Posts Tagged ‘natural gas drilling’

Gas well blowout in Bradford County results in wastewater spill

Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, April 19, a natural gas well in LeRoy Twp., Bradford County, malfunctioned and blew out in the process of hydraulic fracturing. There were no injuries reported. For over 12 hours Wednesday, thousands of gallons of waste fluid spilled from the well.

To read more about this natural gas drilling incident, click here.

For more coverage on the waste spill in Bradford County, including video footage, visit WNEP.

NEPA officials discuss drilling impact

By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: January 27, 2011

On Wednesday, January 26th, testimony was offered by numerous Northeast Pennsylvania officials at a Senate Republican Party Policy Committee hearing regarding the impact of Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

Among the issues discussed were the possibility of imposing an impact fee to drilling companies, environmental issues stemming from roadside ditches, and the effects of the increasing truck traffic.

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Rendell sees some life on severance tax talks

By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: October 14, 2010

HARRISBURG – Negotiations over a state severance tax on natural gas showed some signs of life Wednesday as Gov. Ed Rendell offered encouragement about a private round of leadership talks.

The governor said discussions will continue in coming days to find a compromise tax on natural gas produced by deep wells in the Marcellus Shale formation. He said the tax rate is still a sub-ject of debate, while informal agreement has been reached on specific language to exempt traditional shallow gas wells from the tax.

The governor’s tone was different than on Tuesday when he and legislative leaders of both chambers voiced recriminations over the failure to enact a severance tax by the Oct. 1 target date. Both House Democratic and Senate Republican leaders declared their intent to pass a tax under a provision of the state fiscal code enacted in July.

“Color me optimistic today,” said Mr. Rendell.

It appears that any passage of a severance tax, even if an agreement is struck, is still days or even weeks off.

Senate GOP leaders are cooler in their view of progress. But they have agreed to add session days in advance of the Nov. 2 election if they get a compromise bill from the House. House Democratic leaders have already indicated they will return to vote on a compromise bill.

Mr. Rendell said his compromise offer to phase in a severance tax rate starting at 3 percent and reaching 5 percent by the third year put the talks in gear. But Senate Republicans see things differently.

“It would still be one of the highest (severance) taxes in the nation,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County. “Unless the governor is willing to negotiate that rate down, I don’t see any progress in getting things done.”

The GOP caucus wants to phase in the tax at 1.5 percent during the first five years’s of a well’s production before a 5 percent rate kicks in.

Mr. Rendell’s proposal would exempt up to 10 percent of some production and distribution costs from the tax, while Senate Republicans want to exempt 100 percent of production costs.

The governor said agreement has been reached on exempting so-called stripper wells producing less than 90,000 cubic feet of gas per day from the tax and progress made on exempting shallow well drillers from a self-reporting requirement.

“A major concern that has emerged in this debate is that small, independent producers that do not drill in the Marcellus Shale would be subject to the proposed tax or be forced to spend millions to prove they qualify for an exemption,” said Louis D’Amico, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Pro-drilling group welcomes gas companies

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: September 27, 2010

Yellow signs welcoming Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc., the first natural gas company to start drilling in Luzerne County, are starting to pop up around the Back Mountain.

They’re the handiwork of a newly formed pro-gas group, Citizens for Cleaner Energy, which consists of people who have leased their land – or who want to – and who feel it’s time to speak out in favor of what they believe will be the region’s most important resource.

Unlike natural gas drilling opponents, who have been highly visible and vocal, natural gas drilling proponents have been largely silent.

“I understand other people see this differently, and that’s fine, that’s the American process,” Citizens for Cleaner Energy President Gary Ide said. “But if we sit back and say nothing, I think everyone assumes we have nothing to say, and we do.”

The signs are symbolic, according to Ide: they are meant to welcome Encana specifically, because many of the group’s members have leases with the company and they have heard good things about it, but they’re also meant to welcome responsible natural gas exploration in general, which is one of the group’s goals. The others are to protect personal property rights and educate people about natural gas and the drilling process.

In addition to Ide, the group’s organizers are Russ and Mary Lansberry, Larry Lansberry and Gene Janiczek, whose properties in Lehman Township were to be the site of a vertical natural gas well until Encana withdrew its application to drill.

At later meetings the group decided on a name and appointed officers: Ide as president, Mary Lansberry as vice president, Barbara Mikielski as secretary and Janet McCarroll as treasurer.

