PA "OK's" More Gas Drilling on State Game Lands

On Thursday, April 21, 2011 0 comments

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Game Commission has expanded the scope of
leasing state-owned hunting lands for harvesting natural gas from the lucrative
Marcellus Shale formation, this time netting more than $18 million.

The money helps a financially strapped agency that has cut back programs,
such as raising pheasants for small-game hunting, while going a dozen years
without an increase in the hunting license fees that are its primary source of support.

About two-thirds of the lease money is payment for the extraction of natural
gas from beneath game lands in Bradford and Lycoming counties in northern
Pennsylvania by way of wells that would be drilled on adjacent, privately owned
land. Another lease on game lands in adjoining Tioga County will allow up to
three well pads — each of which can host multiple wells — and pipeline

Marcellus Shale drilling involves blasting chemical-laced water into the
ground, a procedure called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Critics say
fracking could poison water supplies, but the gas drilling industry says it's
been used safely for decades.

Ted Onufrak, president of the 90,000-member Pennsylvania Federation of
Sportsmen's Clubs, said most of his members are comfortable with the expansion
of Marcellus Shale drilling as long as the Legislature and governor's office
give the game commission the resources to stay on top of the activity.

"If you've got one (commission) land manager in charge of two counties, and
first there's 20 wells and then there's 60 wells, that's a lot to ride herd on,"
Onufrak said. "They are going to need some additional staff."

The new leases bring the agency's haul from the Marcellus Shale to at least
$19 million, game commission officials said. Royalties are also beginning to
trickle in from the first Marcellus Shale wells that are producing gas,
commission officials said.

The money stays with the game commission, which can use it to buy land or pay
for its day-to-day operations. A large chunk of the more than $300 million
raised by leasing Pennsylvania's state forest land for Marcellus Shale drilling
has been tapped by the Legislature to help wipe out state government

The commission does not view gas drilling income as a replacement for the
lack of an increase in the $20.70 adult resident hunting license fee, which the
agency has sought from the Legislature since 2004, spokesman Jerry Feaser said

Feaser also said the commission is not under additional pressure to lease
game land because of the Legislature's refusal to raise fees. He pointed out
that when the energy industry's pursuit of the Marcellus Shale began in earnest
in 2008, companies asked the commission to lease its entire land holdings in the
northeastern corner of the state, which it has not done.

"But again, we need to find a way of continuing to fund the programs and
projects that the public has come to expect from the game commission," Feaser

The commission has a budget of about $81 million this year, although it
expects to spend less than that, Feaser said. It also has leased land in the
past for shallower oil and gas drilling that do not demand the huge volumes of
chemical-laden water that are pumped under high pressure into shale wells.

The vast Marcellus and Utica shale formations underneath Pennsylvania and New
York also extend beneath Ohio, which appears poised to follow suit as gas
drilling accelerates there.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants permission from the Legislature to allow natural
gas drilling in state forests, parks and wildlife areas, a spokeswoman said,
while excluding natural areas and preserves.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale region of New York
has been on hold since 2008 while state regulators complete an environmental
review and draft new permitting requirements. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's appointee to
head the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Joe Martens, has said
he won't allow fracking until rules are in place ensuring it is done safely.

In West Virginia, lawmakers have raised the possibility of reaping revenue
for the state treasury by allowing Marcellus Shale drilling in state forests. So
far, West Virginia has not leased any of its publicly owned forests or wildlife
areas for Marcellus Shale drilling, said Joe Scarberry, who manages the office
of land and streams for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

However, the state does not own the below-ground gas rights for the majority
of that land, Scarberry said, and the drilling permits do not say whether the
drilling is for shallower gas deposits or the Marcellus Shale.

Most of the Marcellus Shale drilling on Pennsylvania's state game lands is on
tracts where the state does not own the below-ground gas rights.

Of the 43 Marcellus Shale wells drilled on the Pennsylvania game commission's
1.4 million acres, just 17 are on land where the agency owns the mineral rights,
commission officials said. There are probably more than 100 permits for drilling
wells on state game lands currently, meaning hundreds more wells are possible,
officials said.

