Posts Tagged ‘pennsylvania department of environmental protection’

Study assesses state taxes on Marcellus Shale production

University Park, Pa. — The ongoing utilization of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits has the state weighing the pros and cons of taxing the drilling activity. A study recently released by faculty in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences used state tax information in an effort to begin an objective analysis of the drilling’s impact on local economies and state tax collection.

The research, summarized in a four-page booklet titled “State Tax Implications of Marcellus Shale: What the Pennsylvania Data Say in 2010,” compared counties where there is Marcellus Shale drilling and production activity with non-Marcellus counties. The study was authored by Timothy Kelsey, professor of agricultural economics and Penn State Extension state program leader for economic and community development, and Charles Costanzo, an undergraduate student majoring in community, environment and development.

Data are drawn from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s report, “2010 Wells Drilled by County as of 02/11/2011,” as well as from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s “Personal Income Statistics for 2007 and 2008″ and its “Tax Compendium (2007-08 through 2009-10) with Statistical Supplements.”

Kelsey said while it’s still early in the natural gas drilling process, the analysis indicates that Marcellus Shale development brings some positive economic activity for communities.

The study found that state sales tax collections were up by an average of 11 percent in counties with major Marcellus activity, while collections dropped an average of more than 6 percent in counties without any Marcellus. Sales tax collections are an indicator that retail sales are booming in Marcellus counties.

“Tax revenues are only one side of finances, however, so this analysis only considers half of the issue,” Kelsey said. “The impact of Marcellus drilling on state and local government costs is yet unclear, so it is too early to understand the overall impact of Marcellus on the state government. This state tax analysis does not indicate the impact of Marcellus development on local government and school district tax collections, since royalty and leasing income is exempt from the local earned income tax, and local jurisdictions cannot levy sales taxes.”

Kelsey said researchers wanted to find out if state tax records could yield objective financial data on how local economies are being affected by Marcellus Shale development.

“The state tax information provides a glimpse at how sales activity and personal income are changing,” he said. “The state collects objective tax collection information every year, and that can provide a good snapshot of how residents’ income is changing and the amount of retail activity going on.”

Kelsey explained that the booklet can help the average citizen to understand that Marcellus Shale development is having a discernible economic impact on residents and in communities.

“We’re early enough in the development of the shale that much of what we ‘know’ is based on anecdotes and personal stories,” he said. “This analysis provides some real numbers behind those anecdotes. The data show clearly that there are economic benefits that are accruing because of the gas activity — higher personal tax collections, higher sales tax collections. Realty tax incomes in drilling counties are decreasing, but less than in non-drilling counties.

“The booklet will not tell you how those benefits relate to costs, because we weren’t able to look at that,” he added. “So, it is only a partial picture of what’s going on. You know there are dollars coming in but you don’t know if it’s a net gain or a net loss to the community.”

Kelsey cited increased highway repair and maintenance, greater administrative demands, changing human service needs, and law enforcement and courts among the costs that determine whether the drilling activity is adding to or subtracting from a county’s bottom line.

Kelsey stressed that, because the study focuses only on state tax collection, it doesn’t support assumptions about local tax changes. He points out that local governments don’t have the option of a sales tax, and that the personal income tax increases seen in the study are largely the result of leasing and royalty income, which are both exempted from earned-income tax.

“So we know from this analysis that state revenues are going up, but we don’t know if local tax revenues are increasing or decreasing as a result of the activity,” he said. “That’s a huge caveat.”

Single copies of “State Tax Implications of Marcellus Shale” can be obtained free of charge by Pennsylvania residents through county Penn State Extension offices or by contacting the College of Agricultural Sciences Publications Distribution Center at 814-865-6713 or by email at For cost information on out-of-state or bulk orders, contact the Publications Distribution Center. The publication also is available on the Web at



MSC: New, Fact-Based DEP Water Results “Encouraging”

Leading industry group announces $100k fund to heighten water monitoring, establishment of Energy Research Collaborative

Canonsburg, PA – As the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) unveiled a sweeping set of water quality monitoring results from November through December of 2010 associated with Marcellus Shale development across the Commonwealth, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) today announced a number of steps it is taking to further safeguard the environment as responsible energy production continues in the region. According to DEP, “All samples showed levels at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels of radioactivity.” Of the results, acting DEP secretary Michael Krancer says: “Here are the facts: all samples were at or below background levels of radioactivity; and all samples showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228.”

