PA Industry Group to Disclose Drilling Chemicals

On Friday, October 21, 2011 0 comments

Associated Press PITTSBURGH — Members of the leading Marcellus Shale industry group in Pennsylvania will voluntarily disclose chemicals used in each natural gas well as of Jan. 1, the organization said. An environmental group applauded the move, but said it's not enough.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition represents many of the largest gas drillers in Pennsylvania. The drillers use a process called fracking, which forces millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, deep into shale formations to free the gas.

The industry believes the process is safe, but environmental groups and people who live in drilling areas have worried about the exact chemicals used in each well, and the possibility of groundwater contamination.

Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus coalition, said that the full disclosure was an "obvious choice" that the group's members had no problem supporting. The disclosure will be mandatory for members, who will list the chemicals used in each well on the website

"You want to make sure the transparency is worked in to everything we do," Klaber said.

The state of Pennsylvania already requires drillers to list all chemicals used in drilling on a website. But that doesn't tell people what's being used in a specific well near them.

Klaber said the group wanted to go beyond what the state requires.

Jan Jarrett, president of the environmental group PennFuture, said she applauds the decision by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

"I'm not saying it's a bad thing for them to voluntarily do it," Jarrett said.

But Jarrett said that is no protection against firms that aren't members of the coalition, which companies join voluntarily.

"This is a matter of public policy. And it's really a proper role of government to set these kinds of rules," Jarrett said. She called for the state to make the disclosure of chemicals used in each well mandatory for all drillers.


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—Copyright 2011 Associated Press

Shale-Related Plant Coming to Altoona

On Tuesday, October 18, 2011 0 comments

The Altoona area will share in the growth from the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom with Gardner Denver's construction this winter of a 70,000-square-foot manufacturing plant near Tipton.

The $15 million project will create 40 jobs within three years, according to Marty Marasco, CEO of Altoona Blair County Development Corp., which helped broker the deal.

The company will manufacture and remanufacture "fluid ends" on big high-pressure pumps, Marasco said.

Average pay will be $42,000, with a few management jobs requiring college educations and production jobs requiring machine-oriented experience, according to Marasco.

The company will try to hire as many workers as possible from central Pennsylvania, he said.
Gardner Denver chose Blair County because it's midway between the two poles of Marcellus activity in northeast and southwest Pennsylvania, and the company chose Tipton in particular because of its easy access to Interstate 99, according to Marasco.

Last year, Gardner Denver moved its headquarters from Illinois to Wayne, Pa., bucking a decadeslong trend, thanks to the lure of the burgeoning Marcellus Shale industry, which the equipment manufacturer serves.

The development corporation has been angling to take advantage of "downstream" Marcellus activities since the beginning of the boom, Marasco said.

Although some existing Blair County firms have been selling Marcellus products and services, "this is the first direct success," he said.

The company made the first contact in its search for a site for the plant.
"The location sold itself," Marasco said.

Gardner Denver will be the first tenant in the I-99 Enterprise Campus Business and Industrial Park on Old Route 220 about half a mile south of Del Grosso's Amusement Park and across from an S&A Homes development.

The company will take two lots comprising 10 acres.

Utilities and a highway occupancy permit are already in place.
Founded in 1859, Gardner Denver is a "global manufacturer of industrial compressors, blowers, pumps, loading arms and fuel systems," according to the company's website. The firm has 40 plants worldwide, with offices in 36 countries and revenues of about $2 billion a year, according to the company website.

Work on the project in Antis Township began about two weeks ago and should finish in March, when production will begin, according to Marasco.

Neyer Inc. of Cincinnati will be constructing a 32-foot high, single-story building of prefabricated concrete panels shipped to the site.
Workers will outfit the production area with cranes.

The building will include 5,000 square feet of office space.

Gardner Denver is also building plants in Pittsburgh and Fort Worth to accommodate Marcellus demand, according to Marasco.

ABCD is serving as developer for the project, although it normally prefers not to take that role, Marasco said.

Gardner Denver received a $200,000 Pennsylvania First Grant and $18,000 in job training assistance, according to a news release from the governor's office.

The Governor's Action Team, First National Bank, the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, Penelec, the Altoona City Authority, Northern Blair Regional Sewer Authority, the Blair County Soil and Conservation District and the Blair County and Antis Township planning commissions participated in the project, according to an ABCD news release.

The rest of the business park is already "spoken for" by two other potential tenants - although one may opt for another Blair County location, Marasco said.

"It's a great investment," Marasco said of the Gardner Denver project. "It's kind of an image builder for the Marcellus Shale industry - that a company like Gardner Denver would consider the Altoona area and the I-99 corridor."

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Shale Gas Contract Heads to Supreme Court

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011 0 comments

(HARRISBURG) A case raising doubts about whether Pennsylvania's booming natural gas industry has the right to extract the methane from the thick shale more than a mile beneath countless properties is being appealed to the state's high court.

