Posts Tagged ‘EnCana Oil & Gas’

Gas firm looks to hearing on 10 new well permits

Those against Encana Oil & Gas plans ponder appeals for permits already granted.

By Steve Mocarsky
Staff Writer

As Encana Oil & Gas officials await a hearing next month on zoning permits for 10 new natural gas wells in Luzerne County, gas-drilling opponents are contemplating a second appeal for permits that already have been issued to the company.

Encana recently filed applications with the Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board seeking temporary-use permits and special exceptions for drilling five natural gas wells and height variances for building a gas processing facility at a site nestled between Loyalville, Hickory Tree and Meeker roads in Lake Township.

The company also applied for the same types of permits for drilling wells on two properties in Fairmount Township – two wells on a site northeast of the intersection of state routes 487 and 118, and three wells on adjoining land to the northeast.

The zoning hearing board has scheduled a hearing for 7 p.m. Aug. 3 to hear testimony on those applications.

The Lake Township site, owned by 4P Realty of Blakely, is about 600 acres. The two Fairmount Township sites consist of 13 parcels – some owned by William Kent of Benton and others owned by Jeffrey Hynich of Lake Township – spanning nearly 480 acres. They are referred to as the Red Rock/Benton Gas Consortium Lands in a lease with Encana.

Encana would move forward with drilling wells on those properties if two exploratory wells in Lake and Fairmount townships prove successful.

Drilling on the Fairmount Township property of Edward Buda is expected to begin within five to 10 days, Encana spokeswoman Wendy Wiedenbeck said.

Encana won zoning approval for drilling on a Lehman Township property owned by Russell W. Lansberry and Larry Lansberry in April but withdrew the application last week – less than a month after township residents Dr. Tom Jiunta, Brian and Jennifer Doran and Joseph Rutchauskas filed an appeal of the zoning approval in county court.

Rutchauskas said on Tuesday that attorneys for the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition are checking into the possibility of appealing the issuance of zoning permits about two weeks ago for Lake Township property owned by Amy and Paul Salansky on which Encana plans to begin drilling later this summer.

The county zoning hearing board approved the permit applications for the Salansky property in May.

Rutchauskas said he was told by a zoning official that it was too late to file an appeal on the Salansky permits because one must be filed within 30 days of the zoning hearing board’s decision.

“We’re having lawyers check into the timeframe of when the permits were approved and when they were issued. Our stance is that the 30-day timeframe is from the day the permits were issued, not from the day they were approved,” Rutchauskas said.

He said the permits could not be issued until the board received several response plans from Encana, such as a traffic management plan and an emergency response plan.

Eight permits for the Salansky property were issued on June 25 – the same day Encana submitted the plans – and two more were issued on June 28, according to zoning office records.

Rutchauskas said there’s no way zoning officials could have reviewed all the plans the same day, and the permits should not have been issued until the plans were thoroughly reviewed.

“How can you issue a permit without reading the required plans? You can put a Superman comic book in there and they wouldn’t know the difference. Do it slow, take your time, at least open them. I’ve been going through those books almost eight hours,” Rutchauskas said.

Luzerne County Planner Pat Dooley said officials are checking into how an appeal can be filed on the issuance of a zoning permit.

Dooley said he’s not aware of anyone ever appealing the issuance of a zoning permit, only the approval of a permit.

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Copyright:  The Times Leader

Gasland movie critical of drilling

An organization funded by the natural gas industry disputes the HBO film’s conclusions.

By Steve
Staff Writer

After Josh Fox was offered nearly $100,000 to lease his 20 acres in Wayne County to a gas company, he heard two different accounts – one, a story of easy money, the other a tale of horror.

The 37-year-old independent filmmaker set out to find the truth about natural gas drilling, and his conclusions can be seen in his documentary film “Gasland,” to air on HBO at 9 p.m. on Monday.

And while representatives of the gas industry call the film a piece of propaganda filled with exaggerations and inaccuracies, Fox stands by his work and says it’s the industry’s response that is propaganda.

In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, as he was getting ready for a special screening of the documentary at the HBO Theater in New York City that night, Fox said a land man with a gas company told him in 2008 that the company probably wouldn’t even drill on the land. But he heard from others that environmentally, gas drilling was “very polluting.”

“There was such a disparity between what was being said and what was being offered, I needed to see with my own eyes,” Fox said.

So, Fox set out for the village of Dimock in Susquehanna County to talk with folks whose well water was polluted by natural gas migration from leaking gas wells.

“It was completely a disaster area. There were Halliburton trucks swarming everywhere. Water was bubbling and fizzing; some you could light on fire. There was a feeling of regret and betrayal in the air,” Fox said.

Residents were unaware of the contamination until Norma Fiorentino’s water well exploded on Jan. 1, 2009, Fox said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection fined the drilling company and ordered the wells capped.

Fox visited 23 other states where natural gas drilling was taking place. He interviewed people whose health and quality of life were negatively impacted; scientists, one of whom warns of the dangers of drinking water infused with chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing (commonly called fracking), which releases the gas from the underground shale formations; and government officials on both sides of the issue.

One of the officials Fox interviewed was DEP Secretary John Hanger, who minimized the negative effects of fracking but refused to drink a glass of water from an affected well, according to a synopsis of the film on the HBO website.

On the same day as a special screening of the film in Montrose earlier this month, Energy in Depth – a gas-industry-funded organization, released an alert on its website entitled “Debunking Gasland,” pulling out numerous quotes from the movie and disputing them.

Energy In Depth claimed that Fox was “misstating the law” when he said that a 2005 energy bill exempted the oil and gas industry from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Superfund law and other regulations. The industry is regulated under every single one of those laws, said Energy In Depth spokesman Chris Tucker.

The organization states that Fox was “flat-out making stuff up” when he said the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah gas fields of Wyoming are directly in the path of a 1,000-year-old migration corridor of pronghorn antelope, mule deer and sage grouse, each species of which is endangered.

Energy in Depth countered that three species of the pronghorn are endangered and none are found near the Pinedale Anticline, citing the Great Plains Nature Center; that only mule deer from New Mexico, noting that mule deer are so plentiful in Wyoming, there is a mule deer hunting season; and citing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife report stating that the sage grouse is not on the endangered list and there are “robust populations” of the bird in Wyoming.

Fox also blamed an algae bloom that killed fish and other aquatic life in Dunkard Creek in Washington County on natural gas development, Tucker said. But DEP reports show the bloom was caused by coal mine drainage.

The organization also cites a reference in the documentary to Colorado resident Lisa Bracken, who reported to environmental regulators occurrences of natural gas in the West Divide Creek, which she believed was related to natural gas drilling. “Fox blames methane occurrence in West Divide Creek, Colo., on natural gas development,” the release states.

Energy In Depth published links to reports on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website that showed the methane was naturally occurring. Tucker said those reports were available long before “Gasland” was released.

Theo Stein, communications director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said a commission investigation revealed that the methane Bracken reported bubbling in her beaver ponds near the creek was naturally occurring swamp gas from rotting vegetation.

Stein confirmed, however, that about a quarter-mile upstream, some methane gas was still present from a gas migration into the creek from a leak in a well drilled in 2004 by EnCana Oil & Gas, the company that will begin drilling in Luzerne County next month. EnCana received the largest fine in Colorado’s history for allowing that leak to occur.

Tucker, who is a native of Kingston Township and has been closely following the development of the Marcellus Shale in Northeastern Pennsylvania, said the press release was addressing only Bracken’s claims in the documentary. He was unfamiliar with the incident involving EnCana and said the issue alert was not meant to be misleading.

Copyright: Times Leader