“These fact-based results are not only encouraging, but they also underscore how closely and aggressively state regulators monitor water use and management associated with the development of clean-burning natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. As acting DEP secretary Krancer reinforced, it’s imperative that facts serve as the foundation of these ongoing conversations. These findings also address a host of recently raised claims in a series of intellectually dishonest news reports,” said Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the MSC.

Klaber noted that Pennsylvania’s shale gas industry is recycling more produced water each month, significantly reducing disposal to DEP permitted treatment plants and the Commonwealth’s waterways. As in other industries, water that is not recycled is treated in accordance with strict regulations to remove solids prior to permitted discharge. The landfills to which these solids are transported are also highly regulated and monitored for radioactivity.

Following today’s DEP notice, the MSC announced its own plans to further ensure that Pennsylvania’s drinking water supplies and natural resources are protected, while underscoring the importance of transparency during the ongoing development of the Marcellus Shale.

  • The MSC announced the creation of a $100,000 fund to help support heightened water testing associated with ongoing Marcellus natural gas development and water treatment.
  • The MSC also will facilitate an Energy Research Collaborative, including representatives from academia, government, industry, and other key stakeholders, to advance the science across the many disciplines associated with responsible shale gas development. This collaborative will focus on areas in need of more fact-based investigation, beginning with the important considerations around naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM).

“The MSC’s Guiding Principles emphasize our commitment to state-of-the-art environmental protections, as well as continuously improving our practices in ways that increase transparency,” continued Klaber. “With these common sense obligations in mind, we’re pleased to announce the creation of a $100,000 industry-funded account aimed at heightening water testing and monitoring efforts at municipal authorities and other water treatment facilities. Coupled with our establishment of a diverse, multi-discipline Energy Research Collaborative, we remain as committed as ever to protecting our environment for our children and grandchildren and getting this historic opportunity right in the Marcellus.”

Upcoming Webinar Discusses New State Regulations on Gas Drilling in Marcellus Shale

This month’s Marcellus Educational Webinar program hosts Dana Aunkst and Eugene Pine from DEP discussing new regulations for natural gas drilling.

As the natural-gas drilling boom into the deep Marcellus Shale formation has unfolded, state regulators have become increasingly aware of pollution risks to ground and surface water, and they have scrambled to develop regulations to protect precious natural resources.

Two experts with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will offer a look at the current situation in a free web-based seminar presented by Penn State Cooperative Extension at 1 p.m. on Nov. 18, titled “Pa. DEP Regulatory Update.” Dana Aunkst, director of DEP’s bureau of water standards and facilities regulation, and Eugene Pine, professional geologist manager with the agency, will present details about the current regulatory environment.

“A properly cased and cemented oil and gas well is critical to protecting fresh groundwater, public health, safety and the environment,” explained Pine. “Many of the regulations governing well construction were promulgated in 1989 and remain largely unchanged.

“New well drilling and completion practices used to develop Marcellus shale wells, as well as recent impacts to drinking water supplies and the environment by both ‘traditional’ and Marcellus shale wells, prompted the department to reevaluate existing requirements.”

With the continued development of the oil and gas industry, the potential exists for natural gas to migrate from the wellbore by either improperly constructed wells or older, deteriorated wells, according to Pine. “This migration could adversely affect underground sources of drinking water and pose a threat to public safety and the environment,” he said. “Accordingly, DEP has revised Chapter 78, Subchapter D, for its well-drilling and operation regulations.”

Pine’s webinar presentation will explain how his department is making changes to the regulations, and will detail the proposed and final rulemaking process (timeframes, public-comment periods, etc.). “I will generally explain where we are in this process and then highlight the more significant revisions to the existing regulations,” he said. “The regulatory revisions emphasize, and are intended to strengthen, proper well drilling, construction and operational practices.”

Aunkst, on the other hand, will talk about new treatment standards for gas well wastewater. “In 2010, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board amended Chapter 95 of Title 25 of the Pennsylvania Code to include new treatment requirements for total dissolved solids,” he said. “This final form rulemaking ensures the continued protection of this commonwealth’s water resources from new and expanded sources of TDS.”

