April 11th, 2013 7:00 PM Bunners Ridge Volunteer Fire Dept.
4/3/2013 "Friends of Deckers Creek"
Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Community Symposium
Sunday, April 14
2:00p – 4:30p
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
309 Baldwin St, Morgantown
Google map: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=309+Baldwin+Street,+Morgantown,+WV&hl=en&ll=39.65088,-79.971113&spn=0.003692,0.006539&sll=39.478978,-79.813131&sspn=0.005234,0.013078&oq=309+Baldwin+&t=h&hnear=309+Baldwin+St,+Morgantown,+West+Virginia+26505&z=18
FODC is hosting our final community symposium on the impacts of natural gas drilling, as part of our Watershed Bill of Rights project. This symposium will focus on the impacts to our water resources and discuss federal and state regulations governing the gas industry. Our guest speakers are Marc Glass, environmental consultant at Downstream Strategies (DS), and Terri Davin, president of the Greene County (PA) Watershed Alliance. Mr. Glass will present field observations and monitoring results for several DS projects investigating environmental impacts from shale gas development, information on some of the significant changes to the West Virginia regulatory structure provided under the Horizontal Well Act, and will also contrast the way oil and gas production is regulated compared to other state and federal regulatory programs. Ms. Davin will share stories from Greene County residents who have had first-hand experience with gas drilling and the effects of that drilling on their drinking water or other water resources on their land or property.
As natural gas drilling continues to expand its reach, it’s important for all of us to be informed and prepared to help prevent possible future pollution within the Deckers Creek watershed and throughout the region.
See you there!
Workers for Williams Partners responded to a rupture of one of the company’s 24-inch pipelines along Reid Ridge Road, south of Cameron in Marshall County, Friday afternoon.
Marshall County Emergency Management Deputy Director Mike Mucheck said about 30 area residents evacuated their homes for about two hours before they were cleared to return. He said the Cameron Volunteer Fire Department immediately dispatched to the scene upon receiving the 911 call, along with Marshall County sheriff's deputies.
Additional personnel also responded but were allowed to stand down once they received word the situation was under control.
"There was no fire - thank goodness," Mucheck said. "We have never had any problems with Williams at all. With as much work as there is going on in this county, you are bound to have something happen at some point."
Hartley said the line was one that Williams recently installed, so he said officials would have to investigate the cause of the problem. The company expects to begin repairs on the damaged section of pipe as soon as next week.
Hartley emphasized this line carried only dry methane gas, as opposed to wet ethane, propane, butane or oil.
Companies like Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams are known in the oil and gas industry as processors or "midstreamers." This is because Williams accepts wet Marcellus and Utica shale gas from drillers such as Chesapeake Energy, Gastar Exploration and Trans Energy.
Last year, Williams paid $2.5 billion to acquire the Fort Beeler plant and its related pipelines and facilities from Caiman Energy. Williams is also operating its fractionator, south of Moundsville along the Ohio River on the former Olin Chemical property.
At processing plants, midstreamers separate the methane from the liquids so that the methane can be sold by utility companies, such as Mountaineer Gas or Columbia Gas.
A fractionator separates ethane, propane, butane and other liquid portions of the gas stream from each other so the products can be individually marketed.
January 29, 2013
DEP behind schedule on gas drilling studies
By Ken Ward Jr.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State regulators are behind schedule on the release of two key studies mandated as part of the legislation that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin touted as a "milestone" in addressing concerns about the boom in natural gas drilling in Marcellus Shale regions of West Virginia.
In the bill, lawmakers ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection to conduct studies of noise, light and dust from drilling operations, air pollution from well sites, and the use of wastewater impoundments by the oil and gas industry.
The study on noise, light and dust was to be provided to the Legislature by Dec. 31, 2012, and the study on wastewater impoundments by Jan. 1, 2013. Neither report has been finalized and given to lawmakers, officials confirmed this week.
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said work on the impoundment study is complete but that there were problems with the formatting of a report prepared for the DEP by researchers at West Virginia University.
"We don't have it in a complete document that I feel comfortable turning in," Huffman said Tuesday.
Huffman added that WVU researchers included some recommendations about the handling of wastewater used in gas drilling that went beyond what they were technically asked to do, and the DEP wanted to remove those portions before submitting the report to lawmakers.
"There's nothing wrong with them making those kinds of recommendations, but that's not what was asked for," Huffman said.
Under the Horizontal Well Act, passed during a December 2011 special session, the wastewater impoundment study was to examine "the safety of pits and impoundments ... including an evaluation of whether testing and special regulatory provision is needed for radioactivity or other toxins held in the pits and impoundments."
"Upon a finding that greater monitoring, safety and design requirements or other specialized permit conditions are necessary," the DEP is required to propose new rules to establish those requirements.
Huffman said he anticipates that lawmakers will want to see some results from this study when the new legislative session begins in mid-February, and he hopes to have a report completed by then.
