Posts Tagged ‘DALLAS’

What They’re Saying: Responsible Marcellus Shale Development Allowing Family Farmers to Realize Their Dreams

  • Marcellus production “will enable us all to keep our farms”
  • “Farmers are making investments in their farms that were just dreams before the Marcellus Shale”
  • Marcellus development pumping “hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s  economy”

Family farmers say Marcellus development “will enable us all to keep our farms”: “Some see it as a way to keep their farms, which have been in their families for generations. … Nor do they have concerns over the hydraulic fracturing process, which some environmentalists claim can contaminate water wells and pollute rivers and streams. “We’ve been stewards of the farms for years,” said Ward, a fourth-generation farm owner. McMurray’s family has owned its land since 1811, and Bird’s since 1821. “It will enable us all to keep our farms,” said Wright-Croft. Ward believes that farmers have the most to lose from gas drilling since they rely on private wells to water livestock as well as drink it themselves. “You’re not going to find anyone with more concerns about the water than us,” he said. (Observer-Reporter, 8/3/10)

Marcellus development pumping “hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy”: “With lease payments ranging from $750 per acre to $3,600 per acre – and royalties set from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent – the Marcellus Shale contracts Chesapeake has signed with local property owners has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy. … The natural gas company presently employs 636 Mountain State residents, with plans to hire more local workers in the future once those potential employees receive proper training. Chesapeake has spent $46 million with West Virginia-based vendors so far this year, including $1 million in shops based in Marshall and Wetzel counties and several million dollars more with a company in St. Marys, W.Va. The company also donated more than $400,000 to community organizations within Marshall and Wetzel counties during the past two years, Chesapeake leaders note. (Wheeling News-Register, 8/1/10)

Marcellus bringing hope to family farmers: “As an accountant who works for many farmers in the northern tier, I have witnessed first-hand the financial stress this important industry has experienced for the past 30 years. In the past two years, I also see the hope that Marcellus Shale brings to these farm families. … Today, these farmers are making investments in their farms that were just dreams before the Marcellus Shale. Also because of these new investments by farmers, I see a rebuilding of the northern tier agriculture infrastructure that was at risk. (Daily Item, 7/28/10)

Marcellus production “good for everybody”; Helping counties “meet their bottom line”: “Marcellus Shale drilling is boosting local water sales and helping to push the Quemahoning pipeline close to its permitted capacity. Bruce Hottle, president of the Lincoln Township Municipal Authority, said the nonprofit has been selling close to 3 million gallons per month to Dallas-based Chief Oil & Gas. Drillers use several million gallons of water to “frack” each Marcellus Shale gas well. “It’s given us some decent cash flow we wouldn’t normally have,” Hottle said. “It’s probably doubled our water sales for the months of June and July.” … “This helps us get out of the hole sooner. It’s been good for everybody,” Hottle said. … As for the county, Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said the increased usage is helping them meet their bottom line. “The more water we sell the better for the Que pipeline project,” Tokar-Ickes said. “We hope it continues.” (Daily America, 7/30/10)

More new jobs on the way thanks to the Marcellus: “A partnership between Medico Industries Inc. and a South American company looks to tap into the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling boom with the opening of a manufacturing facility in Hanover Township. … Medico Industries received a $500,000 low-interest loan through the Luzerne County Business Development Loan program to install and purchase machinery. The company is investing nearly $960,000 in the project. It’s estimated 20 jobs will be created. (Times-Leader, 7/31/10)

Marcellus-related jobs “another strong performer”: “The Pittsburgh region’s growth in all four of those sectors ranked between third and seventh best among the 40 largest regions in the country. Another strong performer was the natural resources and mining sector; although it only added 500 jobs, that was more than any region other than Houston, likely reflecting the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/1/10)

Maintaining quality before drilling begins

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: August 2, 2010

JACKSON TWP. – Just as individual property owners are testing their drinking water wells before natural gas drilling starts, Pennsylvania American Water Co. has established a baseline to ensure nothing affects the quality of water the company provides to its thousands of customers.

After giving The Citizens’ Voice a tour of the Ceasetown Reservoir’s filtration plant last week, Pennsylvania American Water representatives explained what the company is doing to augment its water quality monitoring to prevent contamination from natural gas drilling.

Although no gas wells are planned near the Huntsville or Ceasetown reservoirs in Jackson and Lehman townships, Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. has leased mineral rights to land close to both reservoirs and is preparing to drill an exploratory well in Lake Township, not far from the Lehman Township border.

