Saturday, November 28, 2009

At Odds Over Land, Money and Gas

New York Times
November 27, 2009

NOT INTERESTED Lisa Wujnovich and her husband, Mark Dunau, refuse to sign a lease to allow natural gas drilling on their 50 farmland acres in Hancock, N.Y.

CHENANGO, N.Y. — Chris and Robert Lacey own 80 acres of idyllic upstate New York countryside, a place where they can fish for bass in their own pond, hike through white pines and chase deer away.

But the Laceys hope that, if all goes well, a natural gas wellhead will soon occupy this bucolic landscape.

Like many landowners in Broome County, which includes the town of Chenango, the Laceys could potentially earn millions of dollars from the natural gas under their feet. They live above the Marcellus Shale, a subterranean layer of rock stretching from New York to Tennessee that is believed to be one of the biggest natural gas fields in the world.

As New York environmental officials draft regulations to allow drilling in the shale as early as next year, thousands of residents like the Laceys in upstate counties have banded together in coalitions to sign leases with gas companies for drilling on their land — for $5,000 to $6,000 an acre for a term of five years, and royalties of up to 20 percent on whatever gas is found.

“When I heard about drilling, what came to mind was ‘Thank you,’ ” said Mrs. Lacey, 58, who has lived on her property here for 27 years with her husband, Robert, 68, a commercial insurance agent. “Finally our community can recover, and our children don’t have to leave the state to find jobs.”

In New York City, natural gas exploration is largely seen as a threat to the drinking water the city gets from watersheds to the north in the Catskills. But in the rural communities above the shale, the reaction has been far more mixed — and far more contentious.

Some residents welcome the drilling as a modern-day gold rush and salvation from the economic doldrums that they say have chased jobs and young people away from their area. Others express concerns about the environment and quality-of-life issues like noise and heavy-truck traffic.

In some cases, the issue has pitted neighbor against neighbor or spouse against spouse.

Exploring the shale involves a drilling method called hydraulic fracturing that requires pumping huge volumes of water laced with benzene and other chemicals into the rock to break it and extract gas. The process raises issues about the use and disposal of wastewater, and the danger of leaks, spills and other contamination. It has been linked to contamination of water wells in Pennsylvania and Wyoming and to the death of livestock in Louisiana.

Mark Dunau, an organic vegetable farmer with 50 acres in the town of Hancock in Delaware County, says he is passing up any potential rewards from drilling because of worries about the pollution of water and air and the cumulative impact of thousands of wells. “That water is my resource,” he said.

Mr. Dunau, 57, and his wife, Lisa Wujnovich, 55, said that they were holdouts not only among their neighbors but also among their friends, and that the character of their community was already changing. Mr. Dunau said he knew people who said they would take the money and move away, families who were fighting over whether to sign gas leases, and neighbors who regretted signing too early for too little money.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said.

One of Mr. Dunau’s neighbors, Grace K. Kinzer, signed a lease with Chesapeake Energy two years ago when a representative of the company knocked on her door with an offer of $25 an acre and royalties of 12.5 percent, she said. Ms. Kinzer, 83, said she needed money to pay her taxes so she signed, getting about $2,750 for 110 acres that would now fetch more than half a million dollars.


Sometimes rifts over drilling are found under the same roof.


Mr. Ernst, 72, favors drilling as a matter of survival. “We’re prostrate, and dependent on oil from enemy countries,” he said.

His wife, 74, said she was too worried about possible accidents and chemical spills.

“My main concern is the aquifer,” she said. “We have our own well. I don’t want to have to buy bottled drinking water.”

She refuses to sign a lease, and, after 46 years of marriage, Mr. Ernst said, he knows better than to think he can persuade her. “That’s like asking how do I plan to fly to Pluto,” he said.

But the holdouts cannot stop the transformation of their surroundings, both good and bad, once drilling is allowed. The area of the shale in New York that is expected to be the most productive spans about 3.4 million acres in 10 counties, but lies mostly in Broome, Delaware, Sullivan, Chenango and Tioga, said officials from the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York.

Further fostering bad feelings within communities, under a concept known as “compulsory integration” gas companies can drill under land without the owner’s consent if they have leases in most of the surrounding area. Those owners without leases would get royalties of 12.5 percent on gas from their property, the minimum allowed under state law, but many worry more about exposing their water to pollution.

“They could be drilling directly under your well and threatening your groundwater,” said Wes Gillingham, the program director for the environmental group Catskill Mountainkeeper. He owns 100 acres in Sullivan County and said he was trying to keep it off-limits to drilling.

The regulations proposed by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation are under fire as inadequate from environmentalists around the state. Another concern shared by both the pro- and anti-drilling sides is whether the environmental agency, which has suffered financial and staff cuts, will have the resources to monitor the drilling.

But the financial benefits beckon strongly in the communities that stand to benefit from a gas boom at a time when they are suffering economically. Broome County, which has lost jobs and population over the last decade, would stand to gain $3.72 billion a year in wages and tax and retail revenue from up to 4,000 gas wells, a study commissioned by local officials estimated. (However, a report by Columbia University researchers this year noted that any prediction of economic results was “entirely speculative” because of unknowns like the potential cost of cleaning up contamination.)


“We cannot afford to chase this industry away,” Patrick J. Brennan, deputy county executive, told state environmental officials this month at a hearing on the proposed rules governing drilling that drew about 800 people to a school auditorium in the county.

Both to poor residents with small parcels of land and wealthy landowners with vast estates, drilling represents an economic opportunity tantamount to winning the lottery. Jim Ward, who heads a landowners’ coalition with 138 members whose properties range in size from 650 acres to half an acre, said the sentiment in his group is: “I should have a right to prosper from my land.”

To read the complete article, CLICK HERE.


DEP mulls changing discharge standards

State wastewater regulations for natural gas drilling may change to reduce pollution threat.

By Rory Sweeney
Staff Writer
November 27, 2009

Anyone concerned with pollution threats from increased natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania has likely encountered the phrase, “total dissolved solids” and recognizes its potential to be a problem.

However, fewer no doubt know how it can become a problem or that – because of issues emerging from the increased drilling – the state Department of Environmental Protection is considering changes to wastewater discharge standards for TDS that would become effective Jan. 1, 2011.

DEP is seeking public comment on the proposals, and citizens have until Feb. 5 to make them. Earlier this month, Penn State University released a document to help people understand the issues and participate in the process.

Rather than a specific chemical, TDS is a measurement of all dissolved matter – such as minerals, salts and metals – in a given water sample and can be naturally occurring. The federal safe drinking-water standard has a recommended level of 500 milligrams per liter for TDS, but no specific regulation. However, concentrations above that can damage treatment equipment and be toxic to aquatic life and people who drink it.

DEP is proposing the changes, which would limit the TDS levels in wastewater discharges, because it determined that some state waterways, including the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, don’t have the ability to absorb increased levels of TDS.

According to the Penn State report, most of the water used to prepare gas wells – often called “frack water” – is between 800 milligrams per liter and 300,000 milligrams per liter.

The industry estimates the amount of such high-TDS wastewater needing disposal in Pennsylvania will increase from about 9 million gallons per day in 2009 to nearly 20 million gallons per day by 2011, the report said.

DEP’s proposal would change two parts of state code.

First, it would require high-TDS discharges to be diluted to at least 500 milligrams per liter, plus lower thresholds for sulfates and chlorides and, for the oil and gas industry, limits of 10 milligrams per liter for strontium and barium.

Second, it would change water-quality standards for the actual waterway, which would, in turn, affect what could be discharged into it. That regulation change hasn’t yet been officially proposed.

To comment on the proposed rules, the Penn State report recommends several approaches: be specific in citing documents or the target of the comment, stick to comments on the proposed rule rather than water-quality in general, include personal experiences and note where the proposed rules are written unclearly.

LINK to TimesLeader article.


Thursday, November 26, 2009


Pennsylvania towns often find themselves powerless against gas company practices

By Rona Kobell
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
Bay Journal
December 2009

There's a reason they call these the Endless Mountains.