In another study, the DEP was to examine "the noise, light, dust and volatile organic compounds generated by the drilling of horizontal wells" to determine if a 625-foot buffer zone between drill sites and homes was adequate. If the buffer distance is determined to be inadequate, the DEP would have authority to propose new rules to deal with the issue.
Huffman said that study, due to lawmakers by Dec. 31, 2012, is not close to being finished.
"That one has a lot of holes and gaps in it," Huffman said. "There is still some data to be collected. We don't have a date yet on when it will be done."
The third study required by the legislation -- examining air pollution from oil and gas operations -- is not due to lawmakers until July 1, 2013.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.
This is an old story, but its worth revisiting.
Fracking' brine | Gas-well waste full of radium
Study suggests water trucked to Ohio from Pa. might be radioactive
If this waste material is not harmful, why are we shipping it to OHIO and pumping it down wells?
DOMINION POST Friday 25 January 2013:
It’s time to scratch more than surface
Legislature should put land rights back on the table when it convenes
We all now understand how extractive industries have changed everything in West Virginia. From the way budgets for governments are calculated to how energy is generated and communities prosper, or don’t, is weighed by which minerals — and how much of them — are removed from our land. Though what many of us didn’t see until recent years is it’s not really our land. The gap separating surface owners’ rights and mineral owners’ right, you might say, is an open pit — deep and dark, but not exactly a secret, anymore. A recent report in our pages about two Wetzel County families assaying the scope of surface owner rights reminded us that this issue lies buried right before our eyes. Those cases are still tied up in federal courts, and as a rule, we don’t generally don’t comment or attempt to play judge or jury in active litigation. However, we never tire of calling attention to the underlying conflicts that give rise to such cases and conditions. In less than three weeks, the state Legislature will once again convene in a 60-day regular session. Last time the Legislature convened, it was coming off a special session in December 2011 that passed a historic bill that created a framework for regulating gas extraction. At that time, our impression of this bill was of something we could work with, or as we pointed out then, “When (Gov.) Tomblin signs this bill, it heralds a regulatory beginning — not an end — to this issue.” That’s still our impression. And although at least one lawmaker introduced some 20 bills to amend these regulations last year, most of us wanted to see how it would all shake out. Though this legislation met with some disfavor from both industry and environmental lobbyists, surface owner groups were none too happy. And its apparent why, in light of cases like the ones above, where waste pits were left behind; and for other reasons, including increased setbacks from structures and waterways. We realize that there might not be much enthusiasm by the governor and lawmakers in both chambers of the Legislature to take up surface owner rights, but it needs to be on the table, again. Ensuring surface owners’ property is left behind the way it was found, when the extraction process is completed, is the least that should be done. Problems left behind to fester for decades from extractive industries are not new. Deckers Creek, for instance, which runs through the heart of this community, was poisoned by a coal operation more than 60 years ago. That’s not changed. But it is time for real changes to protect surface owners’ rights.
SKYTRUTH ALERT: NRC REPORT: DRILLING MUD (LOW TOXICITY) IN PAW PAW NEAR FAIRVIEW, WV 2013-01-14
NRC Report ID: 1035694
Incident Time: 2013-01-14 15:45:00
Nearest City: Fairview, WV
Location: SEE LAT/LONG
Incident Type: FIXED
Material: DRILLING MUD (LOW TOXICITY)
Medium Affected: WATER
Suspected Responsible Party: M3 APPALCHIA GATHERING
Lat/Long: 39.570556, -80.209167 (Explicit)
Reported Spill Volume: 400 gallons
CALLER REPORTED THAT 400 GALLONS OF DRILLING MUD CAME UP THROUGH AN OLD WELL NEAR THE WORK SITE AND WENT INTO THE WATER
Huge Flaws Exposed in Natural Gas LNG Export Report
From EcoWatch, December 17th
According to a press release from U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a report submitted to the Department of Energy on the impacts of natural gas exports uses two-year-old data and makes other key missteps. Rep. Markey, Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee, pointed this out in a comprehensive critique of the study sent to DOE Secretary Steven Chu.
According to Markey, the critique comes as some are using the flawed report to advocate for a national policy on natural gas exports that could send huge percentages of the domestic fuel to foreign markets—raising prices for American consumers and businesses.
“I was disappointed to find fundamental flaws with the study that I fear may have led to conclusions that severely underestimate the negative impacts of large-scale natural gas exporting,” Rep. Markey writes to Secretary Chu. “Given the important role this study may play in determining U.S. natural gas export policy, I strongly urge that the study’s methodology be reevaluated in some key areas, that the most recent projection data available be utilized in the model, and that the model be re-run and re-analyzed.”
