Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Search of the Elusive Middle Ground in Natural Gas Development

Natural gas development is a complex issue. It bigger than hydraulic fracturing or fracing, it is bigger than the issues related to water quality, roads, air quality, lifestyle changes, vistas and above all it is bigger than me in my small corner of the world here in the Foothills of the Catskills. While I cannot presume to understand all its related facets, I understand the part that fits into my expertise and that is the part that I choose to discuss . I do not have all the answers but I can supply the bare facts with little of no intepretation.  I also realize that long after this discussion is ended; some of us will remain living here in NYS while some of us will fly south to warmer lands. So, for those of us who live here fulltime, we will be judged by our successors on how we dealt with this perceived crisis. This is the reality and responsibility of expressing ones opinion openly in a public way and it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly.
Having said that; understanding our need for energy simple; it is as simple as flipping on a light switch, it is a luxury that millions of people live daily with the helping hand of fossil fuels. It is so simple that many people take it for granted; when you flip on your light switch you never wonder whether the lights will come on or not. When we raise our fists to the energy companies, we raise our fists to that which we take for granted and have become accustomed to.  Now ask yourself, are we ready to turn off the lights?
The way I see it, we need energy, and as long as we drive cars, power up our homes with electricity, continue to consume large amounts of fuel as a nation, and as long as there are people or communities willing to embrace natural gas development, a different type of vigilance is imperative. This type of vigilance is geared towards the best available protection measures, responsibility and accountability. I was raised to understand that you never put all your eggs in one basket. This is the other basket.  People need to think proactively, to anticipate potential impacts and find ways to minimize them locally, while at the same time maximizing benefits beyond the financial gain. That is, investing in sustainable ideas that can carry us beyond our reliance on fossil fuels.  We all know the "what ought-a-be" but this is the "what is", simply put, this is our reality.  
It is not about denying that there are problems associated with natural gas development, it is about looking at the problems and figuring out practical and realistic solutions that are within our control. It is also not about winners or losers nor is it about who draws the larger crowd or who gets the most comments in response to a newspaper article or blog post, it is about finding the simpler solutions by balancing our needs, and our available resources, with potential consequences. It is not hoping that our energy problems will miraculously go away if we ban them.
Uni Blake
Otsego Proactive Network

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Schenevus Shale Show - July 27, 2011

Starring: Chip Northrup, Julie Huntsman, Kelly Branigan
First of all I did not attend the Shale Show since; I had other commitments and family responsibilities.  So, this is an account from various attendees from both sides and the in between of the spectrum.
The Show was attended by about 150 folks – give or take. About 30 or so were from out of town, which leaves a little more than 100 Town of Marylanders. Of those in attendance about 2/3 are what is considered the base of the anti-ban movement and the rest were looking to learn more about the issue of Natural gas development. Maryland Residents Against Drilling (MRAD) have to be commended for drawing attention to this complex issue to many town residents.
No-one really seems to remember what Chip Northrup focused on but he did make a rather alarming statement about wanting to shoot someone who had a  the yard sign that read “Drill a Well Send a Soldier home.”  (Corrected as per Chip's Comment below)
Julie Huntsman focused on her scripted effort of how to band towns against their Town Board which would eventually lead to rallying towns to ban drilling (I am not sure if she discussed any of the pitfalls of the enacting the bans). She discussed the survey process and the offered folks an opportunity to step up to get involved in local politics as a way to further the anti-gas development agenda.
From my understanding Kelly Branigan discussed the health detriments that come along natural gas drilling.
All and all according to the seasoned forum attendees from both sides, they felt that there was no new information shared. The information presented was not intended to be balanced but was deliberately intended to be one sided.
However, I will give credit to the Schenevus Shale Show (complete with a band and cookies) it served as an effective tool for those reminiscing their “civil disobedience” days back in the 60s. This cause has been viewed as an excellent chance to revive those old feelings of being oppressed by the establishment and acting out. Unfortunately, while the effort served to invigorate the base in the area the Show also served to put off some of the people who had a genuine interest in wanting to learn more.
(Because of the inflammatory nature of the comment attributed to Mr. Northrup and the divisiveness of the issue- I have opted to strike the comment. Its validity or lack of validity can be debated in a different forum -  Uni)

Abating Air Pollution Impact by Using Standards.