But the group’s first meeting on Aug. 13 in the Lehman Township fire hall was to determine if others had similar concerns, according to Ide.

They did: “It was clear that all were frustrated about how they were being portrayed by those who oppose gas exploration,” he said.

However, Ide said the group was not formed to counter anti-drilling groups such as the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition. Members of Citizens for Cleaner Energy are also sensitive to environmental issues, he said.

“People have a reason to be concerned. This is not oxygen we’re trying to find, it is a combustible substance and it is potentially dangerous,” Ide said. “That’s why many people who have signed (leases) signed with Encana – there seems to be some real thought about how they are going to drill and produce. We think there’s a responsible way of doing this and a safe way of doing this.”

Members of Citizens for Cleaner Energy want people to know a lot of thought goes into making the decision to lease, Ide said.

“Of course economic reasons are why we’re all doing this,” he said. “But I think the considerations of all the things you might think we would worry about are there.”

Members also want to help people learn about all the components of natural gas drilling – the main problem he sees is that people are not familiar with the entire process.

“My biggest beef is probably the people who are just flat-out opposed because something might go wrong, and in the case of Dimock, did go wrong,” Ide said, referring to the Susquehanna County township where some residents are experiencing water well contamination. “I think it’s OK to be concerned and make sure they’re doing the best job possible. I don’t think it’s OK to frighten needlessly.”

Things can go wrong, he acknowledges. But, he noted, “The opportunity for economic growth for the entire area is just a little more powerful than the potential for these huge catastrophic environmental messes.”

Much needs to be proven to an unsure public, Ide said.

“I want to hopefully engage people who think they have nothing, that they have something to gain,” he said. “It’s not just good for a handful of people. … I think we’re all going to benefit.”

Some people think just because they don’t have land they won’t get anything, but that’s not true, Ide said.

“I don’t think there’s a business that could be brought in that can stimulate the economy more than this can. I can say that, but I think in time that will be proved.”

For the past six weeks Ide has been talking to as many people as possible, to learn what they had to say, find out what they were frustrated about, make sure everyone was on the same page.

So far Citizens for Cleaner Energy has about 120 members, Ide said. There are no dues or membership fees, but people do make voluntary contributions to cover costs.

Lehman Township resident Carl Kern, who does trucking for natural gas companies, was the group’s first speaker. His trucks are leased to Mountain Energy, which provides water for Chesapeake Appalachia LLC.

Ide said Kern explained how stringent the rules are for collecting and transporting water, and he made an impact on the group “by saying these are not fly-by-night outfits.”

“Most of the companies are good companies. They’re honestly trying to do things the right way,” he said.

Kern said he talked about what he is seeing in the field and how the natural gas industry is producing jobs.

He said he is just as concerned as anyone else that the gas companies do things right, but said people need to give the state some credit for enforcing regulations.

“I understand where some of these people are coming from, but everybody has to sit down and weigh it all out. I think in the long run, the pluses are going to outweigh the negatives,” Kern said.

He supports Citizens for Cleaner Energy and believes more people will join the group.

“I’m right with them. I’m going to fight as hard as I can to make this work,” Kern said.

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Copyright:  The Citizens Voice, 570-821-2072

Marcellus Shale takes center stage in New York meeting

By Laura Legere (Staff Writer)
Published: September 14, 2010

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Hundreds of people gathered in this Southern Tier city on Monday to advise the Environmental Protection Agency on how to conduct a multiyear study of hydraulic fracturing and the impact it may have on drinking water.

Despite the New York setting, many of the speakers at the first sessions of a two-day hearing about the gas drilling technology turned their attention south of the state border to describe evidence of the promise, or peril, of Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

The meeting is the last of four being held in the United States this year to gather public input about the scope and shape of the study, especially where to find appropriate places for case studies of the interaction – or lack thereof – of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water supplies.

Dimock Township in Susquehanna County was repeatedly offered as a perfect place to examine: It is an epicenter of Marcellus Shale gas activity in Pennsylvania, and state regulators have determined that water wells there were contaminated by methane associated with the drilling.

Victoria Switzer, a Dimock resident, testified that water from her household well was recently found by an independent lab to contain ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and toluene – all chemicals frequently used in the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” process.

“EPA, do your job,” she said. “Please demand accountability. I offer you a case study: myself, Dimock.”