In the letter to US DOE Secretary Steven Chu, Rep. Ed Markey points out major flaws in the report conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, including:
NERA’s model used energy projection data published in 2010, a time when the full extent of the shale gas revolution and its impact on America’s electric, manufacturing, and transportation sectors was not fully understood. This old data badly underestimates the growth that has already occurred in domestic natural gas demand as well as demand that is expected in the future. For example, the data used by NERA projected that natural gas use in the U.S. power sector would actually decline between 2010 and 2020. In reality, natural gas use in the power sector has already grown by 27 percent since 2010, and the latest EIA projections are that it will grow 11 percent between 2010 and 2020. The 2012 report was available, and now the 2013 version has been released, but 2010 data was inexplicably used instead.
The report used an analysis of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill that passed the House in 2009, but misinterpreted both the bill and the analysis. The bill protected energy-intensive industries like steel and plastics that might have incurred extra costs in a carbon-constrained world, but unfettered natural gas exports would provide no such protections for American industries, putting domestic jobs at risk. NERA said they could not analyze the sector-by-sector impacts of natural gas exports, even though the Waxman-Markey study they misinterpret does exactly that.
The NERA report fails to assess the relative economic impacts associated with domestic industrial utilization of natural gas compared to exporting, and it made inaccurate assumptions regarding who would benefit through exporting. The report does not account for the very narrow distribution of income resulting from natural gas exports and investments held in gas companies, and does not do a full analysis of the impacts on American jobs.
“The flaws in the NERA study indicate that we still have a long way to go before we can be confident that large-scale LNG exporting is truly in America’s interest and can be done in a way that protects American consumers and manufacturers,” writes Rep. Markey. “It is critical that policy makers and the American people have a true understanding of the full impacts of exporting domestically produced natural gas before the Department moves forward in granting additional LNG export permits.”
Barbara Daniels: Gas well brine on roads is risky
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new agreement between the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Highways dated Dec. 12, 20ll, states that "gas well brine" -- but not hydraulic fracturing fluids (frack brine) -- will be used to de-ice West Virginia roads.
However, repeated requests to the DEP to determine if any efforts will be made to verify the sources of the brine have not been satisfactory. DEP said suppliers provide the initial analysis of what is in the brine. DEP said the Division of Highways will periodically check the contents of the brine, and that Highways regularly inspects brine tanks and secondary containers. It still doesn't say whether anyone is checking for radioactive material.
The main characteristic of frack brine is high radioactivity (up to 3,000 times the safe drinking level). Yet radioactivity is not on the test list. Other toxins, nevertheless, such as benzene and toluene, found especially in frack brine, and which if too high, could be a problem for de-icing, are on the list. Why is there a test for common frack brine chemicals, problematic for de-icing, if it is not to be used?
Moreover, why is there suddenly plentiful "gas well brine" just when the gas industry (which, incidentally, brings most of its employees from out of state) is at a loss for a place to dispose of hundreds of millions of gallons of this waste?
According to filmed Senate testimony, 596 different chemicals are added to the water pumped underground. Twenty-eight of these are potent carcinogens or cause brain damage. Half of this poisoned water, millions of gallons per frack, returns to the surface, bringing up with it radioactive material from the shale.
Deep-well injection of frack waste is known to cause earthquakes and is also suspected of producing fissures into aquifers -- while wastewater treatment plants are refusing it.
If radioactive waste in the form of frack brine is spread on our streets, some of it, the small but heavy particles, can accumulate in crevices and soil instead of washing off. Soluble forms, like radium chloride, could be carried into water supplies. This radioactive matter, being so close, would then likely spread into homes.
At close range, even small amounts of long-term radiation are deadly. Greatly increased rates of cancer, birth defects, organ failure, IQ loss and early aging are shown by studies done after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
This could be a true emergency. Though legislators and media are apparently tied to gas companies, public awareness has usually triumphed in similar instances. But time is short. Winter is coming. If you are concerned, please contact officials and media. Pass out flyers, post signs, host meetings. De-icing with radioactive fracking waste will impact all of us.
And, if you have a radiation detector, please consider testing a site on the soil edge of a street, and another one well off road, before, and long after, de-icing starts. Record time, date, location and readings, and the make and model of the detector. Write down everything you have done and observed and sign it all in front of a notary (free at most libraries).
At the same time, notify pertinent authorities that you are doing this, and why, by return receipt or e-mail, and keep copies of everything. Your efforts may be crucial!