The following is a press release from the EPA

EPA Proposes Air Pollution Standards for Oil and Gas Production
Cost-effective, flexible standards rely on operators' ability to capture and sell natural gas that currently escapes, threatens air quality

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed standards to reduce harmful air pollution from oil and gas drilling operations. These proposed updated standards - which are being issued in response to a court order - would rely on cost-effective existing technologies to reduce emissions that contribute to smog pollution and can cause cancer while supporting the administration’s priority of continuing to expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production. The standards would leverage operators' ability to capture and sell natural gas that currently escapes into the air, resulting in more efficient operations while reducing harmful emissions that can impact air quality in surrounding areas and nearby states.

"This administration has been clear that natural gas is a key component of our clean energy future, and the steps announced today will help ensure responsible production of this domestic energy source," said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "Reducing these emissions will help cut toxic pollution that can increase cancer risks and smog that can cause asthma attacks and premature death - all while giving these operators additional product to bring to market.”
Today’s proposal would cut smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from several types of processes and equipment used in the oil and gas industry, including a 95 percent reduction in VOCs emitted during the completion of new and modified hydraulically fractured wells. This dramatic reduction would largely be accomplished by capturing natural gas that currently escapes to the air and making that gas available for sale through technologies and processes already in use by several companies and required in some states.

Natural gas production in the U.S. is growing, with more than 25,000 new and existing wells fractured or re-fractured each year. The VOC reductions in the proposal are expected to help reduce ozone nonattainment problems in many areas where oil and gas production occurs. In addition, the VOC reductions would yield a significant environmental benefit by reducing methane emissions from new and modified wells. Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas - more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Today’s proposed changes also would reduce cancer risks from emissions of several air toxics, including benzene.

EPA’s analysis of the proposed changes, which also include requirements for storage tanks and other equipment, show they are highly cost-effective, with a net savings to the industry of tens of millions of dollars annually from the value of natural gas that would no longer escape to the air. Today’s proposal includes reviews of four air regulations for the oil and natural gas industry as required by the Clean Air Act: a new source performance standard for VOCs from equipment leaks at gas processing plants; a new source performance standard for sulfur dioxide emissions from gas processing plants; an air toxics standard for oil and natural gas production; and an air toxics standard for natural gas transmission and storage.

EPA is under a consent decree requiring the agency to sign a proposal by July 28, 2011 and take final action by Feb. 28, 2012. As part of the public comment period, EPA will hold three public hearings, in the Dallas, Denver and Pittsburgh areas. Details on the hearings will be announced soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stop the Fear Mongering: Water Can be Remediated... The Dimock Case

I keep hearing about aquifers can be contaminated forever, leaving a widespread legacy of "bad" water for future generations. For years, Dimock PA has been the poster child for the anti-drillers this based on the water contamination that occurred. The idea that the water contamination in Dimock would be widespread if Natural Gas development was to occur in New York State has always been one of their strong arguments. The image of the contaminated water in jugs strewn across a street is one that has been used to visually stir fear and dread into unsuspecting folks. Experts have said and still maintain that Dimock water can be treated and will return back to background or baseline levels. The proof is here.
Over the past few months I have been reviewing the data from some of the data that Loren speaks about in the following video clip and he is right; water quality is improving as the groundwater system purges. Watching them take a swig of raw water from Dimock's groundwater is impressive and equally matches the visual of the activists clutching to their jugs of contaminated water. The opponents to natural gas development have clearly maintained that once and aquifer is ruined by meth-mud is WILL NEVER come back and cannot be treated.  This video is a sure contradiction to that fact.

Loren explains his water treatment system and shares his drinking water (from Dimock's Groundwater) Untreated.

This does not negate the fact that some people’s lives were turned upside down when their water was contaminated. This is not an issue that should be taken lightly; there were and continue to be important lessons to be learned from this incident for both the industry and the public.