Undulating hills of yellow and crimson rise gracefully before disappearing into a blanket of gauze-like fog. For miles, no other cars share the two-lane roads that snake through this tranquil pocket of northeast Pennsylvania.

People visit here for the hiking and the bicycling and the skiing and the leaf peeping; they stay for the quiet.

But natural gas drilling is quickly transforming these rural hamlets into industrial zones. Towns and counties that are sitting atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale know that the gas companies are coming, and they are trying to prepare. But because of industry practices and current regulations, they may be powerless to control their destinies.

Gas companies play their cards close to their vests. They do not announce they may drill 40 wells; they drill one first and see how it produces. Usually, they approach a private landowner, who does not need permission from his or her municipality to lease. That's how Dimock, a rural hamlet in northeast Pennsylvania, went from one well in 2006 to more than 60 by the end of 2009. That's why visitors who meander down its barely one-lane roads will see the classic tableau of red barn, silver silo and lazing cows - but behind it is often a gas well lit up like a space shuttle.

"There's only so much that they can plan, because when these gas companies decide to come in, it happens rather quickly," said Jerry S. Walls, who was director of the Lycoming County Planning Commission for 37 years.

Many Pennsylvania towns have no zoning ordinances, complicating matters. But even those that do will not necessarily be able to enforce them on drillers. Under the Pennsylvania Gas Act of 1984, state regulations trump local ordinances.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regulates gas drilling. It approves most permits and relies on the industry to self-report problems, while conducting spot checks for compliance.

"We've got no oversight at the federal level, none at the local level, and the state is in a shambles," said Jim Weaver, the lone planner in Tioga County, a prime location for drilling. "For all intents and purposes, the state legislature has handed the gas industry the Marcellus play to do with whatever they please."

Weaver called the situation "short-sighted and less than strategic" and said he hoped some planning would occur at the state level.

This year, two court cases in Western Pennsylvania clarified the powers of local authorities over drilling. In Oakmont, the state Supreme Court ruled that gas companies could not drill a well where zoning laws forbade it. But in Salem, the court ruled the local laws had no say over where gas companies put infrastructure, such as pipelines, which come under the DEP's permitting process.

Bradford County Planning Director Ray Stolinas has been following the cases, trying to figure out how to apply them in his county. Recently, the county decided not to review plans to build a compressor station on the advice of their attorney.

"The message of these court cases is that you can regulate, to some extent, where, but you can't regulate how," Stolinas said. "I do feel unprepared. We're learning every day as we go along."

While Stolinas worries about stormwater and big trucks on the county's gravel roads, town officials are enjoying the boon. In Towanda, Bradford's county seat, restaurants are full and new businesses are opening.

"I think it's going to be a good thing for the town," said Towanda Mayor Richard Snell.

Sixty miles south, many gas companies have set up offices in Williamsport, breathing life into once-vacant downtown buildings. The renovated Holiday Inn offers world-class food with prices to match: a room, if one is even available, costs at least $145.

"It's like a convention that really hasn't left yet," said Jason Fink, vice president of economic development for the Williamsport/Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce.

Some residents say money is already changing the character of these towns. Linda Nealon, a Wyoming County preschool teacher, does not plan to lease her land. But, with landowners in her county commanding nearly $6,000 an acre and 20 percent royalties, she says, she's in the minority. And because she's aired concerns in public about drilling, she feels hostility from neighbors.

"I always felt very connected to my community. Now I feel very disconnected," she said. "It breaks my heart."

But residents and municipalities in the Marcellus Shale region don't have to throw up their hands, according to Walls, the professional planner. The gas companies will be in the state for a long time, and there is room to negotiate. He suggests local officials meet early with the companies and point out ecologically important areas and other places inappropriate for drilling. He also says local officials should update their land ordinances, talk to officials where drilling is already in full swing for advice, and get zoning if they don't already have it.

Lynn Senick, a Montrose activist who has organized an online forum to discuss drilling risks, is hoping the government can somehow slow down the process.

"It's such a travesty to take these pristine areas and ruin them," she said, "because once you start, you're never going to get them back."

NOTE: This comment posted elsewhere by Damascus Citizens for Sustainability:

In February of this year the PA Supreme Court has ruled in the two consolidated Pennsylvania state court appeals (Huntley v. Borough council of Oakmont and Range et al. vs. Salem Township) that local laws can’t conflict with the state regulations for oil and gas drilling, and so local regulations that govern the same features – defined in the opinion as “pertain[ing] to technical aspects of well functions and matters ancillary thereto (such as registration, bonding, and well site restoration)” – as the state Oil and Gas Act are preempted. However, importantly, the Court also ruled that local officials CAN use zoning to determine where drilling can happen within a municipality, as local zoning “serves different purposes from those enumerated in the Oil and Gas Act”.

Continue reading "Marcellus Shale: Pipe Dreams in Pennsylvania?"

and see the oil and gas timeline "Drilling for Resources" also in the December Bay Journal.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carney talks natural gas

By Steve Reilly
Staff Writer
Morning Times, Sayre, PA
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CANTON — When U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock,) visited Canton on Tuesday, he spoke at length and in detail about the reasons behind his decision to vote for HR 3962, the House of Representatives version of the health care reform bill — a vote unpopular with many in attendance.

Questions about federal oversight of natural gas drilling, however, were met with more hesitant answers.

When Joan Gustin of Towanda asked Carney about the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act, he stated that he has not yet reached an opinion, and later told the Morning Times that he and his staff are “looking more closely at the language of the act.”

Carney lives in Dimock! Why can't he decide to vote for the FRAC Act???
Write to Congressman Carney and tell him you want him to support the FRAC Act NOW!!!

The piece of legislation, which is one printed page in length, would remove a paragraph of the 2005 Safe Drinking Water Act that exempts hydraulic fracturing from federal oversight.

“We want to be sure we protect the water and the land here. We live in northeast Pennsylvania because we love it here. We think it’s a beautiful place (and) we don’t want to ruin that,” he said.

But we have a unique opportunity to not only realize some wealth for the region — a region that that has recently been somewhat distressed — but also to make a great contribution to national energy needs,” he added. “So that’s also part of the equation that I’m thinking about.” ...

Does this mean that Carney is willing to sacrifice safe drinking water for "some wealth for the region"? Let's find out!
Ask Congressman Carney if he's OK with permanently contaminating clean healthy aquifers! Ask Congressman Carney if he's OK with compromising his constituents' health, safety and well being, as well as their property values, their livelihoods and investments, by refusing to insist that drillers drill responsibly and take responsibility for the damage they create when they don't!

Use the links in the sidebar at the left to write to Congressman Carney today!

Link to the complete article HERE.
Editorializing in red by Splashdown.


Gas Drilling and Drinking Water


NOTE: If video does not appear, reload page to refresh image.
Thank you abc News for giving mainstream coverage to this enormous,
yet largely underreported issue!
Keep up the good work!

Water everywhere there's drilling is at risk!

For transcript CLICK HERE.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

DISH TX Calls For Five Natural Gas Compression Stations to Halt Operations

Based on results of recent air study, local officials in the town of DISH, TX have asked operators for a safety stand down

DISH, TX -- The results of a DISH, Texas municipal Ambient Air Quality Study recently revealed high concentrations of toxic air emissions, including neurotoxins and carcinogens, near and on residential properties in the small town of DISH, Texas. In a letter sent to company officials dated November 16, 2009, local officials from the Town of DISH have asked operators to cease and desist operations, until they can guarantee the safety of area citizens. This letter was sent to company officials from: Texas Midstream Gas Services, LLC; Enbridge Holdings, LLC; Energy Transfer Partners; Atmos – Pipeline Texas and Crosstex Energy Services. To date one of the companies in question have not responded to this request.

DISH is located in the epicenter of the Barnett Shale gas play and is home to a megacomplex of compressor stations, as well as pipelines, metering stations, gathering lines and gas wells. The Town of DISH's air study sampled air at seven locations from August 17 to 18, 2009. The results of this analysis revealed high concentrations of carcinogenic and neurotoxin compounds near and on residential properties. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has performed subsequent studies that validated these concerns.