Pittsburgh inspired Colo. town's fracking ban
December 9, 2012 12:43 am
By Laura Olson / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
In a suburban Colorado town this fall, Michael Bellmont has been using the city of Pittsburgh as an inspiration and rallying cry.The insurance agent-turned-activist struck out on the warpath against hydraulic fracturing, a process that was coming closer to his hometown of Longmont and one he had come to view as unregulated and risk laden.He had read about the drilling ban approved 1,500 miles away in Pittsburgh in 2010. It left such an impression that he gave the Pennsylvania city a shout-out in the guitar tune he wrote about making sure "we'll have no frickin' frackin' in this town.""I thought, by golly, if Pittsburgh can do it, we can do it too," Mr. Bellmont said in an interview last week.He was right.In last month's balloting, the initiative he worked on to prohibit hydraulic fracturing sailed to victory with support from about 60 percent of Longmont's voters.Their approval turned a recently beefed-up set of local oil and gas drilling regulations -- which already had prompted a lawsuit from state environmental officials -- into an outright ban similar to Pittsburgh's.Supporters cheered the result as providing residents with protections from potential air and water risks that they believed state and local government had failed to guarantee. Some nearby communities, including Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, in turn have begun overhauling their own rules for energy companies.But state and industry officials prefer to keep drilling oversight powers mostly centralized, with both saying they're attempting to reach out to local towns that harbor concerns about the latest drilling technology."It's been a concern that we would see a patchwork of local regulations," said Todd Hartman, spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. "While we want to police the industry well, we don't want them to necessarily pull up stakes and leave town. Having a system where you have 300 different sets of regulation would not be conducive."The Niobrara boostThat's an argument familiar in Pennsylvania, where the proliferation of strengthened local drilling rules -- in a state with roughly 2,600 municipalities -- has raised industry concerns as companies drill in the Marcellus Shale.State lawmakers responded earlier this year by including a section in the bill now known as Act 13 to standardize local zoning rules. A set of mostly southwestern Pennsylvania towns with rules exceeding those standards then sued state government, with Commonwealth Court overturning part of those zoning standards in July.Mineral extraction and its related regulations are nothing new to Colorado, which has seen plentiful activity in its western region in particular for decades.But with the discovery several years ago that the Niobrara geologic formation's oil reserves could be accessed using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, extraction reignited in northeastern Colorado.The region around Longmont, about 40 miles north of Denver, has grown in population since its historic gas wells were drilled. As towns there grew, the distance between suburban development and drilling areas shrank.The Niobrara discovery also came as the 2010 anti-fracking documentary "Gasland" from HBO began to bring national attention to the process of extracting gas by shattering rock using water laced with sand and chemicals."This renewed or enhanced interest in region and more attention from activists, they bumped into each other," Mr. Hartman said.Colorado state government significantly rewrote its drilling regulations in 2007, but last year officials began to hear concerns that the required setback distances -- which weren't altered in the 2007 changes -- would allow drilling too close to homes and schools.The state now is amid its rule-making process to alter setbacks and adjust groundwater monitoring procedures, with more hearings this week on the setback proposal.However, as state bureaucracy weaves and winds through hearings and revisions, some local governments aren't waiting around.Longmont City Council in July approved an ordinance that prohibits drilling activity in residential areas. Among other provisions, the ordinance also requires a 750-foot setback from homes or other occupied structures, compared with the state's 350-foot requirement, and certain groundwater monitoring procedures.State officials threatened to sue if the ordinance passed, and after the 5-2 council vote, the oil and gas commission filed its legal brief.Mr. Hartman described the lawsuit as a "highly unusual" step for the agency."We feel that if this is the direction that this is going, if cities want to develop extremely stringent regulations, we need the court to guide us," he said.When the nearby town of Greeley attempted to ban drilling in the 1990s, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the state's overriding authority to regulate the industry.Still, Colorado's local governments generally have strong home-rule powers, said Bruce Kramer, a retired Texas Tech law professor and adjunct faculty at the University of Colorado Law School."Predicting how a court is going to interpret issues of pre-emption is difficult at best," Mr. Kramer said.Taking it to the streets
The pending litigation against Longmont focuses on the city ordinance, not the citizen initiative that was sparked from the growing frustrations of activists like Mr. Bellmont and his group, Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont.Hundreds of volunteers rallied and knocked on doors to spread the word about the proposed ban, as drillers reportedly spent $500,000 on their own efforts to defeat it.Activists also drew headlines when Gov. John Hickenlooper participated in a forum there this fall, drawing a crowd of angry protestors shouting that he should end fracking in Colorado.Mr. Bellmont said that while at first he was supportive of the effort to change local setbacks, that goal shifted to a ban as he read more about potential health hazards from fracking."City government was not going to respond to their duty to protect citizens from a health mandate," Mr. Bellmont said. "We realized there was no alternative but for the citizens to take the matter into their own hands."Despite the outspoken opposition in Longmont, state officials and industry representatives say the town's reaction to increased activity has been the exception, not the norm.Officials point to success in their effort to designate local government contacts in each town to aid in disseminating information about wellpad accidents or other site activity.For the industry's part, the state trade group has been working with Colorado Springs on its draft drilling rules and is reaching out to a number of other municipalities."We are very disappointed in the outcome of the Longmont vote," said Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. "While not every jurisdiction has energy resources, those that do should ponder the burdens they are placing on other communities when they refuse to develop the resources we all rely upon."The initiative vote leaves Longmont vulnerable to another lawsuit, though not one from state officials, according to the Denver Business Journal.Mr. Hickenlooper told an industry conference Thursday that the state may lack standing to sue over the initiative but that it would support potential legal challenges made by drillers.The regulatory upheaval and state litigation hasn't been what Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs expected when he was elected 13 months ago to lead the community of 87,000.He's pledged to defend both the ordinance and the initiative's changes to the city charter. He even speaks positively of Mr. Hickenlooper, saying he believes the governor is trying to do his best when it comes to industry activity and their dispute."You've got to respect the democratic process," Mr. Coombs said. "It's a pretty crazy world. I'm proud of their willingness to step up and get engaged."