Stop the Fear Mongering: Potential of a Triple Gas Play in Otsego County

I recently read an email message that was forwarded my way.  It stated that Norse’s plans for Chenango County that can be found here are a “blueprint” for what will come our way in Otsego County. 
I am no energy guru but a look at slide number 5 of the Norse Energy presentation shows a cross section of a triple play in the acreage that Norse Energy has leased in Chenango County. The triple play in this case is the Marcellus, the Herkimer and the Utica; so since Otsego County sits atop similar formations then the insinuation is that we can expect the same.  
Not so fast. There are many things that determine the "playability" of a formation. One of the drivers for our county’s Natural Gas development is the geology. The depth determines the pressure of the gas. Operators talk about “under pressured” and “over pressured” formations.  Under pressured formations are not very interesting and neither are overcooked formations. The other is the regulations. For any Marcellus wells under 2000 feet the permit application requires a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the site which is an added cost. So, companies would rather explore where they are no added conditions.
On Slide 21: Active Marcellus in PA is at 4000 to approximately 9000 feet. Marcellus in Otsego County is mostly below 2000 feet in depth. Marcellus will not be a major player for most of the Otsego County.
One Slide 22: The Utica formation is attractive at greater than 3000 feet. This may be interesting for a gas play in about half Otsego County.
FYI: The proof can be found in the NYSDEC map of the extent of the Marcellus, the portion of Otsego County that is blue has the highest probability of having a triple play, roughly less than a 1/5th of the County. Definitely does not include the Town of Maryland nor does it include all the Towns that are rapidly passing bans in our County.

Town of Maryland’s Survey to Gauge Citizen’s Sentiment about Natural Gas Development

Most of surveys circulating in our Towns (Maryland and Worcester) have one goal and that is to ban natural gas drilling in the Town. The survey in the town of Maryland offered three options:
__Against drilling
__For Drilling
What it failed to include was to explain what the ramifications of each point checked.
·         If you checked that you were against drilling; someone would take your vote and say to the Town Board that :
o   You are against any kind of natural gas development in Maryland (conventional (low impact) and nonconventional (shale));
o   You are against any type of heavy industry ever coming to the town.
o   You want the Town of Maryland to remain exactly how it is; pristine rolling hills, abandoned buildings, horrible spring thaw heaved roads,  “for sale signs” and all.
o   You do not want any type of industrial driven change.
o   You believe that the town has the luxury to pick and choose what kind of potentially positive economic change they can have. That we must only pick those that have “zero risk.”
o   The town must sit back and wait for another opportunity to come around that the Town might consider saying yes to. Despite the fact that the Town has been waiting a long time for things to change for the better.
·         If you checked that you were for drilling; it would be represented to mean that
o   You support drilling in any shape of form, anywhere and anyhow; unsafe or safe.
o   You are all for ruining the environment and ruining people’s health and water
o   You are in it only for the money and nothing else matters
·         If you check that you were unsure; it would mean that
o   Your opinion whatever it is inconsequential.

Most people read into this and opted not to check any of the boxes and not to send back their surveys. The bottom line, if you have anything to say about Natural Gas development in our town, come down to the Town’s Citizens Advisory Committee and make your opinion known and noted. Wednesday 27th at 6:30 pm at the Maryland Town Hall.

Stop the Fear Mongering: Why do Public Officials Say that Hydraulic Fracturing Does Not Compromise Fresh Water

I found this presentation by Dr. Terry Engelder online. The title “Over 1,000,000 hydraulics fracturing stimulations within the USA without compromising fresh groundwater: True or False?” Whilst most environmental activists and majority of the activist informed public will say: False and produce jugs of brown water filled jugs as proof. So, with such proof in hand (pun intended), then why are public officials including EPA Chief Lisa Jackson and the NYSDEC stating that hydraulic fracturing has not contaminated drinking water? 