For More Information:

* Calvin Tillman, Mayor, DISH, TX (940) 453-3640,
* Town of DISH
5413 Tim Donald Road
DISH, Texas 76247

* DISH, Texas Municipal Ambient Air Quality Study can be found online here:

Calvin Tillman
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640


Monday, November 23, 2009


Of all the towns that have been subjected to drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania since the opening up of the Marcellus Shale, none have suffered more than Dimock. In just over a year several drinking water wells have been contaminated (one of which exploded on New Years Day, ripping through an 8 foot slab of concrete), numerous spills have dumped highly toxic wastewater, diesel fuel, and fracking fluid into local streams and rivers, and residents have been exposed to dangerously high levels of methane gas and heavy metals. The series of infractions on the part of Cabot Oil and Gas, a Houston based energy company that has large holdings in Dimock, resulted in a $120,000 fine from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) earlier this month. But the cost to residents has been far greater.

The following excerpts are from a report by Adam Federman at Earth Island Journal.
It tells of the outrageous lies and unmitigated inhumanity of practices Cabot Oil and Gas perpetrated on inhabitants and the earth at Dimock, Pennsylvania.

On Friday of last week 15 families in Dimock announced that they were suing Cabot for poisoning their water and the likelihood that exposure to toxic chemicals has led to personal injury, including neurological and gastro-intestinal complications. Among the plaintiffs is a Cabot employee and Dimock resident who has knowledge of company practices and violations that have not yet been reported. According to Leslie Lewis, an attorney with one of the firms representing the families, the charges against Cabot are far reaching and reveal a profound degree of negligence and fraudulent conduct. “To me they just seem like a rogue operation,” she says. “Anything goes.”
Farnelli, whose home is surrounded by gas wells, says that her children started to develop stomach problems late last summer. They would be fine at school but when they returned home at the end of the day and drank the water, the symptoms would reappear. Farnelli thought it was some kind of stomach virus and didn’t really suspect gas drilling until her neighbors told her that their water was contaminated. One day her neighbor showed her a glass of water that she says looked a bit cloudy and smelled like formaldehyde or some kind of chemical solvent. “It didn’t smell like water,” she told me.

In some cases it didn’t look like water either. Farnelli says that some residents had tap water that looked like unpasteurized apple cider with a kind of sludgy sediment on the bottom. It was a brownish orange color and had greasy bubbles on top. In 2008 Cabot drilled twenty wells in Dimock and has rapidly increased production since. They hope to drill sixty wells by the end of this year and between fifty and seventy in 2010.

There are many ways to contaminate drinking water wells. According to a Consent Order issued by the DEP in early November, Cabot failed to properly cement well casings in several instances, which can allow methane and other toxic chemicals to leak or migrate into underground aquifers and nearby drinking water wells. When that gas gets trapped in the headspaces of wells, as it did in the case of Norma Fiornetino’s drinking water well on New Years Day, it can explode. Today many residents live in fear that the same might happen to them and that their land and water has been ruined.
Not surprisingly, the company has continued to deny that it is responsible for the undoing of Dimock. In a prepared statement, Cabot CEO Dan O. Dinges said, “we see no merit in these claims and are disappointed that these citizens felt it necessary to proceed in this fashion.”
However, it has become increasingly difficult for the company to brush away the complaints of residents in the face of overwhelming evidence. And the whistleblower in the case will certainly test the company’s ability to defend its practices. “It's horrifying to hear him speak,” said Lewis, referring to Nolan Scott Ely, the Cabot employee who has joined the lawsuit. “It'll all come out.” ...

Farnelli says that numerous spills and infractions have gone unreported. Particularly alarming is the dumping of wastewater on roads and fields in Dimock. Throughout the summer, Farnelli says, Cabot made a point of “watering” the road that she lives on—a dirt road that has washed out several times since drilling began—to control dust even though no one was complaining about the dust. The strange thing was that it rained a lot last summer, and to Farnelli and others Cabot’s actions never really made sense. Why water the road just before it was supposed to rain?

Using tank trucks, the company would spray the road from one end to the other. Walking back from her neighbor’s one day, Farnelli noticed that the water smelled bad and seemed to have some kind of oil or detergent in it. You could see rainbows in it when the sun hit and there were large bubbles on the surface that just sat there and didn’t break. When residents complained, Cabot started using trucks that said “Fresh Water” on them.

"We think it was produced water,” Farnelli told me. “We think it was frack water." Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial technique that breaks open the shale by injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals also known as fracking fluid deep underground to release the gas. The produced water that comes to the surface often contains naturally occurring radioactive elements and the residual chemicals used in the fracking process. Storing and treating the produced water has emerged as one of the most important issues facing Pennsylvania and New York, where horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are relatively new. According to Farnelli Cabot also sent tank trucks into surrounding fields to empty them of wastewater. Sometimes it would take two days.

“We know that was frack water because there were people who lived around here working for them. And they were some of the ones who had to do it,” she says.

Local residents who have worked on clean up crews after Cabot’s spills have also been exposed to highly toxic chemicals. According to Lewis, on one occasion, two local workers were sent into a pit as part of a clean up crew with no protective gear. They literally burned their hands from the toxic waste.

In the meantime Cabot continues to expand its drilling operations throughout the country.

CLICK HERE for the complete article.
Editorializing in red by Splashdown.


Candace Mingins - Gas Drilling: Stories From the Front Line


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seismic rumbles in the forests...

The sheer size and number of Marcellus Shale drill sites and their truck traffic are altering Pa. land use.

By Andrew Maykuth
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

November 22, 2009

RENOVO, Pa. - For decades, natural-gas drilling has been part of the landscape in Sproul State Forest, a vast timberland in northern Pennsylvania pocked with hundreds of shallow wells and crossed by pipelines.

But Douglas J. D'Amore, the Sproul district forester, was unprepared for the massive size of the drilling operations that have moved into his forest in recent months to tap into the Marcellus Shale, the deep formation whose bountiful yields have triggered a frenzy that is transforming the way Pennsylvania's public lands are managed.

"Just the scale of this Marcellus thing is much bigger than anything I've ever seen," D'Amore said.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. carved out four acres of red oak and maple forest, leveling a well pad about the size of three football fields to erect a 200-foot-tall drilling rig. The directional rigs are essentially mobile industrial operations: Each requires 80 trucks to transport, and it takes about a month to bore into the shale about 8,000 feet below.

"When you first see the size of the well pad - whoa!" said D'Amore.

Early-season bow hunters returning to their favorite spots this month were shocked to discover that Anadarko had already cleared about a dozen well pads in Sproul. Active rigs are posted as off-limits to hunting, and security staff ask anybody approaching the sites for identification.

"I'm sure I'll have a lot more complaints when deer-hunting season starts," after Thanksgiving, D'Amore said.

This is only the beginning.

Thus far, only three Marcellus wells have been completed on state forestland. But 660,000 acres of state forests are under lease, and state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials expect a rapid escalation in drilling.

"A year from now, there probably will be a hundred wells operating where there are only three now," said James R. Grace, DCNR's deputy secretary for parks and forestry.

Foresters, whose staffs were cut last month because of the state budget crisis, are girding for a management nightmare. The forestry bureau now monitors a few dozen drilling operations a year.

MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
An Anadarko Petroleum Corp. rig drills for natural gas in Sproul State Forest.

"We're going to go from 30 wells drilled a year to 800 wells a year," Grace said. "It's a whole order of magnitude."


Read more of this compelling crime against nature HERE.
And remember, this is Rendell's answer to the budgetary revenue shortfall... instead of a severance tax! Hallelujah!


Program focuses on small bridges

Broken bridges can give municipalities the protective authority needed to control unsafe/overweight use...
Nov. 21, 2009

Although the state already is at the top of the list nationally for structurally deficient bridges, a study of small, municipally-owned bridges in Lycoming County suggests the problem runs far deeper than previously thought.