Feaser said the commission has not done a comprehensive study on where and
how intensely drilling is environmentally acceptable on game lands. But, he
said, the game commission staff knows where sensitive wetlands, high-quality
streams and critical habitats are and will fight to protect those areas. The
commission is able to specify how it wants the drilling pads restored and
replanted, he said.

___ Associated Press writer Mary Esch in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this
—Copyright 2011 Associated Press

Marcellus Shale FACTS from State of Pennsylvania

On Thursday, April 7, 2011 0 comments

The Pennsylania Department of Environmental Protection is stepping up to the plate of the "Marcellus Shale" madness offering more educational resources to landowners, to help them make the right choices and protect their land if they choose to allow drilling.

We visited their extensive e-library and found 10 fun facts about Marcellus Shale that you may not know, but that are definitely worth sharing.

10. Natural Gas is extracted from Marcellus Shale during the hydraulic fracturing process. The amount of water typically required for hydraulic fracturing ranges from about one million gallons for a vertical well to approximately five million gallons for a vertical well with a horizontal lateral.

9. You can negotiate lease payments and royalty amounts; well, road and pipeline locations; protections for crops, livestock, buildings and personal property; and expiration date of the lease.  Call an experienced, licensed attorney such as Safe Shale Lease, LLC to help you get the highest payments while ensuring the protections are legally in place for your crops, livestock, family and land.

8. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not involved in regulating/negating lease agreements between mineral property owners and producers, and does not audit payments, read or calibrate meters or tanks, or otherwise get involved in lease matters. In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suggests, "If you have been approached by a drilling company about leasing mineral rights on your property, promptly consult an attorney who is familiar with oil and gas law before signing any documents".

7. More than 350,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania since the first commercial oil well was developed in 1859 by Colonel Drake in Titusville.

6.In 2009, Pennsylvania produced about 3.6 million barrels of crude oil (1 barrel = 42 gallons) and 273 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

5.A new regulation went into effect on Aug. 21, 2010 that requires drilling companies to treat drilling water to the safe drinking water standard for Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). This new rule ensures that streams in Pennsylvania do not exceed the safe drinking water standard of 500 milligrams per liter.

4. In addition, a new rule that mandates a 150 foot buffer for the 20,000 miles of Pennsylvania's streams that are the state’s most pristine and highest quality went into effect on Nov. 19, 2010. The combination of the TDS and buffers rule provide unprecedented protection for Pennsylvania's waters.

3. On Feb. 5, 2011, amendments to 25 Pa. Code Chapter 78 updating existing requirements regarding the drilling, casing, cementing, testing, monitoring and plugging of oil and gas wells, and the protection of water supplies were finalized. The strengthened regulations require best well design and construction practices, including comprehensive measures to prevent gas migration as happened in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County.

2. You can view the Year To Date: Inspections, Violations and Enforcements in the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Industry, including Marcellus Shale. Click Here

1. Learn about Marcellus Shale Drilling, Fees, Reporting, Oil and Gas Production and More!

Marcellus Drilling Costing YOU Money??

On Monday, April 4, 2011 0 comments

A recent article in The Patriot News investigates a new theory that has some landowners thinking.

According to The Patriot News, "Communities and farmers are under mandates to reduce pollutants going into the Chesapeake Bay. The byproducts of drilling also are going into the bay but are largely unaccounted for.

The target date for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, seen at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Md., is 2025.
The natural gas companies aren’t going to be held responsible for that. Farmers and communities will be, and they will have to spend more money to get rid of stuff they’re not producing.

In other words, it’s not your fault. But it might be your responsibility.

That’s the argument behind the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s call for a comprehensive study of drilling impacts. The foundation made the pitch at the opening meeting of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, a panel appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

It’s not so much about the well-publicized drilling waste discharged into rivers, but rather the myriad other impacts of the industry that, for the most part, get little attention.

With drilling comes a lot of land disturbance and deforestation, which impacts water quality.

And it’s not a matter of drillers flouting regulations, they say. Even if the drilling industry follows existing law to the letter, studies show it has an impact on rivers and streams.

But at the moment, that impact is not part of the equation in plans to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Former Secretary of Environmental Protection John Hanger says it doesn’t need to be. If the current plan is followed, he said, “the bay will be cleaned up by 2025 ... no matter what happens to the Marcellus industry.”