It goes back to huge task that the scientists have in trying to simplify complicated theories and Dr. Terry Engelder takes a good stab at it.  In this case he uses Darcy’s Law to explain why Frac fluid will not migrate to the surface from the formation. I believe this issue was addressed in a previous post. I have yet to hear an anti-driller challenge Darcy’s Law and the imbibition of frac fluid in the Marcellus formation, yet I still hear about stray frac fluid working its way from below the surface through random cracks and fractures in the mile or so ground between the Marcellus and the groundwater. Darcy’s Law is also mentioned the NYSDEC sGEIS Page 6-53.
He then introduces another term: Meth-mud (short for methane mud). Meth-mud does not follow Darcy’s law so meth-mud can find its way into drinking water aquifers. Drilling releases meth-mud from shallower formations. This has happened once out of every 150 Marcellus wells drilled between 1/2008 and 8/2010. Not perfect, could be better. The NYSDEC in their study for the sGEIS introduced specific well designs and cementing expectations to avoid meth-mud impacts.
The act of hydraulic fracturing a well has NOT impacted groundwater from below. Meth-mud from the actual drilling of the well has impacted water.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dwelling on the Negative Impacts of Natural Gas Development

The increasing reports in the media of problems associated with natural gas development are never mirrored with the industry’s success stories; and we know they are out there.  In my small home town, I can barely walk down the street without someone stopping to ask me a question or deliver to me some friendly advice in any and all topics related to natural gas development. If you live around here and have not heard about “fracking” or “fracing” then I raise my hat to you.
There are so many misconceptions, half-truths, rumors, hypes and rhetoric floating around that it seems virtually impossible to get a straight and consistent answer from anywhere or anyone. I decided to quickly inventory what negative aspects of drilling from some of my encounters in the past week. What I found was that there are two broad perceptions of what negative natural gas development related impacts look like.
The first perception is the one commonly depicted by those who oppose anything to do with natural gas in NYS (except when the natural gas is used for heating their homes or firing up their BBQs). This is the perception recently depicted on a UTICA NBC affiliate primetime news story. The story was about a group of people who took a trip to PA to see firsthand what natural gas development looks like. Their story painted a rather macabre picture. They brought back tales of animals dropping dead after drinking frac fluid, trucks carrying toxic loads of cargo to nearby landfills and of a lady contaminated with radioactive barium (ahem).  These assertions along with others, paint a picture of PA being a vast wasteland of truck conveys, whipping up dust, spilling their toxic loads as they careen round corners and rig-workers carousing and ripping apart towns with their rough lifestyle. In conclusion, PA is a living hell. Note: There is no upside to this version.
The other story was brought back to me from PA by a friend; just a normal everyday Jane Doe who has travelled the Southern Tier for her work. Her downside version, tells of a country side changed by natural gas development; the inconvenient increases in traffic, the longer lines at the gas station and at the delis, the decrease in affordable housing, and the crumbling roads (which most she says are being repaired by the gas companies) and strained infrastructure. There are also stories of people’s wells affected (with water buffalos in their yards) and stories of people inconvenienced by the noise and lights associated with the well drilling.  However, she does note that most of the folks realize that the negative impacts are only temporary and some are looking forward to a return to quieter days. The conclusion, PA residents are dealing with the growing pains related to change.  Note: This version has an upside.
Which version is more realistic, plausible, believable?  I leave that decision up to you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The fight against Natural Gas development is based on what again?


This past week has been an exercise in patience; specifically when dealing with folks who are still on the fringes of understanding what natural gas development entails in its entirety. I can’t even begin to count how many people have approached me with questions about the new “regulations” which I quickly explain are not regulations but permit conditions. Not sure that even helps with the comprehension; but I digress.
The most common complaint that I am hearing is the fact that the NYDEC had the audacity to release the sGEIS and actually claim that the development of natural gas can be done safely. This fact according to some of my accosters is just NOT possible. My response which is pretty much standard is to inquire if they have actually read the sGEIS. My favorite response so far is “What? Read 1096 pages? No Way! And anyway I hear it is flawed.” And the source of the information is usually a website dedicated to anti- natural gas development sentiment. Those particular conversations always end with some kind of statement related to “Water Equality.” “Why is our watershed not as important as NY City’s watershed?”
So, now I am wondering what the anti- natural gas development movement is about. We all know that this issue is politically motivated. Is it now cemented in the upstate versus downstate politics? Why are downstaters still fighting for “water equality” while downstate landowners in the NY City watershed are fighting for “gas equality”?
I am looking forward to hearing and seeing some of the local presenters who talk about how woefully inadequate the “regulations” are; all 1096 pages. I wonder if any of the local speakers will update their presentations to address the changes that have occurred since the last release of the sGEIS or will they keep passing the same rhetoric to people who do not have the time or interest to read the document for themselves.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