Most importantly, Aunkst noted, the final-form rulemaking guarantees that state waters will not exceed a threshold of 500 milligrams per liter. “In doing so, the final-form rulemaking assures the continued use and protection of drinking water intakes on streams throughout this commonwealth,” he said. “That provides the required protection of our aquatic life resources and maintains continued economic viability of the current water users.”

Based on stakeholder comments received during an extensive public and stakeholder participation process, the final-form rulemaking adopts a combination of recommended approaches for addressing these larger loadings of TDS, Aunkst pointed out. This combination of approaches includes an industrial sector-based regulation along with a watershed-based analysis.

“The sector-based piece focuses on the natural-gas industry, mandating the treatment of wastewater,” he said. “In addition, this treatment must be performed at a centralized wastewater treatment facility to the standards in the proposed rulemaking. This approach sets treatment requirements for natural-gas well wastewaters, based on available, proven treatment technologies for this industry and takes cost into consideration.

“These requirements will assure that any threat of water pollution from this rapidly growing industry is prevented in accordance with the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law.”

Aunkst’s webinar presentation will provide background on the need for the new regulation, a history of the development of the regulation and a summary of the current status of implementation of the new requirements.
Information about how to register for the webinar is available at Online participants will have the opportunity to ask the speaker questions during the session.
The webinar “Pa. DEP Regulatory Update” is part of an ongoing series of workshops and events addressing issues related to the state’s Marcellus Shale gas boom, which can be viewed at Penn State Cooperative Extension’s natural-gas website,
Previous webinars, which covered topics such as water use and quality, zoning, gas-leasing considerations for landowners and implications for local communities, can be viewed online at
Additional one-hour webinars will be held at 1 p.m. on the following dates:
–Dec. 16: “Plumbing the Depths in Pa.: A Primer on Marcellus Shale Geology and Technology.”  Presenter: Mike Arthur, Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.
–Jan. 20, 2011: “Marcellus Shale Legislation: What Was Accomplished in the 2009-10 Session and What Issues Remain to be Addressed.” Presenter: Ross Pifer, Dickinson School of Law, Penn State.
–Feb. 16, 2011: “Dealing with Gas Tax Issues: What You Need to Know.” Presenter: Mike Jacobson, Penn State School of Forest Resources.
–Mar. 17, 2011: “Natural Gas Well Development and Emergency Response and Management.” Presenter: Craig Konkle, Lycoming County Office of Emergency Management.

For more information, contact John Turack, extension educator in Westmoreland County, at 724-837-1402 or by e-mail at

From Penn Live, Jeff Mulhollem

Originally Posted At:

National Panel: PA DEP Oversight of Key Marcellus Technology “Merits Special Recognition”

Findings highlight how Pa. continues to lead the way in safe, responsible use of hydraulic fracturing

Canonsburg, Pa. – Pennsylvania officials’ oversight and regulation of hydraulic fracturing, a critical technology for producing abundant reserves of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, is among the strongest in the nation. That’s the message delivered by a national board of state regulatory officials, industry experts and environmental stakeholders in the form of a new report from the non-profit group STRONGER, the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations.

“Hydraulic fracturing has long been an important technology in producing energy here in Pennsylvania,” said Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. “But at no point in its history has it been more important than right now. Thanks to the well-stimulation process, natural gas that would otherwise be too deep and too difficult to access suddenly isn’t – which means more energy, more jobs, and more revenue for state and local governments. But we know the process has to remain safe to remain effective. And so that’s why we continue to work with state regulators to ensure that our environment and groundwater are protected. The work done by DEP is incredibly important and done tremendously well, and this study confirms that.”

“The review team found that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has a well-managed program,” said Lori Wrotenbery, the chair of the STRONGER review panel and a senior official with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. “In fact, we believe several aspects of the Department of Environmental Protection and its operations merit special recognition.” A copy of STRONGER’s press release can be accessed here.

The Pennsylvania hydraulic fracturing regulatory program was singled out for its operations in the following areas: comprehensive water planning; baseline water sampling and water studies; prevention, preparedness and contingency planning; waste identification, tracking and reporting; and increasing staffing levels, according to the STRONGER statement.

NOTE: According to STRONGER, “hydraulic fracturing has been used in Pennsylvania since the 1950s. Since the 1980s, nearly all wells drilled in Pennsylvania have been fractured. Although thousands of wells have been fractured in Pennsylvania, DEP has not identified any instances where groundwater has been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing.” Click HERE to view this study on-line.