Fluid Migration Mechanisms Due To Faulty Well Design and/or Construction
By Anthony R. Ingraffea, Ph.D., P.E., October 2012.
SUMMARY. See full paper “here.”
The most recent experience with shale gas wells in the Pennsylvania Marcellus play reflects long term, world-wide industry data with respect to new wells with compromised structural integrity. Operator-wide statistics in Pennsylvania show that about 6-7% of new wells drilled in each of the past three years have compromised structural integrity.
This apparently low failure rate should be seen in the context of a full buildout in the Pennsylvania Marcellus of at least 100,000 wells, and in the entire Marcellus, including New York, of twice that number.
Therefore, based on recent statistical evidence, one could expect at least 10,000 new wells with compromised structural integrity. It is too early to discern whether the other industry experience with this technical problem, an increase in loss of integrity with well age, will also be reflected.
However, at play in modern shale gas development are many of the key factors identified by industry researchers as having a negative influence on well structural integrity: the need for deviated wells, rapid development of a field, presence of “shallow” high-pressure gas horizons, and disturbance of young cement due to adjacent drilling activities on the same pad.
Display 1: 1,609 wells drilled in 2010. 111 well failures. 6.9 % rate of failure.
Display 2: 1,979 wells drilled in 2011. 142 well failures. 7.2 % rate of failure.
Display 3. 1,040 wells drilled Jan/Aug 2012. 67 well failures. 6.6 % rate of failure.
Display 4. Consistent with previous industry data, and not improving.
Lawsuit raises questions over DEP’s testing of water for drilling contaminants
About Bill Vidonic
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff Reporter Bill Vidonic can be reached at 412-380-5621
By Bill Vidonic
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012, 7:08 p.m.
Updated 4 hours ago
A Washington County lawsuit alleging that gas driller Range Resources contaminated three families’ drinking water has raised questions about whether the Department of Environmental Protection is releasing incomplete test results, a state representative and attorney said Thursday.
The DEP defended its water testing. “The battery of analyses we order during investigations are thorough and give us the results we need to make sound determinations, which we fully stand behind,” spokesman Kevin Sunday said in a statement. “DEP takes very seriously instances where we do determine gas migration has occurred from drilling.”
Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella termed as grandstanding the release of depositions in the case by the plaintiffs’ law firm, Smith Butz of Canonsburg. The firm represents three Amwell families who claim they were sickened by chemicals used in gas drilling.
He also criticized state Rep. Jesse White, who is calling for a criminal investigation.
“This is simply the latest line of attacks by an outspoken critic of this industry. This is nothing to do with science or health,” Pitzarella said.
White demands the state Attorney General and the federal Environmental Protection Agency investigate the DEP “for alleged misconduct and fraud.”
“This is beyond outrageous,” White, D-Cecil, said in a statement. “Anyone who relied on the DEP for the truth about whether their water has been impacted by drilling activities has apparently been intentionally deprived of critical health and safety information by their own government.”
A litany of spills and leaks and the use of a potentially cancer-causing chemical to stop odors at the site contributed to air and water pollution, the three Amwell families claim. Range Resources and its contractors built a water impoundment above a dozen natural springs and the source of well water there, but made errors in its construction and repairs while using it as an unpermitted dump for well waste, lawsuits filed in Washington County Court said.
White and Smith Butz on Thursday released depositions from DEP Bureau of Laboratories Technical Director Taru Upadhyay taken in September. They said the depositions show the DEP conducted water tests using an EPA-approved standard, but the DEP employee asking for the tests coded the requests to limit the contaminant results the lab gave to the DEP field office.
The results omitted heavy metals and other elements, according to a letter from attorney Kendra Smith to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, that are considered carcinogens. That omission, she wrote, “denies a homeowner claiming water impacts from oil and gas drilling operations and their treating physicians of critical information.”
Sunday said Smith’s letter “misrepresents the deposition transcripts by selective quotation and the lawyer either misunderstands how a laboratory functions or is intentionally misrepresenting how one does.”