Pennsylvania American Water Production Manager Mark Cross said the company has met with Encana and showed the gas company maps to indicate where the reservoirs’ watershed is and where future drilling activity could affect them.

“We had a lot of conversations with them to say this is a concern to us, and we need ongoing communication, and we need to know what your plans are,” he said.

Pennsylvania American Water also shared its watershed maps with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Cross said. Although there is no legal requirement to notify water companies when drilling permits are issued, DEP will take the watershed maps into consideration, and Pennsylvania American Water is also keeping up “ongoing dialogue” with the state agency, he said.

“Our focus is we want to know what’s going on out there, we want constant communication, we want to know what is in place out there, what their mitigation measures are, what spill control and response plans they have,” Cross said. “And it’s worked very well. They’ve been very cooperative, both DEP and Encana.”

‘Constantly monitored’

When people in Ashley, Conyngham Township, Courtdale, Edwardsville, Hanover Township, Hunlock Township, Larksville, Nanticoke, Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Pringle, Salem Township, Shickshinny and Wilkes-Barre City turn on their taps, the water probably comes from the Ceasetown Reservoir, which is fed by Pikes Creek.

Pennsylvania American Water’s 70,000 customers served by the Ceasetown Reservoir have their water treated at a facility in Jackson Township. A similar facility treats the water from the nearby Huntsville Reservoir, which serves about 29,000 customers. Huntsville serves Dallas, Kingston Township, Swoyersville, West Wyoming and Wyoming.

The “raw water” from the reservoir is piped into the facility in a 42-inch main, where chemicals are added to coagulate the small particles and make them easier to remove, Cross said.

The water then goes through a series of filters, which include irregularly shaped plastic beads that gather impurities, and layers of sand and gravel. The water is treated with chlorine to disinfect it and lime to adjust the pH level, then it is sent to a series of storage tanks and pump stations for distribution to customers.

Ceasetown’s facility handles a normal flow of 9 million gallons a day, Plant Supervisor Sean Sorber said. During droughts, Harveys Creek is used as an emergency source, but that hasn’t been necessary for about 10 years, Cross said.

“Ceasetown Reservoir is a very good source, very good quality,” he said.

Cross said the water is “constantly monitored” at the plant, and physical tests are done in its lab. A sink in the lab has a series of specialized faucets, each pouring water in a different stage of treatment. Every shift at the plant runs a minimum of two series of 15 tests – about 100 a day – Sorber said.

Because of impending natural gas drilling, Pennsylvania American Water instituted an additional set of parameters, Cross said.

Several months ago full baseline testing started at Pikes Creek, Harveys Creek, the Huntsville Reservoir in several locations, and the raw and treated water at the Huntsville and Ceasetown plants, he said. The water is tested at the plant and in the watershed for substances including volatile organic compounds, methane and total dissolved solids – extremely tiny particles of minerals or organic matter.

“We ran a full series of baseline tests – VOCs, metals, methane – on all of the sources in this Luzerne, Lackawanna and Susquehanna county area that are subject to any possible drilling,” Sorber said. “So we have a good baseline of what we currently have, and those tests will be run periodically also, as activity increases.”

Conductivity tests are one way to measure the amount of total dissolved solids, or TDSs. Changing levels of TDSs could signify a lot of things, including the water is being affected by natural gas drilling. Sorber took a sample of untreated water from one of the faucets and placed a probe in the plastic cup, then checked the meter. It was normal.

“If we see something jumping up, that will be an indication for us there’s something going on. It’s a very straightforward test,” he said.

Besides monitoring and testing, Pennsylvania American Water is active in trying to get Pennsylvania legislation changed, according to PAWC Communications Director Terry Maenza.

Two things the company would like to see changed are adding a requirement for drinking water utilities to be notified of any nearby natural gas drilling permit applications, and to have the buffer zone outside which drilling is allowed increased from 100 feet to 2,500 feet.

“We’re being as vigilant as we possibly can be, just to keep an eye on what’s proposed and before activity takes place, what safeguards are going to be in place,” Maenza said.

Contact the writer:, 570-821-2072

View article here.

Copyright:  Citizens Voice 

Gas firm asks to lay pipeline in Dallas Twp.

Chief to offer “substantial” cash, says solicitor, who wants to see land involved, right-of-way agreement.

By Steve
Staff Writer

and Rebecca
Staff Writer

DALLAS TWP. – An oil and natural gas company has asked township officials if it can lay pipeline underneath township property in return for money.

Two officials from Chief Oil and Gas attended the supervisors meeting Tuesday evening in search of an answer as to whether they can lay pipeline under a parcel of township-owned land.

