Recent News on Natural Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale
Consider this statement from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman explaining why New York is suing federal agencies to slow the rush to allow drilling: "Before any decisions on drilling are made, it is our responsibility to follow the facts and understand the public health and safety effects posed by potential natural gas development." Teddy Roosevelt would approve, as would Richard Nixon and others who understood that nature only comes around once, that those who live on the Earth have a responsibility to it, that an ounce of regulation is worth a ton of pollution. So why does this come off as the musings of some radical activist?
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SUBMIT PROPOSALS TO MARCELLUS SHALE COMMISSION
The four environmental groups on the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission all agree they want to see stricter regulation of wastewater from drilling, better planning and updates to the Oil and Gas Act aimed at improving safety and collecting data. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy submitted a total of 20 recommendations to the Commission by the Tuesday deadline. All of the groups agreed on 14 of the proposals, three of them agreed on another four and two proposals were sponsored by one group alone. Three of the four groups support the “timely enactment of a fair and meaningful fee or tax” on shale gas with some of the proceeds allocated to “Growing Greener” programs.
DEP SUGGESTS STRONGER DRILLING RULES ARE NEEDED
Gov. Tom Corbett's administration is recommending tougher laws to protect drinking water from pollution caused by booming natural gas exploration in Pennsylvania and to allow the state to wield harsher penalties against drilling companies that violate the law. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer made the recommendations in a letter sent Friday to Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who chairs the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. One recommendation would restrict well drilling within 1,000 feet of a public water supply. Currently, the law requires as little as 100 feet in many cases. Another would clarify the DEP's authority to revoke or refuse to issue a drilling permit under certain conditions, and allow it to require comprehensive tracking of drilling wastewater that would help the agency more accurately determine wastewater recycling rates.
DINAPOLI: PENSION FUND FRACKING INVESTMENTS POSE NO CONFLICT
Earlier today, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli dismissed the notion that the state pension fund’s investment in natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations poses a conflict of interest.DiNapoli said there is a “total disconnect” between decision makers with the pension fund and the Department of Environmental Conservation, which is developing permitting guidelines for high-volume hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale and other gas-rich formations. “The pension fund has nothing to do with any decision that DEC will make as the regulator in this area,” DiNapoli said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom this morning. “There’s absolutely no connection between the pension fund and DEC on any of this, so any suggestion that New York may move in this direction as a way to help the pension fund—there’s a total disconnect in terms of any decisions.”
CONCERNS FOR N.J. WATER AS DEL. RIVER EYED FOR 'FRACKING'
New Jersey is downstream from a bitter battle over natural gas development in Pennsylvania that involves a controversial drilling practice. During that process, called fracking, a mix of water, sand and chemicals is pumped more than a mile underground, causing explosions that unlock the pockets of natural gas. But the practice is at the center of a dispute over natural gas development in Pennsylvania. The chemicals going underground could have a severe impact on water quality for more than 2.8 million residents in New Jersey, environmentalists warn. “We’re going to get the bad end of this, and no one realizes it,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental group. Gas companies have been tapping wells across Pennsylvania using the process, which is also known as hydraulic fracturing, for several years. But now the gas industry is staking out northeastern Pennsylvania — the closest this natural gas rush has come to New Jersey — and the watershed of the Delaware River, one of the Garden State’s major sources of water.
SENATORS: MAKE HYDROFRACKING LOCAL CHOICE
Two state senators are throwing support behind efforts to have local zoning decisions be the final word on whether natural gas drilling operations are approved. State Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, and state Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, said proposed legislation would put the process in the same category as gravel mining.“I believe the government closest to the people are the best reflection of the majority of the people in the community and I’m always a supporter of home rule,” Bonacic said. “There are many places in this state where towns and counties want hydrofracking and there are towns that don’t,” he said. “In Sullivan County I think more towns probably don’t want it than do want it. So they have the right to protect how they want their town to look and whether or not they want this activity, so I think they have the right to rule.”
NEW YORK SUES OVER A DRILLING RULES PLAN
A top New York State official filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Tuesday to force an assessment of the environmental risks posed by drilling for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin, arguing that a regulatory commission should not issue final rules governing the drilling until a study is completed. The suit, filed in United States District Court in Brooklyn by Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, involves the Delaware River Basin Commission, a regional regulatory agency. Made up of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and a federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers, it is preparing to issue regulations intended to bring some uniformity to the rules applied to a controversial type of gas extraction that combines horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking.