Shale drilling in Monroe, Pike on the horizon

Experts say area should prepare because drilling is not far off

Pocono Record Writer
August 20, 2010

SCRANTON — Drilling for natural gas in Marcellus Shale in Monroe and Pike counties? It’s not a question of if, but when.

That was the word from around the state Thursday at a forum at Marywood University, where experts said the region is rich in the valuable fossil fuel.

The bulk of the drilling now in northeast Pennsylvania is along the northern tier but could eventually extend into the Poconos.

Kathryn Zuberbuhler Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said areas more conducive to the entire operation — including roads and pipeline — are the first areas that will be drilled. Once more companies get involved and more money is available, drilling could expand to other parts of the state that haven’t seen it yet.

“There’s only so much capital right now,” she said. “By its nature, you’re going to see that concentrated development.”

Currently, there are no Marcellus Shale drilling operations in Monroe or Pike counties. There is only one in Wayne County.

One roadblock from local drilling right now is the Delaware River Basin Commission, which stopped issuing drilling permits in 2009 until it can formulate a list of regulations gas companies must meet.

Clarke Rupert, spokesman for the DRBC, said the commission hopes to have those regulations finalized by the end of the summer and adopted by the end of the year, admitting that’s an “optimistic” schedule.

Marcellus Shale is found in most of Pennsylvania and parts of New York and West Virginia, about 5,000 to 8,000 feet below the surface. It had been considered too expensive to drill, but advances in technology and the rising cost of natural gas made it more attractive, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The new method of drilling — hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking” — uses large amounts of water mixed with sand and other items to fracture the shale and allow the gas to flow, according to the DEP. The water used is then treated before it is released back into the water system.

However, residents near some drilling operations have complained that local water supplies have been damaged. That’s led to some in the state to wonder if this is another coal industry, which ravaged the land of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area before it was gone.

U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-11, called the shale movement “our second chance” to correct the mistakes of the coal industry.

“Don’t exploit us, and we’ll work with you,” he said our message should be to gas companies. “Exploit us, and you don’t know the (bother) we can be to you.”

John Quigley, secretary of the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said about half of Pennsylvania’s state parks are in areas where Marcellus Shale is thought to be present, and about 700,000 of the 2.1 million acres of state forest land already is leased by gas companies.

He called for the state to stop issuing permits to gas companies until there is more known about the industry.

“Frankly, I think we need to take more than a timeout, we need to take a stop,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., encouraged local government leaders who may not have many avenues of protecting themselves to write and even pressure their state and federal representatives to make sure the Marcellus Shale industry is regulated.

“There is almost no area that can look and say, ‘That’s someone else’s problem,’” he said. “We all have to do what we can to make sure this is done the right way.”

View article here.

Copyright:  Pocono Record

PA Gas Drilling Co. Fined Over Fracking Fluid Spill

Atlas Resources LLC, a natural gas drilling company with operations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region, has been fined $97,350 for a spill of hydraulic fracturing fluids in the southwest part of the state. According to a press release from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the spill, which occurred late last year, polluted a high-quality watershed in Hopewell Township, Washington County.

DEP officials say Atlas failed to report the spill. The violations were discovered on Dec. 5 and 6, 2009, at the Cowden 17 gas well on Old Trail Road off Route 844. Once the unknown quantity of fluid overflowed the impoundment’s banks, it ran over the ground and into a tributary of Dunkle Run.

This spill violated Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act and Solid Waste Management Act, as well as the state’s Clean Streams Law. Atlas corrected the problem once it was discovered, but failed to report it to DEP, the release said.

“It is unacceptable for drilling companies in Pennsylvania to threaten public safety or harm the environment through careless acts, such as this,” DEP Southwest Regional Director George Jugovic Jr. said in the statement.

The Atlas Resources incident is just one of many that have been perpetrated by gas drillers performing fracking operations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale.

According to a report recently released by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, the state has identified 1,435 violations by 43 Marcellus Shale drilling companies since January 2008. Of those, 952 were identified as having or likely to have an impact on the environment. Keep in mind, there are only about 1,458 Marcellus wells drilled in the state at this time.

The violations listed in the report do not include violations incurred by drilling wastewater haulers. According to the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, during a 3-day enforcement blitz by the DEP in June 2010, 669 traffic citations and 818 written warnings were issued to trucks hauling Marcellus Shale drilling wastewater.