"We are greatly underestimating our bridge problem," county transportation planner Mark Murawski said Friday, based... on a recently-released study - the Lycoming County Small Bridge Inventory Pilot Program - detailing conditions of the county's 83 municipally-owned bridges less than 20 feet in length.

The study,which is the first of its kind in the state, revealed that 72 percent of those bridges are in fair-to-poor condition, Murawski said.

"This is alarming," he said. "If this is going on in Lycoming County, imagine what it's like in the other 66 counties (in the state). There's probably thousands of them in fair-to-poor condition."


The focus on structurally deficient bridges revealed Pennsylvania as having one of the worst situations with almost one out of four bridges being structurally deficient.

The federal government requires all bridges 20 feet or longer to be inspected every two years, Murawski said. However, no inspection is required for bridges less than 20 feet long.

Although PennDOT inspects state-owned bridges from eight to 20 feet in length even though it is not required, no inspection program exists for municipally-owned bridges under 20 feet, Murawski said.


The work identified 83 bridges located in 29 municipalities, Murawski said. Loyalsock Township had the most small bridges, with eight.

PennDOT bridge inspectors checked each of the bridges and discovered most were in some stage of deterioration, he said.

One bridge on Klump Road in Hepburn Township was in such bad condition, PennDOT closed it the same day they inspected it, Murawski said.

The program includes recommendations for dealing with the problem.

First, it sets an inspection schedule for the bridges. According to Murawski, bridges in good condition will be inspected every four years; bridges in fair condition, every two years; poor condition, every year.

The county commissioners have included in the 2010 budget $165,000 in county liquid fuels money for the county engineer to perform a more detailed inspection next year of all the bridges on the list, he said.

Some bridges are on school routes, he said. Others are on roads used by the natural gas industry, he said.

"The (gas industry) is using a lot of local, rural roads and they're bringing in extremely heavy equipment," he said. "They're crossing bridges that nobody is looking at, carrying extremely heavy loads with large convoys of vehicles."

"In my opinion, we're doing this just in time because of the increase in gas drilling," Murawski said.

The program has garnered interest on the state and national level, Murawski said.

A state task force is reviewing the program, which is already being expanded to northern tier counties, he said.

For full story, CLICK HERE.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cabot Oil & Gas Responds to Pennsylvania Lawsuit

...aka CHUTZPAH!

HOUSTON, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (NYSE: COG) today announced it has learned that a lawsuit has been filed by a group of Dimock residents who are claiming damage to their property and to water supplies.

Cabot has successfully drilled and completed dozens of natural gas wells in the Dimock area. These activities are heavily regulated pursuant to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act and other environmental laws and regulations. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has the responsibility to administer and enforce these laws and to ensure the protection of the residents and the environment. Cabot recently entered into a consent order and agreement with the DEP to provide further assurance that its activities are conducted in full compliance with DEP-administered environmental protection laws. "Cabot continues to cooperate with the DEP to ensure protection of residents and their property," said Dan O. Dinges, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "While we respect the right of any resident to seek a judicial solution for a legitimate issue, we see no merit in these claims and are disappointed that these citizens felt it necessary to proceed in this fashion. We do not believe this matter will impact our continuing operations in the area."

Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, headquartered in Houston, Texas is a leading independent natural gas producer with its entire resource base located in the continental United States. For additional information, visit the Company's Internet homepage at

SOURCE Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation

Ken Komoroski, of Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, +1-412-355-6556


Friday, November 20, 2009

Lawsuit Draws Big Media Attention to Dimock Disaster

Abrahm Lustgaten reports for ProPublica:
Pennsylvania residents whose streams and fields have been damaged by toxic spills and whose drinking water has allegedly been contaminated by drilling for natural gas are suing the Houston-based energy company that drilled the wells. A worker at the company is among the 15 families bringing suit.

The civil case, filed Thursday in U.S District Court in Scranton, Pa., seeks to stop future drilling in the Marcellus Shale by Cabot Oil and Gas near the town of Dimock. It also seeks to set up a trust fund to cover medical treatment for residents who say they have been sickened by pollutants. Health problems listed in the complaint include neurological and gastrointestinal illnesses; the complaint also alleges that at least one person's blood tests show toxic levels of the same metals found in the contaminated water.

The suit alleges that Cabot allowed methane and metals to seep into drinking water wells, failed to uphold terms of its contracts with landowners, and acted fraudulently when it said that the drilling process, including the chemicals used in the underground manipulation process called hydraulic fracturing, could not contaminate groundwater and posed no harm to the people who live there.

Jon Hurdle reports for Reuters:
The case is one of the first to confront the industry over the technique, which critics claim pollutes aquifers with chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses.

Cabot's drilling allowed methane to escape into private water wells and in two cases caused wellhead explosions due to a gas build-up, the 45 plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim.

In a followup report from Reuters:
A Cabot spokesman said the company had not had time to study the lawsuit in detail but said Cabot was in full compliance with Pennsylvania's environmental laws and "disappointed" by the lawsuit.

"We don't see merit in these claims," Cabot spokesman Ken Komoroski said.

The company, like others in the industry, has argued that its drilling processes are safe because chemicals are heavily diluted and are injected into the ground through layers of steel and concrete thousands of feet below the aquifers that are used for drinking water.

The industry says there has never been a documented case of ground water contamination because of hydraulic fracturing.

However, according to an AP report in the New York Times:
Pat Farnelli says there's something in the water at her house. The last time she drank it, she says she vomited four times. It's made her children sick, too.
More than a dozen families have filed suit, asking for an environmental cleanup, medical monitoring and money damages in excess of $75,000 each.

Dimock resident, Victoria Switzer gives this moving account of the lies, injustices, refusals and just plain nightmares she and other residents have been facing, and of the futility of
her ceaseless efforts to obtain help:
Since shortly after signing a lease in 2006 I have been trying to bring attention to the serious consequences, the serious mistakes of the natural gas well frenzy here in Susquehanna County-my home area of Dimock.

I went to everyone I believed could help us -the list was long- Senators, Reps, Congressman Carney-his wife, DEP,seminars, meetings, anywhere, anyone I thought of that I believed had an interest in protecting the welfare of the citizens and the environment of Pennsylvania. I even tried working with Cabot Oil and Gas to help the situation-do the right thing. Their attorney assured me he would drink my water if I wanted him to- I think one sip of Dimock water would not have had him dropping in his tracks- but over a year or more? He would not provide water to an elderly widow on a fixed income-struggling to make ends meet.

No one would help us -even the latest consent order between Cabot and DEP is simply an agreement between them and allows them to continue the mayhem without any concern about the future of the residents of our valley and surrounding hills. There will be no cessation of drilling -there will be more here until there is nothing left of what we knew. When the landman arrived here-we believed him- "there might be some gas out here. There might be A WELL. You could get some compensation if they do. You'll never know we were even here-just a little Christmas tree left behind.We could get off that foreign oil."

By time we realized what we were in for it was too late.

Although the leases contained language that should have rendered them illegal and void, no one would stand up for us. Our representatives sided with the gas company. "Don't rock the rig!" This is great for the economy! Check out the huge ad Chesapeake took out in the Tunkhannock paper - Cabot did everything secretly and with arrogance.

We were never told about their "plan" for us and still as recently as September 16 would not could not tell us what they projected for our community. "We can't disclose that-we have investors to protect"!!!

So now the lawyers cometh-
Yes, they were on my list but they were last.
Yes, I know, they should have been first- before we signed in 2006.
We were stupid, stupid, stupid -trusting and naive- but should that allow the gas company to destroy our lives? Our property? Our water supply?

Please help us.

When you read or hear how greedy we are for wanting compensation for our losses-give those folks the facts -tell my story, tell all of our stories- I just want this company who was so careless
with the land, our environment to stop the destruction and restore some peace of mind to the people here.

Restoring a water supply is important. More importantly, the people here that are not making the millions -just folks who live in the middle of if- should be able to leave -when the second compressor station comes and the new 30 inch pipeline and the next wave of wells are drilled -we should not have to crawl away -our properties will be worthless- the quality of life here
will not be "sellable".