Supervisor Glenn Howell said the land is along a gravel road off the Old Tunkhannock Highway. The gravel road leads to a Little League field and some other things, he said.

Township solicitor Thomas Brennan confirmed the company is offering “a substantial amount” of money to the township to lay the pipeline, though Brennan would not disclose the amount.

Brennan said there is no question about the legality of allowing the company to lay the pipe underneath township land. However, he said he first wants to take a look at the land to know what is involved.

The officials from the company also are wondering what they would have to do if they wanted to lay pipe under or along the township’s right-of-way. They said more than 20 miles of pipeline is planned coming from the north and terminating east of Dallas High School.

Brennan asked if the officials could provide a copy of the agreement they have with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation regarding their right-of-way usage. Brennan told the officials that he would have more information for them at the next supervisors meeting on July 6.

Earlier on Tuesday, township Zoning Officer Len Kozick said he’s heard from property owners in the township that they are being offered right-of-way agreements as well. And at least one agreement has already been signed.

According to Luzerne County property records, Leonard DeLeur, who owns Back to Basics – a fireplace and stove shop in Dallas – leased a 50-foot right-of-way along the edge of his 24-acre property in the township.

DeLeur said Chief offered him $20 per foot of pipeline laid on his property.

Kristi Gittins, vice president, Chief Oil & Gas, said a definite path has not been chosen for a pipeline, and one won’t be chosen until wells are drilled. She said no imminent drilling is planned for Luzerne County; the company’s next two wells will be drilled in Sullivan and Wyoming counties.

Josh Longmore, director of the Luzerne Conservation District, confirmed that drilling is slated to begin on his father’s land in Monroe Township, Wyoming County, in mid-July. His father, Robert Longmore, has a lease allowing Chief to drill on his 97-acre farm near Noxen Township.

Chief, which has 75 wells drilled in 10 counties, has wells in Lycoming, Bradford and Susquehanna counties that are producing gas, but there’s currently no way to get it to market. Gittins said gas is going to market from only about half of Chief’s wells in the Northeast because it takes a while to build a pipeline infrastructure where none previously existed.

Gittins said it costs about $1 million a mile to lay pipeline. And lease holders don’t see any royalty money until the gas gets to market.

Gittins said that Chief is selectively seeking leases in Luzerne County, but only in the area of currently leased land, she said. The company has leased a few properties in Fairmount Township. The Dallas, Texas-based company has 650,000 acres leased in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, she said.

In other business, supervisors awarded a bid for a paving and drainage project on Main and Campground roads to Popple Construction, the lowest bidder, at $147,530 for Main Road and $56,642.33 for Campground Road.

Supervisors Vice Chairman Frank Wagner previously said the project will consist of paving Main Road from the Kingston Township line to Route 309, as well as all of Campground Road.

Also, George Stolarick, who said he has lived on Ridge Street for the past 45 years, asked the supervisors to consider paving his road. Stolarick said that although there are only three houses on his road, eight families use the road to access their homes.

But, Supervisors Chairman Phil Walter said “it’s not in the cards right now.”

Rebecca Bria, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7436. Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

Copyright: Times Leader

Water co. requests say in permits

Pa. American Water Co. wants state government to offer water supply protection.

By Steve
Staff Writer

Officials with the water company that owns two Back Mountain reservoirs want to see state action to better protect those drinking water sources from contamination related to natural gas drilling.

They also want the opportunity to have input into the permitting process for natural gas wells located near those reservoirs.

Terry Maenza, spokesman for Pennsylvania American Water Co., said there is no requirement that natural gas companies or any state agency notify water suppliers when well-drilling permit applications for land near water supplies are submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We would like to see those laws and regulations revised so we can be notified and have a chance to express any comments or concerns while a permit is under review,” Maenza said.

Maenza’s comments follow the revelation on Monday that at least one property on the shore of the Huntsville Reservoir in Lehman Township, and an adjacent property, have been leased to EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., which will begin exploratory drilling operations at a well in Fairmount Township in July and at a second in Lake Township in late summer or early fall.

Paul Siegel, who owns the three acres on the Huntsville shore, said on Monday there is language in his lease that allows him and his wife, Janet, to restrict any surface drilling on his land but would allow EnCana to drill horizontally underneath his property.

The couple’s son and daughter-in-law, Christopher and Maureen, own 10.88 acres bordered by Christopher’s parents’ land on the east and by Huntsville-Idetown Road on the west that is also leased to EnCana.

