Posts Tagged ‘natural-gas leasing’

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

Drilling for gas raising issues

Holdouts wonder if someday they’ll be forced to enter into natural-gas leases.

By Rory
Staff Writer

With more than 150 acres between her and her parents, Maria Rinehimer’s family could stand to make a tidy profit off natural-gas leasing. But their banker won’t need to worry about clearing out room in the vault any time soon – the family’s not interested.

“I think it’s a really bad thing for the area. If something happens, like a spill or something, I don’t think they’re going to clean it up for us. I think we’re going to be stuck with it,” Rinehimer said.

In Union Township near Shickshinny Lake, Rinehimer, her husband, Kevin, and her side of the family, the Scalzos, sit squarely within the current area of focus for the two gas companies partnering on drilling activities in the county.

The family’s aversion to leasing highlights several growing issues with increased drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

First, residents of northern Pennsylvania, who’ve long harbored suspicion of wealthy interests exploiting local resources such as coal and trees, question whether gas companies can be trusted on the face value of their assurances or if they’re just another chapter in the sad litany of robber barons.

And second, will people who don’t want to lease be forced to if everyone around them is? It’s a practice called “forced pooling,” and while it’s not yet legal in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, there is a bill in the state House, according to Tom Murphy, an educator with the Lycoming County Penn State Cooperative Extension.

“That would make everything in the Marcellus and below fall in the forced pooling scenario, but at this moment it has not been passed,” he said.

The practice, which is legal in New York, is defended as a way to reduce land disturbance by maximizing the area each well drains.

House Bill 977 – which is cosponsored by, among others, Reps. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston and Jim Wansacz, D-Old Forge – has been sitting in committee since March.

Rinehimer attended a September meeting held by WhitMar Exploration Co., which later teamed with EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc. to propose three wells in northern Luzerne County.

“He (a company representative) kind of went around the answer, and didn’t really go right ahead and say if something does happen to your water system and you can’t drink it … they’re going to clean it up for you,” she said. “Nothing was really clear.”

EnCana’s is sensitive to the issue, company spokesman Doug Hock said.

Its policy in this area is to monitor all water supplies within a mile of wells before and after the drilling occurs. The company cases wells with several layers and pressure tests, he said, ensuring the integrity of each well.

“If there were a loss of fluid or a loss of gas, we would know through that pressuring testing process,” he said.

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

Copyright: Times Leader