Posts Tagged ‘The Associated Press’

Cattle may have drunk drill water

State quarantines cattle in Tioga County after exposure to drilling wastewater.

By Steve
Staff Writer

WELLSBORO – The state Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced that it quarantined cattle on a Tioga County farm after it was discovered that they might have ingested drilling wastewater from a nearby Marcellus Shale natural gas well.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a press release the quarantine was warranted to protect the public from eating potentially contaminated beef.

“Cattle are drawn to the taste of salty water,” Redding said. “Drilling wastewater has high salinity levels, but it also contains dangerous chemicals and metals. We took this precaution in order to protect the public from consuming any of this potentially contaminated product.”

Redding said 28 head of cattle were included in the quarantine, including 16 cows, four heifers and eight calves. The cattle were out to pasture in late April and early May when a drilling wastewater pit on the farm of Don and Carol Johnson leaked, sending the contaminated water into an adjacent field, where it pooled.

The holding pond was collecting flowback water from the hydraulic fracturing process on a well being drilled by East Resources Inc.

Grass was killed in a roughly 30-foot-by-40-foot area where the wastewater pooled. Although no cows were seen drinking the wastewater, tracks were found throughout the pool, and the cattle had access to it for at least three days until the gas company erected a snow fence around it.

Testing showed the wastewater contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium. Redding said the main element of concern is the heavy metal strontium, which can be toxic to humans, especially children.

The secretary said the quarantine will follow guidelines from the Food Animal Residue Avoidance and Depletion Program, which recommends holding the animals from the food chain based on their stages of development – six months for adult animals, eight months for calves exposed in utero and two years for growing calves.

None of the animals appeared sick, department spokesman Justin Fleming said.

In response to the leak, the state Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to East Resources and required further sampling and site remediation. DEP is evaluating a final cleanup report and continues investigating drill site operations and circumstances surrounding the leak.

An East Resources spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

Carol Johnson said East Resources personnel were on-scene within an hour of being alerted to the problem and did “everything they could possibly do.” They found that the leak occurred because of a 2-foot tear in the pit liner. The contaminated soil was removed and disposed of at a facility in Ohio, she said.

DEP is putting together a new list of chemicals found in hydraulic fracturing fluids. A list the department released to The Associated Press on Monday contained not only chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing – a process used to break up the shale formation so the natural gas is released – but also all chemicals found on well-drilling sites.

Copyright: Times Leader

Pa. officials fine Texas drilling firm

The Associated Press

DIMOCK — State regulators are fining a Houston-based company because its natural-gas drilling operations polluted residents’ water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Department of Environmental Protection officials said Wednesday that Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. is paying $120,000 in connection with its finding that gas seeped underground into 13 water wells in Susquehanna County.

Cabot has drilled numerous gas wells into the Marcellus Shale rock formation in the rural county, about 15 miles south of the New York State border.

On Jan. 1, a water well exploded at a home nearby Cabot’s operations, prompting an investigation.

The department says its approval of Cabot’s well casing and cementing plans is now required before Cabot can drill.

It also says Cabot must develop a plan to permanently restore or replace the affected water supplies.

Copyright: Times Leader

Pa. considers adding natural gas to the tax rolls

By MARC LEVY Associated Press Writer

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ The land agents, geologists and drilling crews rushing after the Marcellus Shale are raising something besides the natural gas they’re seeking: Talk of a natural gas tax.

Thanks to a state Supreme Court decision six years ago, Pennsylvania is now one of the biggest natural-gas producing states — if not the biggest — that does not tax the methane sucked from beneath its ground.

But momentum is gathering to impose such a tax. The Marcellus Shale — a layer of black rock that holds a vast reservoir of gas — is luring some of the country’s largest gas producers to Pennsylvania, and state government revenues are being waylaid by a worldwide economic malaise.

A spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell says the administration is looking at the idea of a tax on natural gas, but a decision has not been made. Typically, Rendell does not reveal any tax or revenue proposals until his official budget plan is introduced each February.

Senate Republicans are planning a November hearing at Misericordia University in northeastern Pennsylvania to look at what effect can be expected on local governments if Marcellus Shale production lives up to its potential.

Local officials worry about damage to local roads ill-suited for heavy truck traffic and equipment. School districts could be strained by families of gas company employees moving into town. And some residents are concerned about gas wells disrupting or polluting the water tables from which they draw drinking water.

Legislators must find the fairest way for companies to share those costs, whether by levying a tax or through some other means, said Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, the GOP’s policy chairman.

“I do think there is an understanding that some sort of compensation for municipalities is warranted,” Corman said. “We just have to figure out the best way to do that.”

So far, drilling activity is under way on the Marcellus Shale in at least 18 counties, primarily in the northern tier and southwest where the shale is thickest, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Land agents are trooping in and out of county courthouses to research the below-ground mineral rights. At least several million acres above the Marcellus Shale have been leased by companies in West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania.

Just this week, Range Resources Corp. and a Denver-based gas processor said they have started up Pennsylvania’s first large-scale gas processing plant, about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

And CNX Gas Corp. announced that a $6 million horizontal well it drilled in southwest Pennsylvania is producing a respectable 1.2 million cubic feet a day — a rate it expects to improve in coming weeks.

In the opposite corner of Pennsylvania, drilling pads are now visible on Susquehanna County’s farmland, and hotel rooms are booked with land agents and drilling crews.

“It is the talk at the coffee shops, at the local grocery store, the gas station — everybody,” said state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne.

Activity is still in the early stages, as exploration companies work to confirm their basic assumptions about the potential of the Marcellus Shale reservoir, and probe for the spots with the greatest promise, analysts say.

Industry representatives say they oppose a tax, and Stephen W. Rhoads, the president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, questioned the wisdom of imposing a tax on gas production that is still speculative.

In some natural-gas states, a tax is collected based on a company’s gas production by volume.

But in Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that state law did not allow counties, schools and municipalities to impose a real estate tax based on the value of the subsurface oil and gas rights held by exploration companies.

An appraiser’s study presented last year during a House Finance Committee hearing estimated that the court’s decision had cost Greene, Fayette and Washington counties up to $30 million in county, school and municipal tax revenue.

The state’s county commissioners and school boards support the resumption of some type of taxing authority — although that could mean landowners would get smaller royalty checks.

Regardless, Doug Hill, the executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, said the matter is one of basic fairness since coal, gravel and limestone are assessed.

“The bottom line is it isn’t a windfall issue,” Hill said. “It’s a tax equity issue.”


Marc Levy covers state government for The Associated Press in Harrisburg. He can be reached at mlevy(at)

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.