tout pro-fracking documentary
E&E News
Blake Sobczak
Jan 17
(full text below)
Two filmmakers behind a new pro-fracking documentary went on the attack yesterday at a gathering of newsmakers in Washington, D.C., lambasting what they call myths about hydraulic fracturing that their film aims to counter.

Filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, whose documentary "FrackNation" makes its television debut next week, were in D.C. to promote the film. The film's third director, Polish journalist Magdalena Segieda, was not present.

"According to myths propagated by The New York Times, CNN, etc., if you go to Dimock, Pa., where there's fracking occurring, [you'll find] death, destruction," McElhinney said. "Obviously, with that kind of description, you'd expect to find dramatic stories everywhere."

Dimock was made famous in the 2010 documentary "Gasland," in which some of the town's residents are shown setting their tap water on fire. The filmmakers attribute this phenomenon to naturally occurring emissions rather than hydraulic fracturing.

McElhinney said there was no such evidence of fracking-caused problems in Dimock. Rather, she and McAleer argue fracking has helped local communities across the United States. In part of the film, they took that message to Poland, which is largely reliant on Russian energy giant Gazprom for its natural gas needs.

"FrackNation" bills itself as a rebuttal of "Gasland" and bears the tag line, "a journalist's search for the fracking truth." It focuses on the controversy surrounding the use of hydraulic fracturing -- the process of shooting sand, water and chemicals down well bores at high pressures to extract previously unreachable deposits of oil or natural gas. The documentary aims to debunk environmentalists' claims that fracking can contaminate groundwater.

The publicist for "Gasland" did not respond to a request to interview filmmaker Josh Fox. However, a section of the film's website includes a 39-page document called "Affirming Gasland" in which Fox responds to criticism from gas-industry groups.

"FrackNation" directors McElhinney and McAleer previously produced the 2009 film "Not Evil Just Wrong" in response to Al Gore's documentary about climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth."

Reactions to "FrackNation" have been mixed. Reviewers lauded the documentary's thorough research and McAleer's use of the Freedom of Information Act to garner video and background from U.S. EPA, although other critics denounced the film's heavy-handed approach to the issue and considered it one-sided.

John Armstrong, an organizer with the Albany, N.Y.-based FrackAction anti-fracking group, dismissed the film's premise and insisted it was an attempt to debase grass-roots movements.

"It seems like a personal attack on our side's credibility as well as our motives," the New York native said in an interview, pointing out what he described as a "cozy" relationship between the filmmakers and oil companies based on promotions by Energy in Depth, the online public outreach arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

McAleer was quick to observe that "FrackNation" received no funding from the oil and natural gas industry and turned away $30,000 from such companies.

"We just felt we can paddle our own canoe," he said, adding that the funding issue "was very important for us."

Instead, the film was financed by more than 3,000 individual contributors via the online funding platform Kickstarter, raising $212,265.

"FrackNation" is set to air Tuesday on Mark Cuban's AXS TV at 9 p.m. EST.

Fracking moratorium expires
E&E News
Ellen M. Gilmer
Jan 18
(full text below)
Environmentalists slammed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for not acting before a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state lifted yesterday.

The Republican governor conditionally vetoed a fracking ban passed by the Legislature in 2011, opting instead to institute a one-year suspension. Though New Jersey is not a target for unconventional drilling, opponents of fracking see Christie's move as an implied approval of fracking, which has taken hold in neighboring Pennsylvania and is being debated in New York. But the governor has stressed a need for caution.

"The potential environmental concerns with fracking in our state must be studied and weighed carefully against the potential benefits of increasing access to natural gas in New Jersey," he said in a statement accompanying his veto in 2011. "The decision on whether to ban fracking outright or regulate it for environmental protection must be developed on the basis of sound policy and legitimate science."

Fracking is often used to access oil and gas trapped in shale by blasting chemicals, sand and water deep underground. New Jersey does not have any known shale formations. Still, environmentalists there have witnessed development in Pennsylvania and elsewhere and are concerned about fracking's impacts on air and water, and about its release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

"Hurricane Sandy provides us a grim reminder of why we need to move away from extreme energy sources like fracking that are perpetuating climate change while threatening drinking water, public health and the environment," Jim Walsh of the environmental group Food and Water Watch said in a statement.

Christie also vetoed a bill in September that would have banned New Jersey treatment plants from accepting fracking wastewater. News reports have said Garden State facilities are taking on waste from Pennsylvania fracking despite lacking the equipment to purify the chemicals used in the process, though at least one facility has denied accepting the waste (EnergyWire, June 6, 2012).

Environmentalists are now calling on the Legislature, which had passed the wastewater treatment measure with bipartisan support, to override the governor's veto on that bill.

"If legislators campaign less and govern more by emphasizing good public policy now like banning frack waste and fighting the lifting of the moratorium, they'll be pleasantly surprised in coming elections," said Dave Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

One lawmaker, Republican Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, introduced a bill this month that would prohibit fracking in New Jersey until U.S. EPA completes a nationwide study, due out in late 2014, and until the state Department of Environmental Protection does its own risk analysis.

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