A separate analysis by Clean Water Action released earlier this summer found 565 violations at Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites between Jan. 1 and June 18 this year alone. The violation included some particularly disturbing instances, including improper cementing/casing of wells (11) and “illegal disposal of industrial waste” (80). The largest number of this year’s violations, 166, were “General Violations” meaning violations of the Clean Streams Law, Oil and Gas Act, and permit violations.


MSC Statement on New Water Treatment Rules

Canonsburg, Pa. – Today, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) passed a new rule mandating an “end of pipe”, 500 milligrams per liter cap on the concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the disposal of produced water from natural gas production.

Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), issued this statement about the new rules, which have been sought by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP):

“There is not a single water treatment facility in Pennsylvania that could meet this unreasonable benchmark, which will not provide any additional environmental benefit.

“Our industry is working aggressively and constantly to improve our water management practices, as one of our top priorities has been and remains the protection of our rivers, lakes, streams and tributaries. In fact, MSC members are now recycling nearly 60 percent of the water from this process. Many are recycling almost 100 percent of their water, thanks to new technologies and the unwavering commitment to environmental protection.

“There is a need for commonsense regulations that encourage the production job-creating natural gas throughout the Commonwealth and aim to keep our water clean. Unfortunately, these rules will make responsible shale gas development more difficult, and the jobs and economic benefits created throughout this process less likely, without positively impacting Pennsylvania’s water quality.”

NOTE: San Pellegrino Mineral Water’s TDS concentration is nearly twice the level of what these regulations would require.


MSC: Advancements in Technology Expanding Water Recycling Capabilities

MSC president cites need for commonsense TDS regulations

Canonsburg, Pa. – The responsible use, treatment and stewardship of the Commonwealth’s water resources are among the most important considerations involved in the development of clean-burning natural gas from shale. As a result, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) – whose members represent 100 percent of the shale gas producers throughout Pennsylvania – counts among the industry’s major accomplishments the tremendous increase in recycling of shale water. Today’s meeting at Reserved Environmental Services facility features one example of the many facilities the industry is using to achieve its high recycle rates, reducing the amount of water used at each Marcellus well and decreasing the overall discharge volumes.

“Protecting the Commonwealth’s rivers, streams and tributaries remains a top priority for the MSC. New technologies allow our members to recycle on average nearly 60 percent of the produced water used in this tightly regulated process. And because of these technologies – which continue to advance by the day – some MSC members are recycling nearly 100 percent of their water,” said Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the MSC.

New regulations sought by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) call for an “end of pipe”, 500 milligrams per liter cap on the concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the disposal of produced water. These proposed regulations, which are now pending before the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, could create a host of unintended consequences — as virtually no water treatment facilities across the Commonwealth could meet this threshold.

In fact, the Reserved Environmental Services facility is not currently capable of treating produced water at the discharge standards in the pending regulation, and will not have that capability before the effective date of the that regulation. For context, San Pellegrino Mineral Water’s TDS concentration is nearly twice the level of what these proposed regulations would require.

“As the safe and steady development of the Marcellus Shale continues to generate jobs, revenue and opportunity for the Commonwealth, the MSC stands ready, willing and eager – as always – to partner with DEP, the governor and the General Assembly to ensure this opportunity is seized upon in the safest, most beneficial manner for residents of the state and for our environment,” Klaber said. “Unfortunately, the new TDS rules represents a bump in that road and require more work to actually solve the TDS issues they are purported to address — but one we hope will be smoothed out along the path to an energy future to which we will continue to contribute, and of which we can be proud.”



Debate rages over Delaware River watershed

Sporting groups, conservationists and anti-drilling neighbors protest the large-scale gas exploration.

MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press Writer

PLEASANT MOUNT, Pa. — A few hundred yards from Louis Matoushek’s farmhouse is a well that could soon produce not only natural gas, but a drilling boom in the wild and scenic Delaware River watershed.

Energy companies have leased thousands of acres of land in Pennsylvania’s unspoiled northeastern tip, hoping to tap vast stores of gas in a sprawling rock formation — the Marcellus Shale — that some experts believe could become the nation’s most productive gas field.

Plenty of folks like Matoushek are eager for the gas, and the royalty checks, to start flowing — including farmers who see Marcellus money as a way to keep their struggling operations afloat.