Maenza said there is a 500-foot buffer between other properties and the high-water point of the Huntsville and Ceasetown reservoirs in most areas, but some parcels of land were “grandfathered in” without buffers when Pennsylvania American bought the water system from PGW in 1996.

As far as allowing a gas company to drill underneath the reservoirs, Maenza said it “would depend on what the driller was proposing and who owns the land. I’m not sure how far (down) our rights extend under the reservoirs,” he said.

Maenza said Pennsylvania American started water sampling and visual creek inspections about two weeks ago “so we can get some baseline data before the drilling begins.”

Huntsville Reservoir provides water for about 30,000 people living in Dallas, Kingston Township., Swoyersville, Wyoming and West Wyoming. Ceasetown Reservoir provides water to about 70,000 people in Ashley, Courtdale, Edwardsville, Larksville, Nanticoke, Plymouth, Pringle, Shickshinny, the townships of Conyngham, Hanover, Hunlock, Newport and Plymouth, and portions of the city of Wilkes-Barre.

Wyoming Mayor Robert Boyer said he’d like to learn more about the drilling process, given that his town receives water from the Huntsville Reservoir.

“There is a potential for environmental concerns. If we drill for oil a mile under the ocean floor and we don’t have a plan in place to deal with a catastrophic event like we had off the Gulf Coast, it makes sense that we want to have environmental protections in place before we start drilling here. Don’t put the cart before the horse,” Boyd said.

Maenza noted that state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, is working on legislation to protect water sources.

In order to protect aquifers and determine any adverse consequences attributable to drilling, one bill would require testing at three times – before drilling, at the completion of drilling and six months afterward – at three different depths.

A second bill would rule out drilling at sites too close to drinking water sources such as reservoirs.

A third bill would require DEP to ensure that the operators of wastewater treatment facilities are properly trained and sufficiently monitored to lessen the chances of human error creating a major problem.

Jennifer Wilson, Baker’s chief of staff, said specifics on the proposed bills, such as minimum distances from aquifers, are still being worked out.

Although EnCana has obtained a drilling permit for a site in Lehman Township about midway between Harveys Lake and Huntsville Reservoir, Wendy Wiedenbeck, public and community relations adviser for EnCana, said the company has not yet put together a full development program for drilling in Luzerne County should production at wells in Fairmount and Lake townships prove successful.

She did say the company is starting to look at additional potential drilling locations in the county.

As for company policies on proximity of drilling to water resources, she said the company naturally abides by the minimum setbacks set by states. But in considering additional setback distances, she said each potential drill location is unique and is assessed individually.

“We would take the same thoughtful, measured approach to any future operations as we have with our first two wells,” Wiedenbeck said.

Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

Copyright: Times Leader

West Virginia gas well blast injures 7; flames now 40 feet

VICKI SMITH Associated Press Writer
Published: June 7, 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A crew drilling a natural gas well through an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle hit a pocket of methane gas that ignited, triggering an explosion that burned seven workers, state and company officials said Monday.

The blast created a column of flame that was initially at least 70 feet high, but the rig operator said the site was secure and the fire was about 40 feet high by late morning.

A team from Texas-based Wild Well Control, a company that specializes in rig fires, will decide whether to let the methane burn or try to extinguish the flames, said Kristi Gittins of Dallas,Texas-based Chief Oil and Natural Gas.

The explosion occurred about 1:30 a.m. in a rural area outside Moundsville, about 55 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, and presents no danger to any structures or people, said Bill Hendershot, an inspector with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas.

The operation was less than a week old: DEP records show a permit was issued June 2 to AB Resources PA LLC of Brecksville, Ohio.

Gittins said AB Resources is the operator of the well, while Chief has a “participation interest.” It is Chief’s responsibility to drill and complete the well, she said.

Chief’s site contractor, Union Drilling of Buckhannon, had drilled the first 1,000 feet of a second well on the property and was preparing to install surface casing when crews apparently hit and ignited the methane, she said.

Crews had drilled through the abandoned Consol Energy mine before without incident, she said.

Methane is a known risk when working near old mines, and the company typically takes a variety of precautions, including venting systems. Gittins could not immediately say what precautions were in place at this site.

“Luckily, our response team got there quickly, secured the area and evacuated the workers,” she said. “From all appearances, there weren’t any life-threatening injuries, so that’s a good thing.”

The seven workers were taken the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh and were in fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Five were employed by Union and two worked for BJ Services Co. of Houston, Texas, said Jeff Funke, area director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Charleston office.

A spokesman for Union in Fort Worth, Texas, did not immediately return a telephone message.