The Commonwealth was also invoked as an example of the benefits of natural gas drilling by New Yorkers who support the development of the industry in their state, which has a moratorium on Marcellus Shale exploration while it develops rules for regulating it.

“Drilling is safe and will bring prosperity to New York,” said Lorin Cooper, a member of the Steuben County Landowners Coalition. “The evidence is in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and everywhere else drilling has been allowed to proceed.”

The sides of the drilling debate were split at the hearing in their advice to federal environmental regulators.

Those in favor of drilling tended to ask for a narrow study – one that looks at the specific moments when a gas-bearing formation is fractured by high volumes of water mixed with sand and chemical additives. The industry and state regulators say there has not been a single documented case of groundwater contamination in the United States that can be attributed to that process.

“All that we ask is that this study be focused and not take forever to complete,” said Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala, who supports drilling and hydraulic fracturing. “I hope the EPA is not going to study the entire natural gas drilling cycle.”

Those opposed to the drilling asked for an expansive study – one that covers everything from how water for fracturing is withdrawn from rivers to the disposal of the salt- and metals-laden wastewater that returns from the wells. Some also encouraged the agency to cover other associated impacts, including air pollution.

“The EPA study must look cradle to grave,” said Barbara Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, a Wayne County-based anti-drilling group.

Prior to the afternoon session, pro- and anti-drilling groups gathered on opposite ends of Washington Street shouting competing slogans of “Pass the gas” and “No fracking way.”

At the anti-drilling rally, where the props included a large plywood derrick, a Mother Earth puppet and a person dressed as “Frackin’stein,” the prop presented by Dimock resident Craig Sautner – a milk jug of brown water drawn from his well after intensive gas drilling occurred nearby – garnered the most response.

“I can’t say this is going to happen to your well. I’m not sure,” he said. “But do you want to take that chance?”

Down the road, Jim Riley, a landowner from Conklin, N.Y., said he does not have a gas lease, but would like one.

“First thing I’d do, I’d fix my house up,” he said. “I’d spend my money right here in the community.”

“I’m not afraid of the drilling,” he said.

The EPA meeting continues on Wednesday, with two sessions from 12-4 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. The agency is also accepting written comments on the study at through Sept. 28.

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Copyright:  Citizens Voice

Chesapeake Energy paying for Bradford County road work

Chesapeake Energy is paying for upgrades to two Bradford County roads to accommodate heavy-truck traffic related to its Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operations in the region.

Work has already begun on state Routes 1008 (Crow Hill Road) and 2017 (Marshview Road).

A detour for Crow Hill Road through traffic is in effect weekdays during daylight hours. Local traffic access will be maintained. The detour sends traffic to Route 706, Turkey Path Road and Spring Hill Road.

The gas company’s road contractor will reclaim the existing roadway and roadway base material, which involves grinding of the roadway to a depth of approximately 12 inches, adding cement to the soil, mixing it and compacting it, according to a press release from PennDOT. The reclamation will be followed by the placement of 6.5 inches of blacktop pavement.

The entire 2.7-mile length of Crow Hill Road, from Route 706 near Camptown in Wyalusing Township to Spring Hill Road in Tuscarora Township, will be upgraded. Work is scheduled for completion by Sept. 30.

The work on Marshview Road will take place along its entire 3.2-mile length, from the intersection with North Street in Terry Township to the intersection with Liberty Corners Road in Asylum Township.

An around-the-clock detour will be in effect. The detour will use North Street, Route 187 and Liberty Corners Road.

The contractor will excavate approximately 12 inches of the existing roadway, reconstruct it with 12 inches of rock/sub-base material and place 7.5 inches of blacktop pavement on top, according to PennDOT.

The project is expected to be completed by Oct. 26.

The roads are currently posted with year-round, 10-ton weight restrictions. Chesapeake has excess maintenance agreements with PennDOT and is responsible for repairs to damages caused by its heavy trucks.

Chesapeake has determined it would be more cost-effective to upgrade the roads rather than make continuous repairs, PennDOT reports.


Chesapeake Energy paying for Bradford County road work

Press & Sun-Bulletin
Chesapeake Energy is paying for upgrades to two Bradford County roads to accommodate heavy-truck traffic related to its Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operations in the region.

Encana Oil & Gas discusses natural gas drilling at chamber breakfast

Published: August 26, 2010

WILKES-BARRE – Encana Oil & Gas continues its quest for natural gas.