The gas company and a few large landowners will have made their fortunes on the misfortunes of this little group of people who had the courage to stand up to the very powerful and confident gas company.



Residents Take Action to Correct Conduct by Natural Gas Company in Dimock, PA

Families will announce an important development in their fight to restore homes, land and community after environmental onslaught

DIMOCK, PA – Fifteen families living on Carter Road in Dimock Township, Pennsylvania, located in Susquehanna County in the northeast region of the State, plan to announce on Friday, November 20, 2009, the filing of a civil lawsuit in Federal Court in an effort to require a major gas and oil drilling company to repair the damage that has occurred to themselves, their homes and properties as a consequence of drilling for natural gas.

Beginning with Cabot's solicitations in 2006, these families entered into gas lease agreements with Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, headquartered in Houston, Texas. These lease agreements allowed Cabot to extract natural gas from beneath their properties in exchange for monetary compensation. These families, like so many others who signed leases, had high hopes for a better future with the revenue this activity was supposed to provide.

The Carter Road families maintain they were given assurances that their property and land resources would remain substantially preserved for themselves and their children and that their health and quality of life would not be adversely affected by drilling operations. In addition, if it was determined that Cabot’s operations were adversely affecting their water supply, then Cabot would immediately disclose that information to the families and take all steps necessary to return their water supply to pre-drilling conditions.

Instead, these residents have had their hopes dashed, their health threatened, their safety and way of life destroyed, and the pristine land around them compromised.

The complaint will assert that the families suffer environmental contamination and pollution caused by the conduct and activities of Cabot. It will be alleged that Cabot caused the release of combustible gas into the underground water supply and discharged hazardous chemicals and industrial wastes onto properties and into local streams. The families are requesting a clean up under the Hazardous State Clean Up Act, and medical monitoring, as well as compensatory damages for their loss of property value, emotional distress, and personal injury.



GAS UP! ...a collection of articles fyi


"We will sit in front of their bulldozers, their monster trucks, their drills, their rigs, their out-of-state corporate roughnecks, and we will confront the face of corporate power," Luster said. "If our government fails to act, we will. We will impose a people's moratorium."

Almost 1000 attend Ithaca meeting [Thursday] about natural gas drilling
Report from includes video footage from the meeting.

Preceding the meeting, protesters drive home anti-gas message: No Way!
By Krisy Gashler •
November 19, 2009, 9:35 pm

More than 200 people rallied on The Commons Thursday night to spread their message: 'No way' to unconventional gas drilling in New York.

The two-hour rally immediately preceded a public forum on gas drilling held at the State Theatre and hosted by the Tompkins County Council of Governments.

The plethora of posters ran the gamut from professionally printed and wide-as-a-storefront to small signs clearly made by children. They carried messages such as:

* "Do you want brain damage, birth defects and cancer? Stop fracking"

* "Gov. Paterson and DEC: is it OK to poison upstate water but not NYC water?"

* "Alternative Energy? Yes! Alternative fresh water??"

Advocates of gas drilling argue that horizontal drilling into the Marcellus Shale -- the huge geological formation running under the Southern Tier of New York, Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia -- could provide a much-needed financial boost to the state and its rural landowners, and provide a home-grown source of energy that would help make the U.S. less dependent on foreign fossil fuels.

Detractors argue it could harm tourism and farming and pollute aquifers. They promote conservation and aggressive development of alternative energy.

Rally speakers included elected officials, environmental advocates, scientists, youth, and a landowner from Dimock, Pa., where gas drilling in the past year has been connected to well-water contamination.

Sam Bobertz, a 15-year-old student at Northern Lights Learning Center home school cooperative in Trumansburg, spoke for the 12 students in his class who have done a special project to study hydraulic fracturing -- called "fracking" -- the process used to fracture the rock formation and release potentially huge pockets of natural gas.

"There's nothing natural about what they plan to do to the Earth," Bobertz said. "We are young but we get it. Now we need the adults who are in power to get it."

In one of the loudest applause moments of the night, former state assemblyman Marty Luster called on the state to enact a moratorium on gas drilling until all environmental questions are answered.
"We will sit in front of their bulldozers, their monster trucks, their drills, their rigs, their out-of-state corporate roughnecks, and we will confront the face of corporate power," Luster said. "If our government fails to act, we will. We will impose a people's moratorium."

Current Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-125th, said she plans to introduce a bill that would hold gas companies strictly liable, making it easier for people to sue if their properties are contaminated by drilling activities.

"The gas companies say it's safe, the DEC says it's safe . . . no problem," she said sarcastically. "There should be no lobbying on that matter."

Environmental attorney Helen Slottje criticized the DEC's environmental regulations. For example, pits of waste fluid from hydraulic fracturing of the gas-laden rock can be left open with nothing to prevent birds from drinking it, she said.

"The wildlife that flies through here is supposed to be able to look at that and say, 'Oh, that's not a pond, that's a fracking pit,'" she said.

Hydrofracking Friction at DEC's Public Comment Session in Corning

More than 500 people came out to the fourth and final public comment session on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or SGEIS, that was released in September.

Report from includes video footage from the meeting.

The Corning Online Leader reports:

Hundreds crowded the auditorium at Corning East High School, and dozens spoke passionately about their concerns. Many drew loud applause as others held up signs protesting the impending drilling boom in the Southern Tier, television cameras rolled and police officers watched.


Many in attendance claimed the regulations weren’t nearly stringent enough.


“Given the toxicity of the chemicals used in this process and the many devastating cases of contamination we have seen around the country as a result of operator errors, there is full justification for substantial oversight and strong guidelines regulating this activity,” [a statement by U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, D-Corning] said. “Currently, however, the incomprehensive regulatory framework in (the proposed regulations), along with insufficient enforcement capabilities, is inadequate to prevent catastrophes similar to those across the border in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.”


Pa. needs assurances that 'fracking' is safe

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Nov. 19, 2009

In "Money, it's a gas" (Nov. 11), The Inquirer rightly tongue-lashed the state legislature and Gov. Rendell for caving in to Big Gas. A separate story that day reported a great leap backward: 32,000 more acres of state forest lands are leased for gas drilling.

Natural gas is 95 percent methane, a greenhouse gas already responsible for one-third of global warming.

Adding injury to injustice, Big Gas uses toxic technology: horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing - "fracking" - to extract the gas.

Four facts:

Fracking operations use millions of gallons of water per gas well.

Companies mix "acutely toxic" (Environmental Protection Agency designation) chemicals into the water. It is forced underground to fracture the Marcellus Shale, which lies under 63 percent of Pennsylvania.

There is no way to safely treat the wastewater, which also contains metals from deep underground and radioactive materials.

Fracking is exempt from major provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Since key federal regulations do not apply, and the state Department of Environmental Protection can't regulate this rush, we must demand an environmental impact statement for Pennsylvania from the EPA. Until that's done, we need a fracking moratorium in Pennsylvania.

Iris Marie Bloom



Thursday, November 19, 2009

State identifies 32,000 acres of forest for gas drilling

HARRISBURG - Nearly 32,000 acres of state forest land in north-central Pennsylvania will be opened up next month to potential natural gas drilling under a plan to generate revenue for state government, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced Monday.

Setting minimum bids at $2,000 an acre, DCNR officials anticipate that if all 32,000 acres are leased to private drilling firms it will generate $60 million in gas lease revenue to help support the state budget enacted last month.

The budget requires DCNR to lease enough forest land this fiscal year so it can transfer $60 million to the General Fund. It provides $50 million in future royalties from gas production to help operate and maintain state parks and forests. The lease terms set minimum royalties at 18 percent.


DCNR will open six tracts in Elk, Moshannon, Sproul, Susquehanna and Tioga state forests in Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Potter and Tioga counties.

"The tracts represent a little more than 1.5 percent of our total state forest land," said Acting DCNR Secretary John Quigley.

The bids will be opened Jan. 12 and awarded a day later.

