Posts Tagged ‘Lake-Lehman High School’

Gas drilling could aid clean water

Industry may pay to upgrade plants that handle waste water from process.

By Rory
Staff Writer

The state is contending with a multibillion-dollar water-treatment problem, and the growing gas-drilling industry might be part of the solution.

A roughly $7.2 billion deficit exists for repairing or upgrading waste-water treatment facilities in the state, according to a task force created by Gov. Ed Rendell to solve water-infrastructure issues. Gas companies might help defray that cost as more wells are drilled because the companies will need treatment facilities for waste water.

The process to drill gas and oil wells, called hydraulic fracturing or simply “fracing,” involves shooting sand and water down a well to fracture the rock containing the oil or gas.

The contaminated water is separated out and can be stored and reused, but must eventually be treated. The state Department of Environmental Protection categorizes it as industrial waste, agency spokesman Mark Carmon said.

In western Pennsylvania, where many shallow wells exist, privately operated treatment facilities handle such waste, but none has so far in the northeast area, said Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association.

Exploring the Marcellus Shale, which runs from upstate New York into Virginia, including the northern edge of Luzerne County, generally requires far more water than shallow wells because the wells can be 8,000 feet deep

Companies working in this region have reused the water in multiple wells and then shipped it to the facilities out west, Rhoads said, but “obviously, moving it across the state with the fuel prices the way they are, is not economically” viable. The water can also be injected deep into the ground, but no one has sought such a permit in this region, Carmon said.

That leaves sending the water to public facilities, but since many of them are already near or at capacity, the industry is considering paying to upgrade plants. About 30 of the largest regional treatment facilities have been notified by DEP that they might be approached with the idea and that they’d first need to modify their liquid discharge permits and receive approval from the agency, Carmon said.

The idea hasn’t escaped the gas companies.

“We’ve talked about that in various areas throughout the state,” said Rodney Waller, of Range Resources Corp. “We’re investigating that, but … there’s nothing on the horizon.”

Upcoming events

• 10:30 a.m. today the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions, and county conservation districts are meeting in Harrisburg with industry members to discuss environmental regulations.

• 7 p.m. June 23 the Penn State Cooperative Extension is holding a gas-lease workshop for landowners at the Lake-Lehman High School.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Drilling’s impact on water in spotlight

Expert advises landowners to have groundwater tested before gas drilling begins.

In the rush to sign leases to drill for natural gas, some fear that dollar signs might blur landowners’ considerations of other important issues, like protecting groundwater.

But landowners are unlikely to notice most major threats to water quality, and the problems they do notice, according to Bryan Swistock, a water specialist with Penn State University, have more to do with landowner oversights than driller mistakes.

“Most of the real health concerns in water you wouldn’t even notice,” he said. “The vast majority of the complaints turn out to be something else (other than contamination from drilling), so it’s really important that people take a look at their water supply and make sure they’re not causing their own problems.”

He noted that problems often occur from faulty residential wells or other outside factors, but landowners attribute it to the drilling. Natural gas drilling sites are cropping up in the region as companies rush to tap the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock about a mile below the surface that industry experts believe is trapping billions of dollars in natural gas.

Swistock, who has done most of his research with shallow wells in western Pennsylvania instead of the deep shale wells, stressed the importance of getting water tested for a baseline before giving drillers the green light. “It’s very difficult to show that anything’s been done to your water unless you can show it was good before,” he said.

He suggested watching for sedimentation, particularly due to construction and ground disturbance, as well as metals like barium and iron showing up in groundwater.

“It’s not common, but it can happen from time to time,” he said. “If it’s going to happen, most likely it’s going to happen right around the gas well.”

Just as important are concerns over the quantity of water used, where it comes from and where it goes. The innovative horizontal drilling method used to tap the shale requires millions of gallons of water, and industry watchers like Swistock are concerned that the region lacks the treatment facilities necessary to process the tainted water that results.

In an attempt to educate landowners about these water issues, Swistock has been holding seminars through the Penn State Cooperative Extension. One is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 14 at Lake-Lehman High School.

“It’s funny. You can pretty much divide the people who attend these things into two groups,” Swistock said. Those who stand to profit off the drilling generally attend but don’t get too agitated, he said. Those who won’t profit but stand to be affected by any problems do get agitated. “It’s a natural reaction. If you’re going to make money from something you’re more willing to put up with it.”