The BJ Services workers were among four that had just arrived on site to place the casing, said Gary Flaharty, a spokesman for the parent company, Baker Hughes Inc. of Houston. The crew runs a safety check at the start of each shift and was just preparing to do that when the blast occurred.

Flaharty could not provide any details about the injured employees but said they’re being treated for burns and are expected to survive.

Funke said OSHA learned of the accident shortly after 8 a.m., and two investigators were being dispatched. However, they cannot enter the site and begin work until the fire is out, he said.

OSHA created a program to deal with gas drilling in the vast Marcellus shale fields about five years ago and has been proactively inspecting sites to ensure compliance with safety regulations, he said. The gas reserve is about the size of Greece and lies more than a mile beneath New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

OSHA knew there would be a lot of drilling in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, “and we did our best to get out in front of that curve,” Funke said. “So we’re well-equipped to respond to this.”

About 98 percent of the region’s drilling now involves Marcellus shale, he said.

Gittins, the spokeswoman for Chief, confirmed the company was tapping into the Marcellus reserves. The company has drilled about 75 Marcellus wells in West Virginia and Pennsylvania so far, she said, with about 15 of them in West Virginia.

This was the company’s first major accident, she said.

However, it’s the latest in a string of accidents related to the rapidly growing pursuit of Marcellus gas.

In Pennsylvania, environmental regulators are investigating what caused another well to spew explosive gas and polluted water for about 16 hours last week until it was brought under control.

A crew of eight was evacuated from the Clearfield County site Thursday, but no one was injured. That accident involved EOG Resources Inc. of Houston.

Copyright:  The Scranton Times-Tribune

Drilling industry concerns anglers, hunters

By Tom
Sports Reporter

The talk inside Giles Evans’ sporting goods shop has changed recently.

For years hunters and anglers have come into Brady and Cavany Sporting Goods, in the heart of Tunkhannock, to swap stories about where the fish are biting and the big bucks are roaming. And every day, Evans leans on the counter and takes it all in.

But recently, in addition to hunting and fishing, a new topic has sprung to the forefront: gas drilling.

Evans said he hears more and more hunters and anglers expressing concerns about how the drilling boom will affect the streams they fish and the woods they hunt. It’s a concern that continues to grow as quickly as the well pads dotting the ground in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“This is a big event up here,” Evans said. “A lot of people are making money, but a lot of people are concerned about the land and the water.”

Anglers, Evans said, are worried about the pristine trout streams in the area – Tunkhannock, Meshoppen, Mehoopany and Bowman’s creeks to name a few. They wonder if the streams can withstand the water withdrawals needed for the drilling process or, worse yet, what happens if they become contaminated.

“Anglers consider these places as pristine and they’re really concerned for the creeks,” Evans said. “The gas drillers are putting a lot of pads in around Meshoppen, near Whites Creek. That is a fantastic little trout stream. God forbid something happens there.”

Or anywhere else for that matter, according to Joe Ackourey, an avid fly fisherman and member of the Stanley Cooper Sr. Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Ackourey said the area of Wyoming County and northern Luzerne County that is targeted for drilling is home to numerous high-quality wild trout streams. The majority of those streams, he said, flow through remote mountainous areas and could be easily damaged.

The disturbance created by gas drilling – clear-cutting for pads, erosion, increased water temperatures and water withdrawals – can be fatal to the wild trout and other aquatic life that inhabits the streams.

“I just don’t like the major changes that are going to take place to these ecosystems all for the sake of the mighty dollar,” Ackourey said. “I fear for those streams and the wild trout that inhabit them.”

Lease helps hunting club

Dallas resident Russ Bigus has hunted the mountains and farmlands of Sullivan and Wyoming counties for decades. He enjoys the abundant wildlife in the area and the pristine landscape.

Bigus also supports the gas drilling boom and the economic benefit that comes with it.

If done properly, Bigus feels, gas drilling can actually enhance the region’s natural areas.

The money paid to farmers and landowners who enter into leases with gas companies will make it easier for them to keep their land as open space, Bigus said.

While he admits there is reason to be concerned about environmental degradation, the revenue generated from drilling could prevent open space from becoming something else.

It has happened in other parts of the state, Bigus said.

“In Juniata County it used to be all farms with great habitat for wild pheasants,” he said. “That’s all gone now. Those farms have been sold for development.

“That doesn’t have to happen any more with the income generated from natural gas drilling. Hunting opportunities will remain the same or get better with our open space here remaining open.”

Bigus said his hunting club, the White Ash Landowners Association located in Cherry Township, Sullivan County, currently has a gas lease agreement for its 5,000 acres.