NYT Public Editor weighs in on Ian Urbina’s NYT article

Clashing Views on the Future of Natural Gas
Published: July 16, 2011
A NEW YORK TIMES article last month, “Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush,” warned across two columns at the top of the front page that high expectations for companies drilling shale gas might be headed for a fall. It was the kind of story you wish The Times had written about Enron before it collapsed. Or about Bernard Madoff.
The June 26 article, written by Ian Urbina, was clearly intended to offer that kind of signal and specifically invoked “Enron,” “Ponzi schemes” and “dot-coms” in the early paragraphs.
Raising the prospect of a fall, though, is a journalistic gamble. Adding to the risk, the story painted its subject with an overly broad brush and didn’t include dissenting views from experts who aren’t entrenched on one side or another of the subject. After publication, critics jumped in with both feet.
A UBS investment analyst, William A. Featherston, and colleagues issued a report saying that the article, part of The Times’s continuing “Drilling Down” series on shale gas, was “unduly harsh,” failed to recognize the “enormous” growth of shale gas in recent years and offered no “credible source and context.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Op-Ed on Ian Urbina's NYTs Articles

Numerous folks have weighed in the “drilling down series” by Ian Urbina, this one analyzes the timing of his articles and the relevance of the article’s content.

Exposing the Demonizers of Shale Gas

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth
WASHINGTON-You're Ian Urbina, a senior New York Times reporter. In February and March you write that hydraulic fracturing, a method of natural gas extraction, is contaminating Pennsylvania drinking water. Your accusations are subsequently disproved by government tests.
What do you write next?
You write a three-part series in the Times saying that shale gas production is "inherently unprofitable" and a giant Ponzi scheme, as well as loosely-regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
No matter that many emails you cite quoting industry managers, geologists, government officials, and market analysts are two years old. No matter that two of your supposedly objective sources are environmental activists. No matter that profit-maximizing companies are investing billions of dollars in shale gas.

Opportunities of Shale Energy: The Considine Report

The Economic Opportunities of Shale Energy Development
By Timothy J. Considine, University of Wyoming, Robert W. Watson,The Pennsylvania State University,
Nicholas B. Considine, Natural Resources Economics

Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing have unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas in the United States. Development of these resources is now well under way in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Unlike their neighbors to the south, however, New York residents are not directly benefiting from natural gas development as the result of a government-imposed moratorium, itself a response to environmental concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing. This study analyzes the economic and environmental impacts of shale gas drilling in New York and finds the net economic benefits to be significantly positive. Specifically:
  • An end to the moratorium would spur over $11.4 billion in economic output.
  • Some 15,000 to 18,000 jobs could be created in the Southern Tier and Western New York, regions which lost a combined 48,000 payroll jobs between 2000 and 2010.*
  • Another 75,000 to 90,000 jobs could be created if the area of exploration and drilling were expanded to include the Utica shale and southeastern New York, including the New York City watershed. (This assumes a regulatory regime that protects the water supply but permits drilling to continue.)
  • Localities and the state stand to reap $1.4 billion in tax revenues if the moratorium is allowed to expire.
This study also reviews the public records of environmental violations reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over the period 2008–10. It then quantifies the impact of these violations on land, water, and air resources. The costs of these environmental impacts are then estimated on the basis of the value of the environmental amenities at stake. Our main finding is that the cost of these environmental impacts is far smaller than the economic benefits that drilling can provide.
  • The typical Marcellus shale gas well generates about $4 million in economic benefits.
  • The economic damage resulting from the environmental impacts of a typical shale gas well comes to $14,000.
The expected environmental costs are so low because the probability of an environmental event is small, and those that do occur are minor and localized in their effects.
Those environmental problems that have arisen in connection with hydraulic fracturing in no way call into question the soundness of that procedure. In reality, they result from improper drilling and well-casing technique and defective formulation of cement. Such errors and flaws allow wells to penetrate shallow gas deposits, permitting the gas within them to escape and enter groundwater supplies. Marcellus gas resides far below these deposits and any aquifers. More stringent design standards should be adopted, and more active regulatory oversight should be exercised. These steps would reduce the incidence of such problems.
Our findings suggest that the current shale gas drilling moratorium imposes a significant and needless burden on the New York State economy. In short, the economic benefits of developing shale gas resources in New York State are enormous and could be growing, while the environmental costs of doing so are small and could be diminishing if the moratorium is lifted and if proper policies are put into place.
*Based on third quarter data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, maintained by the New York State Department of Labor. Posted at