DCNR officials have spent the past year conducting an environmental review of the land chosen for drilling. The process starts when drillers identify land they are interested in. DCNR officials say their review focuses on how drilling will affect the health of the forests and ecosystems that support wildlife and other permitted uses of forest land such as public recreation and timber cutting. The department sets conditions on how drillers operate. The head of the statewide environmental group PennFuture expressed concern about how the new drilling will affect hikers and hunters.

PennFuture CEO Jan Jarrett said she is aware of anecdotal stories of hikers in the Tioga State Forest finding trails unexpectedly blocked because of drilling operations. She said the state needs to do a more comprehensive study weighing the impact of drilling on forest activities.

About 660,000 acres of the 2.1 million acres of state forest land is leased for gas production. A lot of that acreage is in the traditional shallow gas fields of Northwest Pennsylvania.

Complete story: CLICK HERE.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gas industry's free pass costs state, residents

Commentary by Laura Vecsey
November 17, 2009, 8:25PM

The winter of our discontent is upon us.

What that means, fellow Pennsylvanians, is that as of this week, there are 319 fewer state
employees doing their jobs on behalf of, well, we the people.

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Historical and Museum Commission saw the largest number of furloughs, but the impact is far-reaching. Attorney General Tom Corbett said last week that the 11 percent budget cut for his office will slow down investigations.

In this Great Recession, in which state and national unemployment are at the highest levels in decades, it’s not inconceivable that the state might have to reduce its workforce or cut back on services.

The real issue is why.

What makes the shortcomings of this budget unforgivable? The lack of courage shown by legislative leaders in just about every corner of the state Capitol.
At the risk of oversimplification, one specific example of cowardly budget-making deserves to be dragged out into the public square now that the budget’s shortcomings are being made manifest by this week’s layoffs:

The failure of this Legislature to pass an extraction tax on natural gas.
In one of the only states in the country that does not have a tax on natural gas extraction, in a state where drilling permits in the mammoth Marcellus Shale bed more than tripled this past year, Pennsylvania lawmakers could not find the political will to do the right thing.

Instead, they tried to pass a tax on theater tickets and museum entry fees. (!!!)

At a PennFuture conference last week, four legislators could not tell when or why the gas tax was turned into a tax on "Tinkerbell," said state Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York.

For the record, Gov. Ed Rendell took the tax off the table in August, saying it had been effectively off the table all year thanks to the GOP and its pledge to slash and burn the state budget into balance.

How much opportunity do ExxonMobil and other multi-billion-dollar energy companies have at their disposal in Pennsylvania? PennFuture said "one company alone has identified 3,900 potential drilling sites in southwestern Pennsylvania."

Yet, the time wasn’t right for Pennsylvania lawmakers to tax this booming industry.

"That tax should have been enacted. There wasn’t any good policy reason that it wasn’t. The tax should have been enacted instead of state lands being leased," said state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware.
Not only did the gas lobby successfully hoodwink lawmakers into the self-serving premise that taxing gas extraction would cripple an emerging industry and cost Pennsylvania jobs and opportunity, but legislative leaders actually opened more state land for gas drill leasing.

The cost of all this, besides acres of irreplaceable state parks and water quality in those fracture-crazed parts of our commonwealth, are a few hundred jobs.
The DEP is losing 138 of 2,737 workers, or 5 percent of its total. The state secretary of administration announced Monday that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is to lose 85 of its 250 workers.

But there will be drilling.
For the complete commentary, CLICK HERE.


Radioactivity Rising... Along with Concern

Schuyler’s Hot

By Peter Mantius
The Odessa File

BURDETT, Nov. 13 -- When the state recently tested brine extracted from all 12 of New York’s active Marcellus Shale natural gas wells, several of the samples were highly radioactive.

Six of those tested wells, including the four found to be the most contaminated, are located in Schuyler County.

The tests conducted between October 2008 and April 2009 found that wastewater from the six deep vertical wells in Orange, Dix and Reading showed concentrations of Radium 226 ranging from 60 to 260 times the legal limit for discharge into the environment.

The results could complicate plans for aggressive natural gas drilling locally and lead to calls for more active radiological monitoring throughout the Marcellus Shale drilling region, including Pennsylvania.

“Whatever entity produces those kinds of numbers will have to be licensed by the state,” said Theodore G. Adams, a radiological and environmental consultant in suburban Buffalo. “The waste will have to be managed, treated and disposed of (to avoid human contact).”

Radium 226, which is intensely radioactive, has a half-life of 1602 years and decays into radon gas.

In July, the state Department of Health expressed concerns about the test results in a confidential letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which conducted the tests.

Existence of the letter was recently reported by the website ProPublica. DEC confirmed that it received the letter but denied my repeated requests for a copy.

So far, the agency isn’t raising alarms about the test results, saying radioactivity readings can vary widely at any given site.

But if further testing confirms that the readings are roughly accurate indicators of current radioactivity levels, it could significantly drive up the cost of extracting natural gas.

Sites that consistently turn in high radiological readings for their brine would need to obtain special licenses, said Adams, a former federal Department of Energy radiation inspector who runs his own firm that serves clients such as Westinghouse and Alcoa.

Adams noted that wastewater or sludge from such wells would likely require expensive special handling.

Fortuna Energy Inc. of Horseheads operates several of the wells that showed high radioactivity readings, ProPublica has reported. But Mark Scheuerman, Fortuna’s general counsel, declined Friday to confirm or deny the company’s involvement. He said the company planned to address a myriad of drilling issues in written comments to the DEC by yearend.

The DEC conducted extensive radiological tests of New York State natural gas wells in 1999 and found little cause for concern. But none of those were Marcellus wells. In contrast, all of the recent tests were Marcellus wells (six in Schuyler, five in Steuben County and one in Chenango County), and several of them showed much higher readings than any of the 1999 tests.

The results are buried deep in an appendix to the state’s draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement for gas drilling. The charts are presented without any explanation or footnotes.
But the simple numbers speak powerfully, according to Adams.

For example, one well in Orange showed Radium 226 concentrations of 16,030 picocuries per liter. Adams said the state and federal limit for legal discharges into the environment is 60 picocuries per liter.

The legal limit for drinking water is 5 picocuries per liter. The limit for water treated at a sewage treatment plant is 600 picocuries per liter.

Three other Schuyler County wells also showed readings of more than 10,000 picocuries per liter. The highest reading detected outside Schuyler County was 7,885 picocuries per liter at a well in Steuben County. (The findings were reported with uncertainty levels of roughly 25 percent).

All 12 of the tested wells were drilled vertically in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation several thousand feet below the surface that extends through most of the Southern Tier, Pennsylvania and parts of West Virginia and Ohio.


Although previous public hearings on drilling have touched on a host of environmental issues, radioactivity hasn’t been a prime concern.

Yancey Roy, a spokesman for the DEC, ...said the 12 tested wells were the only active Marcellus Shale wells in the state. And while more radiological testing is needed, he said, that can’t occur until new drilling operations get underway.

Once fracking begins in New York, “decisions will be made, based on the results, as to the proper handling and disposal of waste materials,” he added.

In the past, brine has been used on state roads to help melt snow. (!!!)

An appendix to the proposed DEC drilling rules says: “The modeling showed that the most common method of brine disposal in New York State, spreading it on the roads to control ice and snow, does not present significant (radiation) doses to the public.”

Roy noted that the DEC is concerned about potential buildup of radioactivity in pipes and other drilling equipment and said that equipment may have to be monitored. NORM is also apt to accumulate in sludge that is a byproduct of well wastewater.

For the complete report, CLICK HERE.


Pennsylvania regulators to inspect gas wells proactively

Tom Fowler
Houston Chronicle: chron
November 18, 2009

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission says it will start inspecting natural gas drilling sites more aggressively, instead of just responding to incidents:

"Until now our agency has only reacted to those drilling sites where a problem resulted in material entering a waterway or wetlands," said Dr. Douglas Austen, PFBC executive director. "We are now taking a proactive approach to identify possible problems at a drilling site and to work with the company to ensure necessary measures are in place to minimize the possibility of damaging nearby waterways."