The state Attorney General’s office did not return a call for comment.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
He can be reached at 412-380-5621
Chesapeake to Pay $600K Fine for Filling Wetzel Co. Stream
Company also on probation for two years
October 6, 2012
By CASEY JUNKINS - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING - By pleading guilty Friday, Chesapeake Appalachia must pay a $600,000 fine for violating the federal Clean Water Act during the company's natural gas drilling and fracking in Wetzel County.
"The defendant illegally filled at least three sensitive wetlands; in one instance, obliterating a natural waterfall. This plea agreement demonstrates that those who illegally fill in or destroy these essential natural resources will be prosecuted," said David McLeod Jr., special agent for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement program in West Virginia.
Chesapeake Appalachia is the local operating division of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy. The company will pay $200,000 for each of three separate violations from late-2008. These included discharging 60 tons of crushed stone and gravel into Blake Fork in rural Wetzel County, about 2.4 miles north of the intersection of W.Va. 89, near Proctor. In doing so, the company removed a waterfall to construct a road to facilitate its drilling and fracking operations.
Blake Fork and three other streams affected by Chesapeake's drilling activities are tributaries of Fish Creek, which flows into the Ohio River.
"Chesapeake Appalachia remains fully committed to regulatory compliance and promptly instituted additional training and oversight to help ensure that our regulatory obligations are met," the company said in a statement acknowledging the plea.
Working in cooperation with U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld and his assistants, McLeod said his agency has been investigating Chesapeake's Wetzel County actions for more than two years.
"This matter is the first Marcellus Shale related prosecution, and one of only a handful of criminal investigations, under the U.S. EPA's 2011 Energy Extraction Initiative. We will continue to vigorously investigate allegations of illegal activities relating to energy extraction in the mid-Atlantic states," McLeod said.
"Furthermore, this case will be the highest criminal penalty relating to energy extraction, to date, should the agreed upon penalty be so ordered."
Pending U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr.'s acceptance of the plea agreement, the company will also receive two years of court supervised probation. Ihlenfeld said Chesapeake as a whole - rather than a specific individual - will be supervised during the probation, noting it is not unusual for a company to be given probation as a penalty.
Ihlenfeld and McLeod said Chesapeake is responsible because the company: selected the location for an access road to a site associated with its drilling activities; hired construction contractors to discharge; spread rock and gravel in Blake Fork in order to develop access to the Hohman Pit; and supervised and directed the work of the construction contractors.
Even though the Blake Fork waterfall has since been restored at Chesapeake's expense, Ihlenfeld said it is still vital to enforce the Clean Water Act.
"You cannot rob a bank, bring the money back and say, 'Forgive me,'" he said after the hearing. "Companies need to be held accountable for violating the Clean Water Act."
"Our nation's wetlands play a critical role in maintaining water quality, reducing flood damage, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife," McLeod added when asked about the need to uphold the law.
The Clean Water Act specifically prohibits the discharge of any pollutant from a point source into the waters of the United States without a permit. Discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States are prohibited, unless authorized by a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Ihlenfeld said in this case, Chesapeake failed to obtain or even apply for such a permit.
Additionally, the parties have agreed that separate violations committed by Chesapeake in Marshall and Wetzel Counties would be addressed by civil penalties and not via criminal charges.
"The events at Blake Fork were more egregious than the others - that's why they were classified as criminal," McLeod said.
The other alleged violations still under EPA investigation to be addressed with civil penalties are the impoundment of an unnamed tributary to Laurel Run between January 2007 and December 2009; constructing the Gordon Stansberry well pad took place about 2.2 miles north of W.Va. 89, near New Martinsville. This project also included the burial of an underground pipeline; and building the Chesapeake "B" well pad, along with the widening of Lynn Camp Road, also located north of W.Va. 89.
Posted: 05 Sep 2012 02:44 PM PDT
The Un-Balanced Sheet, by S. Thomas Bond,
It’s clear by this time that the Marcellus development is being promoted with a balance sheet that has only one side, assets. Liabilities are never mentioned. You read about all the money that will flow, the growth that will result, vague projections for a golden future, largely unquantified. The degradation of resources and the influence on people is never mentioned by the developers.
So what are these costs? In the case of the Marcellus, one is the very resource being extracted. The resource is fantastically large, but only 10% is removed, 90 % is left behind, degraded. The problem with virgin Marcellus is to bring the gas up from a mile or more deep. When it has been drilled by present methods the problem is to bring it up from a mile deep when the earth below has been saturated with water and chemicals.
The water pressure at the bottom of a well is much the same as it is that far down in the ocean. This restrains the production of gas now, and makes an additional, very serious problem, for secondary recovery in future generations. Marcellus extraction is grab it now, as much as you can, to hell with tomorrow. Executives claim there are no environmental problems. A recent article in an oil and gas trade magazine begins:
“Misrepresentation building in the eastern US threatens to limit a technology-based, multiple-location gas play that’s reshaping energy markets in the ways that benefit US interests such as national security, air quality, employment, and tax receipts. It’s the allegation that drilling and completing wells in gas-bearing shales threaten subsurface supplies of drinking water. If not discredited, repeated falsehoods will coalesce into a political force able to stop the most promising development in generations for US energy supply.”