Much of the club’s land has been degraded by strip mining in the past, he said, and the impact from gas drilling is minimal in comparison.

“It’s a very short-lived impact from what I’ve seen,” he said. “And our land is even more financially stable now.”

Still, Bigus cautioned that drilling can be an environmental disaster if not regulated properly.

According to Luzerne County property records, private hunting and fishing clubs that have leased land for drilling include North Mountain Club in Fairmount Township, Mayflower Rod & Gun Club in Ross Township and Rattlesnake Gulch Hunting Club in Ross Township.

“Scary what could happen”

Dr. Tom Jiunta, who resides in Lehman Township, hikes and fishes around the Ricketts Glen area and near his cabin in Laporte, Sullivan County.

Both areas are potential hotspots for gas drilling activity, and Jiunta fears what could happen to the streams and trails, such as the Loyalsock Trail, that he and countless others enjoy.

Aside from the major disruption of clearing land and the potential for pollution, Jiunta said other effects could be devastating, such as noise from drilling, air pollution and the introduction of invasive species as equipment from other states is moved into the remote locations of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“There’s a lot of subtle impacts that may not be noticed until a few years from now,” Jiunta said.

Despite his concerns, Jiunta said he isn’t totally opposed to drilling if it’s done properly “in the right places with the right regulations in place.” Pennsylvania is lacking as far with the latter, he said. “You can’t depend on the industry to police itself and we don’t have enough DEP (state Department of Environmental Protection) staff to keep on top of this.

“It’s really scary what could happen.”

As far as hunters go, some already have been affected by gas drilling. Evans, the sporting goods store owner, said hunters have told him that they lost their traditional hunting spots in Susquehanna County last deer season when the areas were deemed off limits due to gas drilling activity.

Even in areas where gas companies halted operations for the first week of deer season, Evans said, hunters were affected.

“Customers told me that in the Hop Bottom and Springville areas, the gas companies were out before the season with helicopters laying cables for seismic testing,” Evans said. “It was a noisy process and that scared a lot of deer out of the area and changed their patterns.”

Compromise needed

Bigus agreed that some hunting area will be lost while drilling commences, but believes conflicts can be reduced by an open line of communication between landowners and gas companies.

“For example, make sure they agree that there will be no activity for the first week of deer season, and have them do most of the work in the summer,” he said. “It’s important to establish a good relationship.”

And for all the concerns expressed daily by his customers, Evans said there is at least one example of how drilling can be done with little impact.

A well drilled near Nicholson, he said, was located next to a road and didn’t venture into the woods, lessening the impact on hunters and the environment, according to Evans.

But for that one positive, a looming negative experience continues to leave a sour taste with hunters and anglers.

In 2009, the Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. was fined $120,000 by DEP after methane gas infiltrated into private water wells in Dimock Township. In addition, between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons of fracking fluid leaked from a pipe at a drill site in the area and contaminated a nearby wetland.

This year Cabot was fined an additional $240,000 and ordered to shut down three wells because of methane contamination of water wells.

While DEP has prohibited Cabot from drilling in the area for one year, the damage was already done when it came to the views of hunters and anglers.

“That business in Dimock really has hunters and anglers concerned,” Evans said. “Everybody’s worried about it because there’s so much unknown, and the Cabot incident didn’t help.

“A lot of people that talk about it in the store just hope that they get done, get out and nothing gets harmed. In the meantime, they’re scared to death about what could happen.”

Copyright: Times Leader

Water to be tested because of drilling

PA American Water Co. to sample water from Huntsville Creek near natural gas well.

By Jerry
Business Writer

A water company has begun inspecting a creek flowing from the Huntsville Reservoir as a result of a permit issued for a natural gas well in Lehman Township.

PA American Water Co. also will soon begin sampling water from Huntsville Creek, company spokesman Terry Maenza said Thursday.

The testing is to check whether drilling has affected the 1.9-billion- gallon reservoir that supplies drinking water to the utility’s customers. The reservoir is in the Back Mountain area of Luzerne County where more than 25,000 acres have been leased by companies planning to tap into the natural gas rich Marcellus Shale formation underground.

Technicians will go out once a week to take water samples, said Maenza, “so we have baseline data.”

Last month township officials approved a drilling permit for EnCana Gas & Oil USA Inc. It has partnered with Whitmar Exploration Co. to locate possible drilling sites within nine townships and Harveys Lake in the Back Mountain.

