Ridge urges ‘best practices’ for Marcellus Shale industry

Lock Haven Express

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011

WATERVILLE – The event was billed as an industry-wide “best practices” commitment for the natural gas drilling companies- but only one company took center stage Friday in Waterville.

That would be Anadarko Petroleum Inc.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge, now a strategic advisor for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, led the discussion at the Tiadaghton State Forest Resource Management Center.

The round table gathering was used to unveil the coalition’s “Commitment to the Community” guiding principles, but served to provide an overview of Anadarko’s commitment to that common sense approach in dealing with area residents.

Ridge and others were invited by Anadarko to visit a number of natural gas drilling sites and related facilities north of Lock Haven in the Sproul State Forest, to see exactly how those guiding principles are put into play.

“Once a governor, always a governor,” Ridge said, as he explained how he was embracing his new duties as a consultant for the industry. “In my two terms, as Republicans, we embraced responsibilities for maintaining the environment and enhancing industry.”

Ridge said the focus in his administration was one of “partnership” that understands the need to protect.

“There are three ways things can go wrong,” he said. “Stuff happens … by accident, through willful action or inherited … We work with industry in a pro-active way so if it’s an accident, we work to fix it, if it’s willful, we punish the guilty and if it’s inherited, we all look for solutions … We want government to be a partner, but we tell industry don’t mess up the partnership. Mother Nature and science have given us an opportunity.”

Among the local dignitaries and officials who were present, were Clinton County Commissioner Adam Coleman; legislative aide for state Sen. John Wozniak, Julie Brennan; Clinton County Planning Director Tim Holladay; Clinton County Cooperative Extension Director James Ladlee; Matt Henderson, a business consultant with the Lock Haven University Small Business Development Center; Mike Hawbaker for the Glenn O. Hawbaker construction company; Tiadaghton State Forest District Manager Jeff Prowant; and Anadarko representatives Scott Chesebro and Matt Carmichael; along with a large contingent of representatives from Lycoming County.

Ridge and coalition members said the list is one the industry will live by “each and every day” and “embrace.”

The session was touted as the first-time-ever delivery of these standards.

But those who attended local gas task force meetings and community gatherings found the words familiar – The principles have already appeared on the banner of Anadarko’s frequently stated, if more informal, commitments to local citizens.

In the early absence of Gov. Ridge – who showed up late due to a scheduling glitch – Prowant offered opening remarks and introductions, then welcomed the group to the new center, which opened last September as a “hallmark facility” of the Bureau of Forestry.

Coalition representative Dave Callahan underlined the industry’s commitment to “top notch environmental practices” then turned matters over to Chesebro.

Chesebro said Anadarko arrives to Clinton and Lycoming counties as a worldwide company with a proven history of assets and abilities.

Anadarko is operating nine rigs in the state currently, and has many more under construction or in development on the 760,000 acres it has permitted in northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania. Some 50 percent of those acres are on state forest land, he said.

While other areas are in different phases, central Pennsylvania is in “full development mode” with operations running from drilling to “fracking,” the process of pumping a slurry of sand, water and other materials into the ground to assist in fracturing shale layers to release the natural gas.

Chesebro’s biggest emphasis was on water quality and water use, a high concern among residents of Pennsylvania

He said putting those fears to rest was a major reason for this walk-through” of the water use process and said the coalition chose Anadarko to deliver that message because of its “record of environmental stewardship.”

Chesebro said he and his company are proud of the track record, and he outlined a process used locally to protect all of the groundwater “from day one.”

“We’ve taken a detailed look at the geology of this area and we understand where the fresh water zones are … To date, we’ve had no gas migration issues at any of our sites.”

Chesebro said Anadarko’s “closed loop” drilling process insured that no cuttings from drilling a well “would ever touch the commonwealth” beyond arrival at an approved and permitted landfill.

He said when frack jobs are conducted, the entire pad is covered with three layers to insure capture of any contaminates, and the five to 10 percent of liquid that returns to the surface is recaptured, treated and re-used in future fracturing processes,.

Water supply, he said, remains critical, and Anadarko has 4.2 million gallons of daily permitted withdrawal with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, although it does not fully draw down that supply. By the end of this year, Chesebro said, the company will probably have doubled its available water by permit.

Chesebro also pointed to new efforts to remove the water supply from the region’s highways by piping the water directly from the Susquehanna River to impoundments. He said only fresh water will be contained in those earth encircled pits, and each of the pounds will serve approximately 30 wells, “taking 50,000 trucks off the road.”

“We have an unprecedented opportunity with the Marcellus Shale the second largest natural gas field in the entire world,” Ridge said. “There’s a lot of bad information out there, there’s still a lot of work to be done and a lot of Pennsylvanians are still skeptical … but I’m pretty excited about Pennsylvania’s future.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, Williamsport, said the primary thing needed right now is “facts, not fear” and mentioned the popular activist movie production “Gasland” as a way misinformation has occurred. The primary focus of that film, he said, was the shallow well industry, but the criticism spread to include deep well drillers, regardless of their practices and policies.

Coleman noted that Clinton County has seen some gradual growth in employment in the past year as a result of the industry, and Hawbaker said even as his construction company benefits from traditional business, he’s seen competition for qualified workers from the industry itself.