The notion that water on the surface and in aquifers do not get contaminated has been disproven over and over again. The “easily imagined menace” as the author of the article calls it, is a fact on the ground. There is a regular constellation of problems that occurs everywhere horizontal wells with hydraulic fracturing occur. It not only includes water contamination and damage to streams by removing too much water and dumping in them, but also air and noise pollution, large disturbed surface areas, rural roads crowded and destroyed, and large demands on local services that the drilling companies do not pay for. And very serious health problems. Although reliable observers, primary care physicians are quite unlikely to publish their cases, and there is no agency collecting data, nor any likely to be in the present regulatory atmosphere if it must be paid for by government!
This is the way coal was promoted, too. No one ever looked at the decades of mine water, now being slowly remediated at public expense, nor the subsidence, nor the toll of miners, nor the blighted communities which take many decades to recover when the mines play out. The “big boys” got away with the money, though. The Marcellus will play out, too. Probably in half a lifetime, the way the game is now being played, in little longer time at best. The rate of decline of shale wells is notorious – the fantastic early production is very brief. The decline is usually presented on a logarithmic graph by the industry, in terms of months. This is a tool to fool the unwary. 50 to 60% of the production is in the first year, less time than it takes to get the investment, get a permit and bring the well into production. The well is exhausted in a few more years.
Remember the early coal industry? Lots of jobs alright, but deadening, routine jobs where people and families had to turn into themselves to survive. No opportunity to travel, no opportunity to enjoy the better things of life, no opportunity to educate their children and most of all, no chance to change their circumstances. Technically they could leave, but the absence of surplus resources, the absence of other experience and contact with the outside held them to the mining towns like serfs on a medieval manor.
This time it won’t be as bad. But the jobs provided by Marcellus will be similar. Deadening, dangerous work, long hours with work in all kinds of weather. Kinds of work that make it difficult to change to other work. Mineral resource development doesn’t lead to a vibrant economy for the area where extraction takes place, the long term benefits go elsewhere. Marcellus will keep Appalachia right where it is in the national scheme of things, a sort of internal third world nation.
And look at our government! We are as helpless as the people in the Niger delta, Peru, or the Middle East. Was there advance planning to effectively utilize the resource, to regulate the industry to protect other interests, to minimize damage to us natives? Not on your life! Perhaps the most damning thing is that the most important force changing our future that could be controlled in the state was effectively bypassed by our government.
The governor couldn’t see fit to call a special session for a few days to iron out regulations for the industry. Why? The best indication is that at least one legislator relates he has been openly threatened that he will never be elected to another term because of his support for regulation. Doubtless, this runs all the way up to the Top Man. Can it be that other legislators are unaware of the same for themselves? ”A politicians first duty is to get himself reelected,” they say. Will historians of the future look back and see funds for his campaign are more important to most politicians than his/her record of public service.
Guardians of the West Fork Watershed • 830 Benoni Ave • Fairmont, WV
Groups work to contain Dunkard spill
9/1/2012 3:33 AM
Companies involved in the construction of a natural gas pipeline near Blacksville, W.Va., have been working to clean up a spill of more than 600 gallons of drilling fluid in Dunkard Creek.
A subcontractor on Momentum’s M3 Appalachia Gathering pipeline was drilling horizontally about 50 feet beneath the creek and Route 7 Thursday morning when drilling fluid breached the creek bed in two places, said Tom Aluise, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
The drilling fluid is bentonite, a clay that is mixed with water and used as a drilling lubricant as well as a media to remove cuttings from the bore hole, Aluise said.
The material clouded the water but is not toxic and would not have harmed the fish, he said.
Momentum is constructing the 24-inch pipeline from northern Washington County to northern West Virginia. It will gather natural gas from wells in a five-county area.
Aluise said the company notified DEP promptly and dammed the creek below the two areas where the material was seeping from the creek bed into the water to contain the spill.
“I don’t think a lot of (the fluid) went downstream. I believe they were pretty quick to get the dams in place.” Aluise said.
Water flow in the creek is low. The company also set up “turbidity curtains” to keep the material from flowing downstream, he said.
Momentum has hired an environmental cleanup company to assist with removing the material from the creek.
Aluise said he didn’t know how long that would take but DEP will monitor the clean up and is investigating the spill. It’s possible, he said, the company could be assessed a penalty for the spill.
In a released statement, Momentum said the boring operation was immediately halted after the leak was discovered and containment equipment was deployed.
In addition to contacting West Virginia DEP, the company notified the National Spill Response Center about the incident.