Read the report here:

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Town of Maryland to form a natural gas citizens advisory committee

Town of Maryland to Convene a Natural Gas Development Citizens Advisory Committee
Natural gas development has proven to be a complex issue, with many details and many potential ramifications (both positive and negative) that need to be addressed on a local level. In response, the Town of Maryland has opted to convene a Citizens Advisory Committee to develop an understanding of the widespread issues related to natural gas development in the Township.
The Town board has recommended that the committee be comprised of nine members; three in support of the development, three opposed and three who are considered ambivalent. The committee will meet twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the Month at 6:30 pm. The first meeting for interested individuals is scheduled for Wednesday the 27th of July at 6:30 pm at the Maryland Town Hall. There will be a brief presentation on the proposed committee which will be followed by a moderated discussion. After which applications for those individuals interested in joining the committee will be handed out.
This is an open committee and any residents with an interest in the topic are welcome to attend the meetings and offer constructive input. It is anticipated that the advisory committee will offer advice and recommendations to the Town Board regarding the broad and divisive issue of natural gas development.
 More information will be posted at the Town Hall

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Morning Reading- Headlines on Natural Gas Development

Environmental groups are anxious about the impact that drilling for natural gas will have on New York State.
Meanwhile, from Binghamton west to Elmira, 15,000 people who would like to be employed aren't. Who will prevail in the battle over hydraulic fracturing, the controversial drilling technique used to extract natural gas from deep below the surface? Will it be the environmentalists or will it be those eager for economic growth in parts of New York like the Southern Tier, where growth has been elusive?
Actually, there doesn't have to be a winner and a loser.
"The one thing we have in New York State that not all states have is high environmental standards,"* Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, told me last week. He believes the same standards will exist for hydrofracking. TO read more :

*(Funny thing, that’s exactly what I said when I testified at the State Assembly. “New York State has more environmental foresight” maybe it didn’t make sense to many, but it is true)

Hydraulic fracturing is a safe process that results in needed energyBy Dave McCurdy

Posted: 07/10/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT

When engineers first coined the term "hydraulic fracturing," it's a safe bet they never expected that such an arcane technical phrase would need to be understood by the general public.
For years, this innovative, natural gas well completion process, which has been used to release natural gas by fracturing shale and other rock formations, was only understood by industry scientists who perfected the technique, by the state and federal officials who regulated them, and by the hard-working men and women who carried out the jobs to bring natural gas to the millions of Americans who use it every day.
Today, however, the term has gone mainstream as the increased production of natural gas from hydraulic fracturing has resulted in an economic boom in the areas it is being used. The result has been significant job creation and increased tax revenues for cities and states in those areas, as well as economic benefits to local mineral owners.
Read more: Hydraulic fracturing is a safe process that results in needed energy - The Denver Post
By Dave McCurdy is president and CEO of the American Gas Association