A Susquehanna County couple on Friday asked the Supreme Court to reinforce that a nearly 130-year-old ruling applies to the Marcellus Shale, which lies underneath much of Pennsylvania and is considered the nation's largest-known natural gas reservoir.

The appeal was motivated by a lower Superior Court action last month suggesting that perhaps the 1882 case cannot be used to separate mineral rights from gas rights in the case of the Marcellus Shale.
"Even if it was unintentional, the Superior Court did call it into question, perhaps not intentionally, but inadvertently, call into question longstanding law on what the term `mineral' means," said Gregory Krock, a Pittsburgh lawyer representing the couple. "But you also have to realize the case is at an early stage."

The Supreme Court must decide whether to hear the appeal.

If the courts decide that mineral rights do not cover the gas from the Marcellus Shale, it could upend some of the leases between property owners and the natural gas industry exploring the Marcellus Shale, some lawyers say.

A lot of leases say a lot of different things, especially over the years, and some are more specific than others, Krock said.

The case stems from a dispute between John E. and Mary Josephine Butler and a man named Charles Powers and his heirs.

The deed for the Butler's 244 acres in Apolacon Township splits "minerals and petroleum oils" between the parties in a land deal that originated in 1881. Natural gas rights were not mentioned, so all of the gas should still belong to the property, the Butlers contend.

A Susquehanna County judge agreed, citing the precedent the state Supreme Court set in the 1882 case, Dunham v. Kirkpatrick.

But Powers' heirs appealed, and a Superior Court panel last month said it could not say with certainty that Powers' heirs have no claim to the gas. The parties should have the opportunity to assemble expert testimony on whether the Marcellus Shale is a mineral and whether the gas it holds falls within the deed, the panel said.

It ordered a county judge to hold further hearings take expert testimony on whether the Marcellus Shale is a mineral, and whether the owners of the mineral rights or the gas rights own the gas it holds.
More than 3,000 wells have been drilled into the Marcellus Shale in the past three years and thousands more are planned in the coming years.

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PA Landowners File Appeal in Marcellus Shale Ruling

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011 0 comments

Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- A Pennsylvania couple has asked the state’s Supreme Court to throw out a lower court’s decision dealing with ownership of natural gas on their land.

John and Mary Butler said in a filing today that the state Superior Court erred when it interpreted state law regarding mineral rights in the Marcellus Shale gas field.

“The Superior Court’s ruling could have a profound impact upon landowners and businesses in Pennsylvania,” the Butlers said in their appeal. They asked the court to uphold a county court verdict that gave them title to the gas.

Two other people had claimed partial ownership of the gas beneath the Butlers’ 244 acres in Susquehanna County. The Superior Court said Sept. 7 there was enough evidence to hold further hearings, saying Pennsylvania law is unclear whether shale gas is a mineral.

Under an 1882 court decision, ownership of oil and gas has to be transferred separately from other minerals. Legal experts said the Superior Court’s decision may cloud the title to other gas leases in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, where exploration companies such as Range Resources Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. have leased millions of acres.

The case is Butler v. Charles Powers Estate, 1795-mda-2010, Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

NY Doctors to Perform Health Study of Gas Drilling

On Friday, October 7, 2011 0 comments

ALBANY, N.Y. — More than 250 doctors and other health care professionals have signed a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeking a comprehensive human health study of the state's proposal to permit new deep drilling for natural gas across the Marcellus Shale region of upstate New York.
The Department of Environmental Conservation's draft analysis of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas omits that critical issue, according to the letter dated Wednesday and released to reporters. It also said the state health department has declined to do that requested assessment on grounds it wouldn't provide significant new information that is not already being covered.

The doctors said they disagree and claim growing evidence from industrial gas development in other states shows worsening health among people living near gas wells, compressor stations and waste pits.

The DEC environmental analysis contains "glaring omissions with respect to human health," said Dr. Adam Law, an endocrinologist from Ithaca. A board member of the group Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, he signed the letter.

Biologist Sandra Steingraber, who also signed it, said estimates of up to 77,000 upstate gas wells involving 1,000 truck trips each would make low-level air pollution a certainty, with estimated health costs that can be calculated.

"This kind of air pollution is lethal," she said.

The letter was also forwarded to the health department and the DEC, which is taking public comments on its draft analysis and regulations and plans to issue final regulations followed by new drilling permits, possibly starting in late fall or early winter. It has proposed rules for permitting gas-drilling companies to pump water, chemicals and sand into deep wells at high pressure to release natural gas from shale, a process known as "hydrofracking."

"Because New York has developed the most rigorous requirements in the nation to protect the public health and the environment, a comparison of health impacts in other states is inappropriate," DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said. She said the draft analysis "thoroughly reviews the causes of potential health impacts in other states and the proposed requirements are designed to prevent them."