PA American has two reservoirs bordered by lease holdings. The 2.9 billion gallon Ceasetown Reservoir also is located in Lehman Township. In conjunction with Huntsville, Ceasetown supplies water to 100,000 people in the Wyoming Valley, Maenza said.

The reservoirs have 500-foot buffer zones around them where drilling is not permitted, he explained.

Maenza added that the water company relies on regulators and inspectors to enforce laws related to drilling and disposal and treatment of waste water used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the high pressure injection of a mixture of water, chemicals and other materials to break up the rock containing the natural gas.

The utility frequently is in contact with the state Department of Environmental Protection on a number of issues, including permits issued for drilling. “They’re letting us know about it,” Maenza said.

Two other water companies that serve customers in the Back Mountain are leaving oversight up to DEP, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the state Fish and Boat Commission.

Donna Alston, a spokeswoman for Aqua Pennsylvania, said existing DEP regulations provide protection for the company that draws its water from wells. The company provides service to customers in Luzerne County through its White Haven Division. Statewide it serves 1.4 million people in 30 counties.

Still, Aqua is stepping up its own efforts.

The utility “will be monitoring water quality more frequently and extensively than required by regulation whenever drilling activity is occurring anywhere near one of its well supplies to detect and respond to any water quality changes that might occur,” Alston said.

What steps United Water takes depends upon how close a natural gas well is drilled to one of its water wells, said spokesman Bob Manbeck.

“If a permit for extraction was under consideration within a one mile radius of a United Water-owned well, we would intervene in the permitting process and attempt to ensure that the extraction points are an appropriate distance from our wells,” said Manbeck.

United Water has six wells in Dallas, two each in Dallas Township and Harveys Lake and one in Noxen Township in Wyoming County. It serves 10,000 customers in the Back Mountain.

Copyright: Times Leader

Shale town mayor tells drilling woes

Mauri Rapp Abington Journal Correspondent

Sir Francis Bacon once said “Knowledge is power.” To that famous quote, Calvin Tillman adds “Once you know, you can’t not know.”

Tillman, the mayor of DISH, Texas, was one of four panelists in attendance at “Impacts of Gas Drilling and Your Community,” a Marcellus Shale drilling information seminar held April 29 at the Clark Summit fire hall. DISH, a town of fewer than 200 residents located approximately 25 miles from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, garnered national attention after changing its name from Clark in exchange for free cable television service for ten years from DISH Network.

DISH has also attracted another kind of attention: the eye of natural gas companies drilling in the Barnett Shale region, a natural gas field which stretches approximately 5,000 square miles across the state of Texas. Tillman called DISH the “Grand Central Station” of the Barnett Shale play, with 11 compressor stations, three metering stations and more than 20 natural gas pipelines located within less than two square miles.

Tillman described to the 150-plus people in attendance April 29 the impact natural gas drilling has had on his town. To date, the Barnett Shale play has added approximately $8 to $10 billion and 100,000 jobs to the Texas economy, Tillman said. The industry has also added toxic chemicals to DISH’s air, he said. A study performed in August 2009 by Wolf Eagle Environmental showed that the air contained high concentrations of carcinogens and neurotoxins. Tillman continues to advocate for the town’s population, and on April 22 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality installed a continuous air monitor in DISH. “I believe more testing should be done,” he said.

The mayor has relayed his story to audiences in the Marcellus Shale region during the past several months. Tillman said he is not against the industry and believes in working with it to get things done, but feels that citizens and communities should go into leases with their eyes open. He said that certain measures, such as green technologies, declaration of areas such as schools and parks off limits to drilling, and a separation between the DEP regulating and permitting bodies could help make the industry safer. Tillman also spoke in favor of a severance tax for Pennsylvania. “I hate to break it to you, but the oil and gas industry came into Pennsylvania and picked your pockets,” Tillman said. “You need to have a severance tax to pay for roads, to pay for environmental issues, to pay for more DEP workers.”

Putting a personal face on the Marcellus Shale play was Victoria Switzer, a natural gas lessor from Dimock Township who said she wished she knew when she signed her lease what she knows now. “We’ve all heard the glories of the natural gas industry,” Switzer said. “I’m not going to dispute some of those things, but I’m going to show you what comes with the package deal.”

Switzer said that for the past couple of years, she has been living in a gas field with 63 wells located within nine square miles, the closest one 710 feet from her own home. Twenty-four of those wells have had violations, said Switzer. She now conducts what she calls “Victoria’s Toxic Tours” for citizens, journalists and public officials interested in seeing the impact natural gas drilling has had in her township. “You need to know what is coming your way,” she told the audience.