The agency will focus on those well sites that are in close proximity to Commonwealth waterways, including wetlands. The inspections will determine if adequate measures are in place at the drilling site and access roads to prevent damage to the nearby aquatic resources. As part of the inspections, PFBC staff will also be obtaining water quality data from several locations in the nearby waterway.

Pennsylvania and New York lawmakers have been increasingly nervous over the growth of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale formations because of concerns over the fluids used in a key drilling method, hydraulic fracturing. Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas created a stir in Pa. recently when it was fined for spilling fracking fluid three times. It has since entered into an agreement with state regulators over ongoing operations.


Twelve Marcellus Shale gas drilling wastewater treatment plants proposed in northern Pennsylvania

The Patriot-News
November 18, 2009

The state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing permit applications associated with at least 12 different proposals to build treatment plants for chemical-tainted wastewater from natural gas drilling operations in northern Pennsylvania.

Ten of the plants are proposed in DEP's 14-county north-central region, which is centered on Lycoming and Clinton counties.

DEP issued 1,592 Marcellus Shale gas well drilling permits in the first 10 months of 2009. More than one-third of them were in the 14-county north-central region.


Gathering Line
- a special pipeline that transports gas from the field to the main pipeline.

The Gathering Line is a round-up of oil & gas drilling news brought to you by National Alliance for Drilling Reform (NA4DR), a broad alliance of grassroots activists from states across the nation that are affected with drilling development.

Amy Goodman interviews of Toxics Targeting, an Ithaca, NY-based environmental database firm which released a report last week, uncovering 270 documented hazardous chemical spills which occurred over the past thirty years. PA's own Department of Environmental Conservation's database contained records of fires, explosions, wastewater spills, well contamination, and ecological damage related to gas drilling. Take a moment to watch the interview Amy Goodman Interviews Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting Mr. Hang is calling on NY Governor David Paterson to withdraw the Draft Supplemental Geologic Environmental Impact Statement, citing woefully inadequate reporting which will not come close to protecting the environment, water, and public health. This is a must-see interview! Visit Gas Wells Are Not Our Friends to find out more from Peacegirl!

Would you consider this a small footprint? See the effects of 40 years of drilling! Read it at Cheap Tricks and Costly Truths.

Gas drilling is destroying Pennsylvania's wilderness. The Pennsylvania Wilds include more than 2,000,000 acres of publicly owned virgin forest, clear mountain streams and abundant wildlife. Read about how these public lands are being violated and watch Splashdown for public action you can take soon to defend the Allegheny National Forest, part of the Pennsylvania Wilds.

TXsharon continues to follow the abuses of Aruba Petroleum in a Barnett Shale backyard and Wednesday the Wise County Messenger picked up the story--don't miss the comments. It's all on Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Colleyville tables application for first well site. See story at Flower Mound Citizens Against Urban Drilling

Sue Heavenrich writes about problems with a local compressor station in upstate New York at the "Marcellus Effect." Industrial drilling in Marcellus is impact enough, but without local zoning rural areas are open to invasion by other industrial uses too, including compressor stations. You'll find more on the "Marcellus Effect"


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Landowner's Leasing Logic

My strategy with the energy extraction that is already underway in the whole area is to co-opt the Energy Exploitation corp into actively conserving our little plot of water and land by signing a strongly conservation-led non-disturbance lease. They get the gas down there legally (they don't have to steal it, I mean), and agree to not touch the land or water up here. If they do, we can (I believe) fairly easily and cheaply shut em down with an injunction - something not possible without a lease. A lease transfers the weak legal enforceability of conserving land into the strong legal enforceability of honoring an agreement. Just make sure the agreement is right for us!

If they sign this agreement, they have an 80% interest in protecting the covenants of the agreement (they get 80% we get 20%). They don't have to give a shit about the land and water. But in order to get the gas they have to give a shit about upholding the lease, which demands that they preserve land and water.

Mind you, this is a compromise and is only made possible because all our neighbors have already happily sacrificed their rights over control of their own land so the gas guys can put their rig over there and not on our land. Up until then, I was strongly in favor of no leasing, no dialog, no nothing because that kept them away quite effectively. After the entire valley leased, our holding out prevented nothing, preserved nothing, allowed us to control nothing, not even on our own land. That's when it became preferable to me that we create a binding agreement with the Gas co about how our land is affected.


PA Landowners Get Big Payments as Marcellus Shale Bidding Escalates

Gary Abdullah, Penn State University
November 17th, 2009

UNIVERSITY PARK - As legislators, environmentalists and others strive to balance the many interests involved in developing the natural gas deposits contained in the Marcellus shale formation, a fierce bidding war has doubled the prices being offered for leases in Pennsylvania. The resulting competition could be a boon for landowners, according to experts in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

The nation's economic troubles may have slowed development of natural gas wells for the last year, but energy companies seem to be returning to the state and buying up drilling leases with a vengeance. Joann Kowalski, Penn State Extension economic development educator in Susquehanna County, said the proven performance of existing wells may have companies competing to lock up prime properties in the state's Northern Tier.

"Word hit the street in September that Fortuna Energy was going to be paying the Friendsville Group $5,500 an acre for a five-year lease, with 20 percent royalties for producing wells," Kowalski said. "That was probably about twice the rate that had been offered up to that point. Fortuna had not been buying leases in Susquehanna County before this -- they were doing most of their work in Bradford County."

A second company, Chesapeake Energy, is reported to have offered a higher lease rate to area landowners who had not yet signed with Fortuna, according to Thomas Murphy, energy development extension educator in Lycoming County. While actual offers are unconfirmed by the companies, he says the implications are clear: energy companies are making directly competitive bids to the same landowners, hoping to wrap up lease rights in several counties along the Northern Tier.

"Companies have become very competitive to acquire leaseholds that are still available by offering these higher rates," he said. "A lot has to do with the acreage that they can tie up. The Friendsville Group was offering 37,000 acres in Bradford and surrounding counties and lower New York.

"Once a company knows what gas is there, there's a sense of urgency to acquire as large a foothold as possible," he said. "Other players are moving into the broader Appalachian region and acquiring or expanding some very large footholds, and with that amount of money flowing in, companies interested in getting a foothold are feeling a greater sense of urgency to capture the remaining pieces. Some other landowner groups are still negotiating with companies, and other groups probably will be forming, but that's hard now because so much of the ground in north-central and northeastern Pennsylvania has been leased."

Kowalski explained... "Large groups that negotiate as one can raise the bar for price; then others can benefit from that, as well. It's also advantageous for the company because there's less effort required to make the deal happen. The group has already gone through the steps of formation, so it makes it easier and less costly for a company to acquire a lot of foothold in one fell swoop instead of going to all the individuals independently. And a landowner group often can provide more contiguous acreage, which is valuable for an energy company."
"This is probably the tail end of the initial leasing wave, which has lasted for more than two years," she said. "The amount of land available now is probably pretty small, but this could be repeated as the leases terminate over time. It'll be interesting to see what happens when these leases are up in five years, since the companies will have better well-production records. I believe the companies have found that the wells are producing more than they'd expected, so this could go on for decades."
For the complete story, CLICK HERE.


PA DEP Report of Stray Gas Migration Cases

With the number of gas wells drilled in the Commonwealth since the inception of the industry [back in 1859], the potential exists for natural gas to migrate from the wellbore (via either improperly constructed or old, deteriorated
wells) and adversely affect water supplies, as well as accumulate within or adjacent to structures such as residences and businesses. Collectively, this may represent a threat to public health, safety and welfare, and is a potential threat of a fire or explosion. The Department has documented such occurrences and these cases are provided in this document.

... The gas migration cases are organized into several categories: new wells, operating or active wells, legacy or abandoned wells, and wells associated with underground storage of natural gas.

New wells involve that initial phase of an oil or gas well when the well is being drilled or re-drilled, completed and put into production. For most wells, well completion involves hydraulic fracturing either immediately after the well is drilled or at a later date.