The agency analyzed additional truck emissions and found they would have "minimal" effect on air quality, DeSantis said. "Even so, DEC will assess and monitor air quality impacts near drilling operations and regionally," she said.

Health Department spokesman Peter Constantakes said that agency worked with DEC in "a thorough review" of potential health impacts and measures to avoid them. "Another health impact assessment is not necessary," he said.

Drilling advocates say it will bring an economic infusion to New York and that the health concerns are addressed in the DEC analysis and the many state, federal and local laws the industry adheres to daily. The Independent Oil & Gas Association said the regulations and permit limits will be in place "to prevent pathways to humans and the environment."

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens has said that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely with proper precautions. The DEC would prohibit the drilling in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, on state land and within primary aquifers.

Its proposals include no drilling permits within 500 feet of a private water well or within 2,000 feet of a public drinking water well or reservoir, generally requiring a third casing around each well to prevent gas leaks, requiring watertight tanks to contain flowback water and a DEC-approved plan for disposal of waste water or brine. Applicants would have to fully disclose all chemicals used.

—Copyright 2011 Associated Press

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PA May Levy New Tax on Marcellus Shale

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has issued a proposal that, if passed, would allow counties in the Keystone State to impose fees on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

County commissions in Pennsylvania are split on whether to support the Republican governor's proposal.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper does not think this would be a good idea for West Virginia.

"It's just a new tax," Carper said. "And I don't support new taxes."

Instead, Carper wants state lawmakers to distribute severance tax funds that already are in place directly to cities and counties with roads that are damaged by industry trucks.

"The counties and municipalities that have their roads damaged by these large trucks should get that money without having to fight for it," he said.

Money from the oil and gas severance tax also should be set aside and distributed to counties that have had their waterways damaged, Carper said.

Kanawha County already receives severance tax funds collected by the state, he said.

The county received $390,307 in fiscal year 2010-2011, said David Fontalbert, chief fiscal officer.

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Marcellus Shale Question Will Be on Ballots

On Tuesday, October 4, 2011 0 comments

Barring any appeals, it appears that the question to amend the Peters Township Home Rule Charter will appear on the ballots in the Nov. 8 general election.

Members of the Peters Township Marcellus Shale Awareness and Action Group confirmed late Monday that Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky ruled in their favor in a decision handed down earlier in the afternoon.

The judge’s decision came earlier than expected.

Pozonsky stated at a hearing last Wednesday that he would accept final briefs from legal counsel on Monday, and render a decision by the end of the week.

There was no immediate comment from Peters Township Solicitor William Johnson or township administration. Attempts to reach township officials at the end of the day were not successful.
The ruling clears the way for the question to appear on the ballot asking voters if the township’s Home Rule Charter should be amended to include a bill of rights and incorporate a ban on gas drilling within township boundaries.

Members of the Marcellus Shale Awareness group filed a petition in August with more than 2,400 names to have the question go before voters.

The township asked the court for an injunction against placing the question on the ballot, saying it would subject the township to lawsuits from individuals and gas companies. In his arguments, Johnson also argued, that if approved, the township would be a violation of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, as well as causing the township’s drilling ordinance to be nullified.

In his ruling, Pozonsky said the court lacks jurisdiction to rule on pre-election challenges “without an immediate harm caused by the presence of the measure on the ballot.”

PTMSA member Ann Shaner said the ruling was a proper one.

“We’re elated by the decision, because we said all along that the threshold issue was that it was the right of the people to vote,” she said. “You can’t speculate that this might happen or that might happen, or this person might sue. You can’t go on that because it’s all speculation.”

Shaner said she received a call after the lunch hour Monday afternoon that Judge Pozonsky had rendered his decision.

“This gives the people the right to vote. It’s democracy at work,” she said. “Whether we win or lose, it should go to a vote.”

Shaner said she and members of the PTMSA group disagree that the ballot question will nullify the gas drilling ordinance recently passed by council and that lawsuits will result.

“How can you have lawsuits if there are no permits issued?” she asked. “I don’t think anyone can bring a lawsuit for something that doesn’t even exist. People sign gas leases all over the country, but it doesn’t mean gas companies want to drill tomorrow.”

Shaner said she is not opposed to the existing ordinance, but said her group has information that some gas companies already planning challenges to the ordinance.

“Chesapeake Energy says there are about 16 items in the (township) ordinance that they would find objection to,” she said. “The only way the Oil and Gas Act is going to be changed is to chip away at it item by item. We’re going to change it by case law.”

It is not known if the township will appeal Pozonsky’s decision.

He said at the hearing he wanted to make his ruling in time to allow for any appeals that might take place.
According to Washington County Solicitor Mary Lynn Drewitz, the county elections office needed the decision before Oct. 12.

Drewitz, said that the “drop dead date” for a decision is Oct. 17.

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