CUOMO MAY REVIEW FRACKING INDUSTRY AFTER PENNSYLVANIA BLOWOUT
After a well blew out at a Pennsylvania gas drilling site, contaminating local waterways with thousands of gallons of drilling fluids, it seems that Governor Cuomo is a little concerned. NY1 reports that he "wants state officials to fully understand what hydrofracking is, before the controversial form of natural gas extraction is approved in New York."Drilling companies have been trying to get NY State to allow fracking, which is described as a "lucrative industry that involves pumping water and chemicals under the earth's surface to shake natural gas loose," in the Marcellus Shale formation. However, there are concerns from environmental groups (check out this NY Times series) and on April 19, a wellhead blew up at a Pennsylvania site on the Marcellus formation. So far, Chesapeake Energy has been fined $900,000 for contaminating water supplies (as well as $188,000 for a fire that injured workers).
One very vocal New York critic of fracking is Pete Seeger: See video at link.
MARCELLUS SHALE DRILLING CREATES 48,000 JOBS, REPORT SAYS
There's been nearly a 1,300 percent increase in core Marcellus Shale industry jobs in the Northern Tier counties of Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga and Wyoming since 2008, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry report.Nearly 48,000 people have been hired in the last year by industries related to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, and 71 percent of those people were Pennsylvania residents. Nine thousand of them were hired in the first three months of 2011. The average salary was higher than the statewide average. And the rate of hiring is accelerating. While there has been much talk of the economic impact of the Marcellus, most of it has been anecdotal, until the Department of Labor and Industry quietly published its most up-to-date hard numbers about two weeks ago. The report was released with such little fanfare that even Katie Klaber didn’t know about it. Klaber is the head of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the main industry group representing the top 20 companies active in Pennsylvania. Labor and Industry spokesman Christopher Manlove said the department publishes a monthly “Fast Facts” jobs report, and since “we obviously get a lot of questions about Marcellus Shale … it just stood to reason to make a Marcellus Shale version of fast facts.” It wasn’t “marketed” in any way, he said, but it was available to anyone visiting the department’s website. The report’s statistics surprised even Klaber, the most vocal proponent of Marcellus Shale drilling as an economic boon to the commonwealth. There’s been nearly a 1,300 percent increase in core Marcellus industry jobs in the Northern Tier counties of Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga and Wyoming since 2008.
COULD SMOG SHROUD THE MARCELLUS SHALE'S NATURAL GAS BOOM?
Since returning to private life, John Hanger, the former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, has kept busy trying to douse fears that his state's natural gas boom is contaminating drinking water. Hanger's two-year tenure saw the Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation that runs beneath much of the Northeast, change from a geological oddity into the center of a American drilling renaissance. Under his watch, Pennsylvania scrambled to respond to claims that water supplies are being tainted by the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which a blend of water, sand and chemicals is injected underground to break the shale and release the gas inside. Hanger, a Democrat who previously led the Pennsylvania-based environmental group PennFuture, left office convinced that the high-profile fracas over fracking is misguided. Air pollution is more of an Achilles' heel for drilling in the Northeast, he said last week, pointing to spikes in emissions that have followed natural gas development in other parts of the country. Thousands of natural gas wells are expected to be drilled in Pennsylvania over the next few years, requiring a fleet of construction equipment, diesel engines and compressor stations. Together, they could be a large new source of smog-forming emissions along the Northeast corridor, much of which still struggles with old air quality standards at a time when U.S. EPA is preparing to make the rules stricter.
DEP OFFICIAL: PENNSYLVANIA MIGHT HAVE THE WORLD'S LARGEST GAS RESERVES
Pennsylvania might be sitting on the largest gas reserves in the world, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection official said in Laporte on Friday. The Marcellus Shale is the second largest natural gas reserve in the world, said Scott Perry, the director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Oil and Gas Management. And underneath the Marcellus Shale lies another source of natural gas, the Utica Shale, "which is potentially as productive at the Marcellus Shale, maybe even more so," Perry said. Together with other existing underground reserves of natural gas in the Commonwealth, "Pennsylvania might be sitting on the largest gas reserves in the world," Perry said at a meeting of Sullivan County Energy Task Force in Laporte .Perry also said that the Department of Environmental Protection inspects Marcellus Shale wells "multiple times," which contradicts an assertion made several weeks ago by Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith that many Marcellus Shale gas wells are not being inspected by the DEP.
For more information visit: www.nyc.gov/dep