Panelist Paul Lumia, executive director of North Branch Land Trust, provided tips for those who decide to lease to natural gas drillers, including getting to know one’s gas man and remaining vigilant in reporting suspected violations to DEP. Lumia also encourages the crowd to pressure policymakers into decisions that preserve the environment. “Don’t just assume that your neighbors will do it,” Lumia said. “Protecting our land is up to us.”

Also on hand was George E. Turner, a professional geologist with more than 20 years of experience with groundwater and water testing. Turner advised those considering natural gas leasing to get their water tested beforehand. “This gives you legal proof in case your water is contaminated,” he said.

Scott Perry, deputy director of the DEP Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, was on hand to answer questions from the audience.

Copyright: Times Leader

Towns get legal advice on gas issues

A lawyer offers sample laws to Back Mountain towns concerned about drilling.

By Rebecca
Staff Writer

DALLAS TWP. – The Back Mountain Community Partnership was advised Thursday afternoon to separately pass ordinances that may help protect against gas drilling issues.

The partnership is an intermunicipal group composed of Dallas, Franklin, Jackson, Kingston and Lehman townships and Dallas borough.

Attorney Jeffrey Malak, who is solicitor of the group, explained it would be better for each municipality to enact its own ordinances rather than to pass joint partnership ordinances because each municipality has its own unique needs.

Malak provided an example of an ordinance, created by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Solicitors, which addresses height regulations of equipment, setbacks, access roads, wells, tanks and storage.

He also furnished sample dust, noise and light pollution ordinances and a sample road bond agreement. In addition, he provided a copy of Dallas’ zoning ordinance, which restricts drilling to certain areas of the borough and deals with screening and buffering and outdoor lighting issues.

Malak said such ordinances would take in all types of businesses but cannot be specific to natural gas drilling because the Oil and Gas Act of 1984 specifies the state oversees drilling. He stressed a lot of ordinances can be incorporated to help and that the municipalities are not limited to revising their zoning laws.

“We don’t know what’s allowed, what’s not, until we try some different things&hellip.” Malak said. “It’s a very, very complicated issue and like I said, it’s not a one size fits all.”

In other news, Tom Yoniski, a representative for state Sen. Lisa Baker, announced the senator’s office has arranged a meeting regarding gas drilling to be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on May 13 at Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School.

Yoniski said Penn State University officials will give a presentation on gas drilling. He said that officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission will also attend.

Also, Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition members Karen Belli and Leeanne Mazurick, both of Dallas Township, gave a brief presentation on gas drilling and its impacts on the environment and the community.

Coalition member Audrey Simpson, of Kingston Township, showed a video she created of Dimock Township residents who were negatively affected by gas drilling.

Copyright: Times Leader

Back Mt. group will work for gas drilling law

The organization represents six communities in the Back Mountain area.

By Rebecca
Staff Writer

DALLAS TWP. – Members of the Back Mountain Community Partnership hope to pass an ordinance that addresses natural gas drilling issues.

The partnership is an inter-municipal group composed of Dallas, Franklin, Jackson, Kingston and Lehman townships and Dallas borough.

The group voted Thursday afternoon at Misericordia University to have their solicitor, Jeffrey Malak, perform research as to what can be done to control the drilling process.

Partnership President Al Fox said he did not want to comment as to what the ordinance may contain because he is not sure legally what can be in it.

“Whatever we can do we need to do as quickly as we can,” Fox said.

Malak said the Oil and Gas Act pre-empts local interference in gas drilling.

“I can give you some options of what some other municipalities are doing,” Malak said. “There’s not a one size fits all.”

In a related matter, the partnership shared responses from EnCana Oil and Gas Inc. on questions the public asked company officials during the January meeting.

Fox said the company answered only six of the many questions that were asked during the meeting. The responses briefly addressed issues such as the chemicals used and the prevention of cross contamination.

Tom Yoniski, a representative for state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, said he can set up a public forum with Penn State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to inform the public of the state’s plans to protect water quality.

In other news, the partnership approved proceeding to jointly apply for Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency funding to purchase Tasers for each municipality’s police department. Franklin Township does not have a department and uses state police coverage, but voted to proceed with the application for the group.

Up to $10,000 is available for each municipality, said Joe Chacke, of NEPA Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides administrative and professional services to the BMCP at no cost.

Also, Richard Heffron and Veronica Ciaruffoli, of the Luzerne County Government Study Commission, gave an overview on the status of the commission.

Rebecca Bria, a staff writer, may be reached at 970-7436.

Copyright: Times Leader