“It’s a depressed area,” Matoushek said. “This is going to mean new jobs, real jobs, not government jobs.”

Standing in the way is a loose coalition of sporting groups, conservationists and anti-drilling neighbors. They contend that large-scale gas exploration so close to crucial waterways will threaten drinking water, ruin a renowned wild trout fishery, wreck property values, and transform a rural area popular with tourists into an industrial zone with constant noise and truck traffic.

Both sides are furiously lobbying the Delaware River Basin Commission, the powerful federal-interstate compact agency that monitors water supplies for 15 million people, including half the population of New York City. The commission has jurisdiction because the drilling process will require withdrawing huge amounts of water from the watershed’s streams and rivers and because of the potential for groundwater pollution.

The well on Matoushek’s 200-acre spread in the northern Pocono Mountains in Wayne County is up first. The commission is reviewing an application by Stone Energy Corp. of Lafayette, La., to extract gas from the well — the first of what could be thousands of applications by energy companies to sink wells in an area roughly the size of Connecticut.

Stone Energy’s application has already generated more than 1,700 written comments to the DRBC. The company, which paid a $70,000 penalty for drilling the Matoushek well without DRBC approval in 2008, has already received a permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Eager gas companies have leased more than 300 square miles of watershed land, conservation officials estimate.

“This is certainly just the start. There’s a lot of acreage out there, and a lot of people interested in leasing their land,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the anti-drilling Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

The Marcellus Shale is a rock formation 6,000 to 8,000 feet beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio, including about 36 percent of the Delaware River basin. New drilling techniques now allow affordable access to supplies in the Marcellus and other shales in the U.S. that once were too expensive to tap.

Energy companies combine horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a technique that injects vast amounts of water, along with sand and chemicals, underground to break up the shale and release the gas.

While gas companies refuse to identify the chemicals they use — claiming that is proprietary information — critics cite contamination problems in other natural gas drilling fields. They worry that unregulated fracking can taint drinking water, deplete aquifers and produce briny wastewater that can kill fish. In Dimock, Pa., about 40 miles west of the Matoushek well but outside the Delaware basin, state environmental regulators say that cracked casings on fracked wells have tainted residential water supplies with methane gas.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced last month that it will study the impact of fracking on the environment and human health. The EPA said in 2004 there was no evidence that fracking threatens drinking water quality, but critics, including a veteran engineer in the Denver regional EPA office, argued that report’s methodology was flawed.

The industry contends environmental concerns are overblown. It says the drilling techniques are safe and that there has never been a proven case of groundwater contamination caused by fracking — in part because fracking occurs far below the water table. Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal oversight in 2005.

Dozens of people told the DRBC at a recent public hearing why they oppose the watershed drilling. A few supporters called it an economic boon and a property-rights issue.

Richard Kreznar, who owns property in the Pennsylvania riverfront community of Damascus, said gas drilling primarily benefits large landowners and exploration companies.

“After the Delaware River and the stream next to my house are messed up, what compensation will I get? Who will put it back together again?” he asked DRBC staff.

Lee Hartman, the Delaware River chairman for Trout Unlimited, worries that large water withdrawals required for fracking will create low stream flows in the Delaware’s tributaries, damaging fish habitat. For the Matoushek well, Stone Energy wants to take 700,000 gallons a day from the Lackawaxen River’s narrow west branch.

Hartman and others say the DRBC should first study the cumulative environmental impacts of drilling in the Delaware watershed, and pass drilling regulations, before it allows any gas extraction to take place. The agency has asked for $250,000 in federal funds for a study, but commissioners have not said whether they will wait before voting on Matoushek’s well.

Opponents say they will sue if Stone Energy’s application is approved.

Downstream communities that rely on the Delaware for drinking water are worried about the coming gas boom. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes any drilling in the watershed, while the Philadelphia City Council has asked the basin commission for an environmental study.

New York state regulators have put a moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus region, saying they won’t approve permits until they are finished drafting new regulations.

Back in northeastern Pennsylvania, Matoushek, 68, a semiretired farmer who signed a lease with Stone Energy three years ago, said he is counting on royalty checks from gas production to help fund his golden years and secure the land for future generations of his family. As far he’s concerned, the benefits far outweigh any theoretical harm.

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