Bishops, Nuns and Rabbis Debate Gas Fracking

Published: July 9, 2011 at 2:57 PM ET
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bishops, nuns and rabbis are joining the environmental and social debate over natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region, and many are seeking a balance that reflects their congregations.
"We have people's lives who are being blessed or adversely affected by this," said Bishop Thomas Bickerton of Pittsburgh, who leads more than 800 United Methodist congregations and 187,000 members in western Pennsylvania, where major drilling is taking place.
"The conversations within the church are rather lively and robust," Bickerton said, and he thinks gas drilling "warrants some careful looking"
Bickerton told The Associated Press that it's a delicate topic. On one hand, he's very supportive of the economic development which gas drilling has spurred across the region. On the other, he said it appears the state has not thoroughly looked at all the issues around drilling, its impact on communities and the environment*.
To read more: by religious groups and public officials.
*(I really wonder what more the state can do make it “appear” to activists that they have looked “more” into the issue of natural gas development.)

City of Morgantown Sued: Company may seek millions

By Alex Lang
The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.July 08--The gas company suing the city of Morgantown* over its fracking ban has requested a hearing on a preliminary injunction to be scheduled for August and is threatening the city that it will seek tens of millions of dollars in compensation if the ban is upheld.
Northeast Natural Energy made several filings in Monongalia County Circuit Court late Thursday.
"Northeast intends to prosecute its claim against the City of Morgantown aggressively and to the fullest extent. We remain confident that the drilling ordinance passed by the Morgantown City Council is deficient from both procedural and legal standpoints and that it will be ultimately struck down," Mike Garrison, an attorney representing Northeast Natural Energy, said in a statement.
"In the unlikely event, however, that the ordinance is upheld, Northeast will seek tens of millions of dollars from the city for compensation for the unlawful taking of the property rights and the permanent damage to its investment in this project."
Read more:
*insert the name of your town/city here...

Friday, July 8, 2011

DEP Says Oil and Gas Company NOT Responsible for Barium Levels in Drinking Water Well

Case and point, the unfortunate case of the young PA mother who was diagnosed with Barium poisoning.  When her story hit the news, it was assumed to be sure evidence of natural gas drilling’s health impact; after all chemicals were found in her drinking water and she lived in relative close proximity to a well.  However, one of the keys to determining if a link/pathway did exist between the neighboring natural gas well and her drinking water well was in the make-up of chemicals found. If her well had been impacted by frac fluid, an increase in brine chemicals above the general water quality of the region would have been a giveaway. Or if the changes were caused by gas migration then there would be the associated turbidity accompanied with an obvious elevation in levels of methane and other natural gas associated constituents.
A quick literature search back in April when this news hit the media, I discovered articles and research that related to her underlying bedrock geology with was associated with elevated levels of barium in aquifers. This information was readily available to anyone interested in looking beyond the assumptions. Anyway, to cut to the chase, Chief Oil and Gas and the DEP both investigated her claim and determined that the drilling activity was not responsible for the elevated levels of barium in her drinking water well.

Preliminary Revised Draft SGEIS on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program (July 2011)

Now available on the DEC website.....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

API: New York DEC recommendation to lift moratorium on hydraulic fracturing falls short

API: New York DEC recommendation to lift moratorium on hydraulic fracturing falls short


WASHINGTON, July 1, 2011—API’s President and CEO Jack Gerard criticized the recommendation by the Department of Environmental Conservation to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow hydraulic fracturing in the state as an inadequate step toward making New York State a leader in the responsible production of natural gas.
"Ending the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is hardly great news in the development of one of the world’s largest resources of clean burning natural gas if it still leaves much of the Marcellus Shale region off-limits to responsible development.
"Although the Department of Environmental Conservation acknowledges that natural gas can be developed safely and responsibly, a more effective balance is necessary to be sure it is not just paying lip service on an issue that could create thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in government revenue."
API represents more than 470 oil and natural gas companies, leaders of a technology-driven industry that supplies most of America’s energy, supports more than 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7 percent of the U.S. economy, delivers $86 million in revenue to our government every day, and, since 2000, has invested nearly $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.