The company remains in an exploratory mode as it drills two natural gas wells in Fairmount and Lake townships, said company Vice President Don McClure.

“It’s very dependent on what we find in those two wells as to what our next steps are going to be,” Mr. McClure said.

Mr. McClure and Brian Grove, senior director of corporate development for Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s Eastern Division, spoke about the impacts of drilling natural gas wells to more than 100 business leaders who attended the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce’s CEO-to-CEO networking breakfast Wednesday at the Westmoreland Club.

Earlier this month, the Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board granted Encana Oil & Gas conditional use to drill 10 more wells in Fairmount and Lake townships. Mr. McClure says the company is “being very conservative” with the drilling process.

“We’re only going to drill a couple wells and we’ll evaluate what they’re going to produce,” Mr. McClure said.

The company drills wells simultaneously to be efficient and reduce community impact, Mr. McClure said. The potential for water pollution are among the concerns arising from the increased drilling. Yet, Mr. McClure said he sees natural-gas drilling as a “tremendous opportunity” that could reduce dependence on Middle East oil from about 44 percent to 10 percent by increasing natural gas production.

“That’s substantial,” Mr. McClure said. “That’s the kind of impact that Marcellus Shale can have.”

Showing the company’s track record in the United States and Canada on a slide presentation, Mr. McClure said the company takes safety of people and the environment very seriously. As the second largest natural gas producer in North America, he said Encana’s goal is not to be the biggest but the “best we can possibly be.”

“We’re always pursuing a higher safety standard,” he said.

Both Mr. McClure and Mr. Grove touted benefits of natural gas drilling, which they said will be an economic development engine for job growth.

When asked how many jobs could be created as a result of Marcellus Shale, Mr. McClure said studies show for every one percent increase in natural gas production across North America, that correlates to 20,000 to 30,000 jobs.

More than 350,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania since the first commercial oil well was developed in 1859, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

When asked what the biggest misconception of drilling is, Mr. Grove was quick to respond, “Hydraulic fracturing.” Fears about hydraulic fracturing, or the process used in wells that results in fractures in rocks, have been driven by a “lack of knowledge,” he said.

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Singing the blues about shale at Gas Stock concert

Groups around the state aired their concerns about natural gas drilling at Woodstock-like event.

LEHMAN TWP. – The Northeast Pennsylvania Citizens in Action Group got a little help from their friends Saturday at their first ever Gas Stock concert and rally.

The concert brought together groups from around the state to air concerns and share and disseminate information about natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Nine artists performed on the event’s main stage in front of a banner replicating the famous dove and guitar frets Woodstock logo, but with a horizontal drilling rig replacing the guitar.

Covers of activist anthems abounded, and some performed original tunes about opposition to gas drilling.

“Smell of death, all around. Those lousy noisy drills, the only sound. Wish they just kept that shale in the ground,” Drew Kelly, of Scranton, crooned in a song he wrote for the concert, “Talkin’ Marcellus Shale Drillin’ Blues.”

Sisters Val and Erin LaCerra, of Williamsport, performed several songs about gas drilling, including Modern Day Dinosaurs, a song Val LaCerra said focuses not only on environmental concerns, but the economics as well.

“It’s about why people do this, they’re already impoverished, and they see leasing their land as a way to make money. The gas companies didn’t inform the residents of what would happen,” she said of the song, which features the lyrics “hold me back, hold me back. I just wanted Chris and Katie to have nice clothes on their backs. Now I wanna kill, I wanna kill. Cause it’s 25 years later and I’m still paying medical bills.”

The free concert, sponsored by the Northeast Pennsylvania Citizens in Action Group, ran from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., though for one family the day began a lot earlier. Don Williams, of Montgomery County, set out from Wilkes-Barre’s Nesbitt Park at 6:30 a.m. and walked more than 10 miles to the fairgrounds together with his daughters, Lisa and Lauren Williams, and two local bloggers, Mark Cour and Herb Baldwin.

“I’ve attended several of these meetings where the gas industry people basically said, if you drove here and you don’t support what we’re doing, you’re a hypocrite. I remembered that,” Williams said. “That’s why I did it, being able to say I had the lowest carbon footprint here today.”

State Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski and Phyllis Mundy attended the event in a show of support, organizer Roxanne Pauline, of Taylor, said. Canvassers for other politicians also set up tables at the event.

“Clean air and water aren’t party issues. There are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who have come together to say clean air and clean water matter,” Pauline said.

The event also featured a “soap box” area under one of the fairgrounds pavilions, where speakers could air their views on drilling and other environmental issues, as well as story tellers, a drumming and song circle, a morning yoga program and food vendors.

Organizers said they hoped to raise awareness and educate citizens about the risks of natural gas drilling through the event, which they estimated about 500 attended.

“There are a lot of people who that don’t even know the issue exists,” Pauline said. “This really hasn’t reached the cities, because people in the cities haven’t been affected by it yet.”

Andy Asher, of Larksville, said he was still on the fence about gas drilling, but attending the event has made him more hesitant about natural gas drilling in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“I’ve been trying to stay open-minded,” Asher said, “but it seems the more I learn, the easier it becomes to at least get behind the idea of at least a moratorium for a year on gas drilling.”

Though some also wished local turnout could have been larger, organizers said environmental activists from as far away as Pittsburg, Philadelphia and upstate New York attended and swapped contact information, making the concert the first step in the formation of a statewide coalition, Pauline said.

Pauline said the groups plan to meet Sept. 14 in Avoca to discuss plans, and that a march on Washington may be in the works.

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Court ruling affirms communities’ ability to limit natural gas drilling

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: August 23, 2010

DALLAS TWP. – Would local officials be powerless to stop a natural gas company from drilling a natural gas well in the middle of a housing development?

Not according to a new state court ruling, which affirms the right of municipal and county officials to limit natural gas drilling to certain districts, such as agricultural, mining or manufacturing, and out of residential neighborhoods.

“Gas drilling is here to stay, and it affects the Back Mountain region very extensively.” Attorney Jeffrey Malak told members of the Back Mountain Community Partnership as he outlined the new court decision.

Thousands of acres in the Back Mountain have been leased by natural gas companies, and Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. is drilling the second of two exploratory natural gas wells in Lake Township.

Traditionally, local officials have limited say when it comes to natural gas drilling. Technical aspects, such as what kind of materials to use and how the well is drilled, are governed by the state Oil and Gas Act. But local officials are gaining more and more say in where wells can be drilled.

Two previous cases, Huntley & Huntley v. Oakmont Borough and Range Resources v. Salem Township (Westmoreland County) set precedents allowing local officials some leeway in regulating where natural gas companies can drill.

A third, Penneco Oil Co. Inc. v. the County of Fayette, decided in Commonwealth Court on July 22, determined the state Oil & Gas Act does not trump local zoning ordinances, and that local officials can take steps to protect the residential character of neighborhoods.

In the case, Penneco, Range Resources Appalachia LLC and the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania took Fayette County Office of Planning, Zoning and Community Development to court, saying they did not have to follow the county’s zoning ordinance because the state Oil and Gas Act made it invalid. The court ruled in favor of the county.

“This opens up the floodgates and says municipal zoning is not pre-empted,” Malak said.

The Penneco case allows that gas wells cannot be located within the flight path of an airport runway; that they must be at least 200 feet from a residential dwelling; and that officials can require fencing and shrubs around the well site. It also allows zoning hearing boards to impose any other provisions to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents.

Whether the Penneco case will be appealed is anybody’s guess, but it’s the law unless the state Supreme Court changes it, Malak said.

Dallas Borough already has some of the provisions in its zoning ordinance, Malak said. In Jackson Township, where he also serves as solicitor, the supervisors will put similar provisions in the zoning ordinance when it is drafted over the next couple of months, Malak said.

Dallas Township Supervisor Chairman Phil Walter asked Malak if there was a way to protect a municipality against fly-by-night operators who will leave when something goes wrong.

The case does allow for bonds, even large ones, to be put in place to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents, Malak said.

Kingston Township Supervisor Jeffrey Box asked if local officials can require a land development plan from natural gas companies. Malak said they could, and they can require special exceptions, meaning there has to be a hearing in front of the zoning hearing board to grant permission and to impose any standard planning and zoning fees.

But, he said, there are still aspects of natural gas drilling that will have to be decided in court, such as whether there can be restrictions on hours drillers can operate and whether they can be barred from using roads at certain times. , 570-821-2072

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Copyright:  The Citizens Voice