New Wells – Stray Gas Migration Cases

McNett Township, Lycoming County - East Resources – NCRO – July 2009: A natural gas leak from an East Resources Oriskany well was confirmed on July 27, 2009. Methane gas from the well impacted multiple private drinking water wells and two tributaries to Lycoming Creek, forced one resident to evacuate her home, and required the closure of access roads near the well. Company personnel took necessary measures to stop the gas leak at the well and stream and drinking water well conditions improved. The suspected cause of the leak is a casing failure of some sort. East Resources continues to monitor homes and wells in the effected area (approximately 6000 foot + radius) where methane has been documented and reports to the Department weekly. Methane was evident in some wells and the subsurface. One gas extraction system was installed at a residence. The investigation is on-going. The Northcentral Regional office expects to receive a report regarding the incident from East Resources in approximately 30 days.

Dimock Migration, Dimock Twp., Susquehanna County - Cabot Oil and Gas – NCRO - 2009: The Department is actively monitoring domestic water supplies and investigating potential cause(s) of a significant gas migration that has been documented in several homes along Carter Road. Free gas has been encountered in six domestic water supplies and dissolved has been found in several of the wells. The operator has placed pilot water treatment systems on three water supplies. Of particular note is that this area has not experienced previous drilling and recent gas drilling in the vicinity has targeted the Marcellus Shale.

Hedgehog Lane, Foster Twp., McKean County – Schriener Oil and Gas – NWRO – April 2009: The Department is actively investigating the report of fugitive gas in domestic water well. Prior to Departmental involvement, the company drilling gas wells in the area provided a new water well to an affected residence. After stray gas was evident in the water well, apparently the concerned resident approached the company directly, a new water well was provided and the impacted well was plugged with bentonite. Some time later, neighboring water well became impacted with stray gas and the resident contacted the Department. During the investigation, four gas wells were discovered over-pressured. Packers were placed in those over-pressured wells and the wells were brought into regulatory compliance. At this time, a response in the affected water well has not been observed. Complaints of water quality degradation and water diminutions are also under investigation in the area.

Little Sandy Creek Migration, McCalmont Twp., Jefferson County – NWRO – April 2008: In April, 2008 the Department was informed of a large fugitive expression in Little Sandy Creek. Subsequent investigation indicated the presence of combustible gas in the basement of a nearby residence. It was determined that the gas was entering the structure through an un-sealed sump opening in the concrete floor of the basement. The sump was vented through the wall and the threat to the home was minimized. During the investigation the Department discovered that two recently drilled gas wells were over-pressured and were producing from different geologic strata. Isotopic analysis indicated that a specific gas well was the probable source of the fugitive gas and measures were undertaken to reduce pressure on the casing seat. After continued monitoring at the residence, it was determined that the amount of gas in the sump was decreasing. The basement sump remains vented and the problem is dissipating.

Kushequa Migration, Hamlin Twp., McKean County – NWRO – September 2007: A stray gas migration caused a change in water quality and a minor explosion in a community water well. Combustible gas was also encountered in a few private water wells within the village. The Department investigated the stray gas occurrence in September of 2007 and through an investigation determined that a specific over-pressured gas well was the cause of the migration. Pressure was released from the potentially responsible gas well and a positive change in the impacted water well was rapidly noted. Additional production casing was placed in the suspect well to permanently resolve the problem. The responsible party was recently issued a Consent Order and Civil Assessment which they plan to comply. The Department issued a well plugging contract to plug 15 orphan wells adjacent to the water wells.

Alexander Migration, Hickory, Washington County – SWRO: It appears the operator affected an old abandoned well when completing a new well in the area. Stray gas occurs in the soils and contamination exists in private water supplies. DEP is evaluating several wells in the area. The investigation is ongoing.

Five Mile Run A, Knox Twp., Jefferson County – NWRO – April 2009: The Department was made aware that on April 18, 2009 fugitive gas began escaping from a domestic water well. During the investigation, the Department also encountered combustible gas in neighboring water well. At this time evidence is being gathered and it is likely that the cause of the fugitive gas migration may be linked to a recently drilled neighboring gas well. The Department is also investigating three reports of water quality problems that may be associated with the recent gas well drilling in the area. The fugitive gas in the water well is a recent problem and at this time is not linked to the gas in Five Mile Run that is approximately 2,500 feet away.

Five Mile Run, Knox Twp., Jefferson County – NWRO – 2008: Consistent gas streams have been identified at two locations within Five Mile Run. Isotopic samples were obtained in early 2008 and the analysis indicates that the gas is of thermogenic origin. It is unknown when the gas first appeared in the stream. At the time of sampling, only older historic wells (pre-1920’s) were in the vicinity. Presently the area is experiencing an increase in drilling activity. The permitted boundary for the Galbraith Gas Storage Field (operated by National Fuel Gas) is located approximately 4000 feet to the closest stream expression of fugitive gas. The source of the gas at this time is unknown.

Mix Run Migration, Gibson Twp., Cameron County – NWRO – Fall 2007: In the fall of 2007, the Department continued the investigation of fugitive gas reported in the water well of a seasonal residence. The presence of gas in the water well is sporadic with no apparent trends in its occurrence noted. The area has experienced no recent drilling although historic records indicate Oriskany gas was produced in the vicinity. All wells that could be identified and field verified within one mile of the stray gas location are in regulatory compliance. The closest gas well was plugged and a gas well with potentially compromised casing (approximately 3000’ away) was repaired. Gas was not present in the water well at the time of the last inspection in May, 2009.

Ohl Complaint, Hebron Twp., Potter County – NWRO – June 2007: The Department responded to a complaint of fugitive gas in a water well that serves a seasonal structure in June, 2007. Isotopic analysis indicated a possible similar thermogenic origin of the gas in the water well to a neighboring gas well. Initial efforts to vent the suspected gas well to atmosphere for an extended time failed to reduce the amount of gas in the neighboring water well. The new well owner placed a down-hole packer and additional production casing in the well. This action did not produce a reduction in the fugitive gas in the water well. The Department continues to investigate the complaint.

Miller Gas Migration, Liberty Twp, McKean County – NWRO – January 2008: Departmental personnel responded to a report of fugitive gas in a domestic water well that serves a seasonal residence in January, 2008. Investigation by Departmental field representatives discovered that two recently drilled gas well was over-pressured (exceeding the amount of allowable pressure on the casing seat). The operator Placed packers and additional production casing in the gas well, thereby eliminating pressure on the casing seat. The water well was aggressively pumped and over time the amount of combustible gas in the well bore decreased significantly. The gas well was brought back into production when the amount of gas was below the allowable amount.

Head Drive Migration, Millcreek Twp., Erie County – NWRO – Fall 2007. In the fall of 2007, the Department initiated an investigation into the report of fugitive gas in the vicinity of several homes along Walnut Creek. The discovery of fugitive gas in the soil near the residences, forced the Erie County Health Dept. to evacuate the neighborhood. The residents were displaced for at least two months. Through the use of isotopic analysis and with a through investigation performed by the Department’s field staff, it was determined that the recently drilled neighboring gas wells were the cause of the migration. Through a Consent Order with the Department, the responsible party plugged two defective gas wells and placed packers in the remaining gas wells. The case is presently in private litigation.

Hughes Migration, Hamlin Twp., McKean County – NWRO – June 2006: In June, 2006 the Department responded to two water quality/diminution complaints and determined that a change in water quality was evident. Over-pressured conditions were noted at a recently drilled nearby gas well. The gas well operator drilled new water wells for the impacted residences and gas was encountered during the drilling process. Subsequently, when the operator placed additional production casing in the gas well, the Department noted a marked decrease in the amount of gas in the recently drilled water wells. Over time the problem has diminished.

Foote Rest Camp Ground Migration. Hamlin Twp., McKean County – NWRO – Late 1990s: In the late 1990’s, the Department responded to a complaint of gas escaping from an abandoned gas well located in a wooded area near a private campground. During the investigation, it was discovered that an extremely large amount of gas (estimated at more than 100 Mcf/day) was venting from the abandoned gas well. The old well became activated when fracing was completed on a new gas well approximately 4000’away. Installation of production casing placed in the new well prevented additional gas from migrating to the abandoned well and the problem was resolved.

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