Others aren’t so confident, including the environmental group John Hanger founded: PennFuture.

PennFuture and a list of others, including the National Parks Conservation Association, the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, and the Mid-Atlantic Council Trout Unlimited, have expressed support for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s call for a comprehensive study.

Industry exemptions

Although Corbett has said he’s open to the idea of an impact fee on drillers, that fee would go to the communities in which the drilling occurs. It would not hold the industry accountable for impacts farther downriver.

From the drilling industry’s perspective, Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman Travis Windle said, “It’s critical to recognize the fact that natural gas production in the commonwealth is aggressively and ably regulated under a host of laws.”

Harry Campbell, a senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, doesn’t dispute that. But he said the industry is often exempted from specific provisions of those laws.

The industry is “exempted explicitly” from being required to have an environmental impact statement of the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of drilling under the National Environmental Policy Act, Campbell said.

Pennsylvania law has no provision for conducting its own statewide environmental impact statement, Campbell said.

New York, however, does, and the famous moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus Shale there is a result of that state conducting its own environmental review.

Maryland also is now poised to do its own environmental assessment, which might result in a two-year drilling moratorium on natural gas drilling.

Additional pollution flowing into the Chesapeake was one of the factors informing the Maryland bill, which passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is not calling for a moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

“We are certainly not anti-gas,” Campbell said. But he said, “We need to have an idea of what we’re going to be facing over the next decade.”

Pennsylvania contributes the most water — and the most pollution — to the bay, and it’s under orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the volume of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus by 20 percent or more in the next 15 years.

Farmers continue to change their practices and upgrade their operations, often at great expense, to reduce runoff from their fields.

Local municipalities are under increasing pressure to mitigate dirty stormwater flowing off their streets. The fixes are rarely cheap and often borne by taxpayers.

Sewage treatment plants are tightly monitored to make sure they don’t contribute more pollution to rivers and streams, and plenty of midstate towns have already seen rising sewer bills as towns upgrade their systems to meet bay mandates.

Even if all the efforts of those folks are successful, they might still be held accountable for not meeting the pollution reduction goals fast enough.

Those goals might not be met because another industry upstream is contributing an unaccounted share.

“The largest share of the work to improve the bay is in south-central Pennsylvania,” Campbell said. “The majority of activity for Marcellus is in the northern tier, in the most sensitive ecosystems. ... The downriver water coming to Harrisburg is going to make it all that much harder for south-central to achieve and maintain the load reduction requirements.”

The impact on water from drilling isn’t accounted for in Pennsylvania’s official plan to clean up its rivers and the bay, Campbell said.

To read the rest of the article, visit

Upcoming Energy Forum to Focus On Marcellus Shale

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Western Pennsylvania is at the epicenter of conflict over global energy resources, as governments, energy companies, landowners and environmentalists grapple with how to best tap its vast Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits.

To help residents sort through the facts and the arguments, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will co-sponsor a series of three Energy Forums, featuring experts representing all perspectives. The first 90-minute forum will be next Monday at 6 p.m. at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. The topic is "Balancing the Need for Energy and the Desire for Environmental Protection."

The five panelists represent the natural gas industry, environmental concerns and include legal and engineering experts:

Lou D'Amico is president and executive director of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, a trade association representing more than 850 oil and natural gas producers, drilling contractors, service companies, professional firms and royalty owers. He has a background in engineering, gas marketing and operations management.

Ray Walker Jr. is senior vice president of Range Resources, a major developer of the Marcellus Shale fields, and chairman of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. He is a registered petroleum engineer with more than 34 years of oil and gas management experience.

Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, has spent more than 20 years working on environmental and conservation concerns.

Ed Rubin, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, is a member of the United Nations Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore.

John Hanger, special counsel at the Eckert Seamans law firm, specializes in energy, utility and environmental law, with a special focus in alternative and clean energy, transportation infrastructure, energy efficiency, smartgrid and competitive energy markets. He is a former secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The forum will be moderated by David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The co-sponsor is Babst Calland, a law firm specializing in issues related to Marcellus Shale development.

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