Still, Swistock noted, with all the problems, the problems with natural gas drilling are a far cry from those associated with past energy extraction activities in this region. “It certainly pales in comparison to coal mining,” he said.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Gas lease offers could jump if early wells productive

Experts tell landowners to understand everything they are signing related to leases.

LEHMAN TWP. – Natural-gas drillers seem to be taking “a wait-and-see attitude” right now, according to Ken Balliet, a Penn State Extension director well versed in gas-lease issues.

If exploratory wells being drilled this summer are productive and some state regulatory issues are ironed out, gas-lease offers could jump, he said.

But as anticipation builds over natural-gas drilling in the region, here’s one thing landowners can expect.

“As soon as you sign a lease, in a few days or weeks, the price (others sign leases for) is going to go up,” Balliet said. “You’ve gotta understand this is still a highly speculative play.”

That said, landowners have many other issues to consider beyond the bottom line, according to other experts who spoke at a gas-lease workshop on Monday evening at Lake-Lehman High School. There are environmental, liability, property rights and payment issues that should be considered.

For Luzerne County landowners who are undergoing property reassessment, another concern is retaining the land’s “clean and green” tax abatement status. Dale Tice noted that the financial risk could be transferred to the drilling company. Tice, an oil and gas attorney, said an addendum could be added to leases to require drillers to pay any rollback taxes.

Another important lease consideration for farmers is making sure the drillers isolate the topsoil during excavation, pointed out Joe Umholtz, an oil and gas program manager with the state Department of Environmental Protection. DEP doesn’t have a regulation requiring that, he said.

Tice also mentioned inserting compensation clauses for crop loss and land damage.

Beyond soil and groundwater pollution or water usage, landowners should consider the sound pollution from compressor stations and other machinery.

While all the issues probably won’t deter wildlife indefinitely, drillers can arrive at any time of year, so owners should prepare accordingly for hunting seasons, the experts said.

Regarding payments, owners should be aware that companies currently deduct transportation costs for getting the gas to market, Tice said, but legislation is pending to ban that. Also, while companies might offer owners the opportunity to use as much gas as they want, the pressures involved make it practically unreasonable, so Tice suggested that owners negotiate for payments in lieu of the gas.

It’s also important, he said, to restrict lease rights to only what might come up from the well because a broader lease might allow extraction of other minerals.

Finally, he advised against allowing options to re-lease land, but instead offer the first right to refuse a new lease offer.

“If they drill a well, that means you’ve got one chance to get this lease correct. You need to be sure you understand everything you’re signing,” he said.

Copyright: Times Leader

OUR OPINION – Before making the deal, scrutinize gas lease offer

MOST CONSUMERS HAVE heard the cautionary phrase, “caveat emptor,” or “let the buyer beware.”

Turns out, for Pennsylvania landowners who are mulling natural gas lease offers, the seller better be careful too.

Deals are being sealed throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania as a result of a natural gas rush. The flurry began months ago, in part, because a Penn State University researcher and colleague in New York suggested that there might be a treasure trove of natural gas trapped within a rock formation known as the Marcellus shale.

This formation – which extends over parts of Pennsylvania and three bordering states – might contain more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, much of it previously inaccessible. Using updated drilling technology, however, industry watchers speculate that at least 10 percent of it could be recovered. Taking into account projected fuel prices, that makes the Marcellus worth about $1 trillion.

Consequently, drilling company representatives and other dealmakers have fanned out across Northeastern Pennsylvania, knocking on doors and making what might, at first, seem to be lucrative offers. But property owners would be wise to wait and get the facts, not quickly jump at an apparent windfall.

Experts advise that landowners don’t sign companies’ standard agreements, which tend to favor the drilling operators. Instead, negotiate.

People who had been offered $15 per acre two years ago have, in some cases, reaped new offers of as much as $2,500 per acre, according to one report.

Other equally important issues should be examined in the lease agreements.

Among the questions to consider: What percentage of royalties will be paid to the landowner? How might potential environmental impacts be addressed? Does the contract provide provisions releasing the landowner from liabilities, including failure of the drilling company to follow applicable laws?

In short, draft the best possible deal before signing on the dotted line. This unforeseen opportunity shouldn’t leave you feeling cheated.


For information on natural gas leases, television viewers can tune into an hour-long, call-in program at 7 tonight on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. The program also will be available on the Web at

A workshop on understanding gas leases is set for 7 to 9:30 p.m. June 23 at Lake-Lehman High School. Fee: $15. To register, call the Penn State Cooperative Extension office in Luzerne County at 825-1701.

Separately, gas-leasing information is available at Web sites such as and

Copyright: Times Leader