“Momentum is continuing to work with the WVDEP and local authorities to respond to this release,” the company said.
Copyright Observer Publishing Co.
August 24, 2012
No Person Shall Be Deprived of Life, Liberty or Property… Unless the Oil and Gas Industry Says So
by Alison Grass
Eminent domain, the government’s right to condemn (or take) private land for “public use,” has at times been a highly contentious topic because it can displace people from their homes to make way for construction of different projects, like highways or roads, civic buildings and other types of public infrastructure. However, what some may not realize is that several states have granted eminent domain authority to certain private entities, including oil and gas companies. These companies are using it as a tool to seize private land, which increases profits and benefits their wallets.
According to the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, in order to pursue eminent domain, the land must be taken for “public use” and the private property owners must receive “just compensation.”
No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Traditionally, the “public use” provision referred to projects like roads, schools, parks and other public facilities that could be directly used by all. However, the meaning of “public use” has been loosely interpreted in recent years.
The controversial Kelo v. City of New London (2005) is credited with broadening the interpretation of “public use.” In this case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New London, deciding that the city could take private property and give it to another private entity for “economic development.” The Court decided that this met the “public use” provision of the Fifth Amendment. But despite taking the land and spending millions of taxpayer dollars on the proposed project, the plan never came to fruition and nothing was constructed.
Now it seems that the oil and gas industry is capitalizing on this this precedent-setting case.
A University of Minnesota Law professor describes this trend: “in many natural resource–rich areas of the country, however, the knock on the door is less likely to come from a government official and much more likely to come from a mining, oil, or gas company representative.”
The state legislature of North Carolina recently legalized fracking. Yet, what some residents may not know is that North Carolina’s eminent domain law allows some private entities to take private property for certain uses. This includes oil and gas companies who have been given the right to condemn land and construct pipelines for natural gas transportation. As a supervising attorney at the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic points out, there could be even bigger implications. “If private companies engaged in these activities are designated as ‘public enterprises,’ then they may be able to take private property for purposes far beyond that of laying pipelines.”
In July, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that provisions in Act 13, (which revised the Oil and Gas Act of 1984), aiming to prevent local zoning rules for gas drilling and fracking were unconstitutional. However the Court didn’t rule on the topic of eminent domain. This leaves open the possibility that oil and gas companies could pursue this as a method to take people’s land.
Meanwhile in Texas, TransCanada, the company that wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, is trying to grab private property from a small town, claiming they have eminent domain rights—and some residents are outraged.
The Kelo case broadened the interpretation of the “public use.” The city of New London took land from a private property owner so that they could give it to a private entity in the name of “economic development.” Unfortunately, oil and gas companies will now have this card to play when justifying land grabs.
EPA Awards $55,600 to Promote Deckers Creek Restoration
Friends of Deckers Creek in W.V. Receives EPA Urban Waters Small Grant
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (August 20, 2012) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today joined city, state and non-profit officials in announcing $55,600 in federal funding to help pave the way for cleaning up mine pollution affecting Deckers Creek and highlighting the economic benefits of creek restoration.
“Today we begin a new chapter in the history of Deckers Creek – one holding great promise for both the health of the creek and the city’s economy,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “This project clarifies the connection between economic investment and resource restoration, while generating the necessary information for treating polluted water.”
The highly competitive grant from the EPA Urban Waters program will fund a study of an abandoned underground coal mine discharging polluted water into Deckers Creek, which runs for three miles through the City of Morgantown. The study will aid in the eventual treatment of the mine water.
The funds will also help initiate a public education campaign to advise business owners and the city’s development community about the economic potential of restoring Deckers Creek, and forming a community partnership to take the next steps in the process.
The grant was awarded to Friends of Deckers Creek, a community-based non-profit watershed group working to clean up Deckers Creek, a tributary of the Monongahela River that flows from Preston County into Monongalia County, W.Va. The creek is impacted by acid mine drainage and other pollution issues.
EPA’s Urban Waters program helps cities unleash the potential of their waterways and land around them. The funding supports communities’ efforts to access, improve and benefit from their urban waters and surrounding land.
Information on EPA’s Urban Waters program: http://www.epa.gov/urbanwaters/index.html.
Exporting Natural Gas to Foreign Markets Doesn't Serve U.S. Interests
Gas profiteers have realized that there's even more money to be made by liquefying the gas and shipping it overseas. So what if it comes at the cost of our air, water, and health?
August 13, 2012 |
In recent years, the natural gas industry has plunged deeper and deeper into the reckless practice of "fracking," putting communities nationwide at risk of dirty, dangerous pollution and practices that are exempt from many clean air and water laws. Now gas profiteers have realized that there's even more money to be made by liquefying the gas and shipping it overseas. So what if it comes at the cost of our air, water, and health?
We could soon see more gas exported per day than we currently use to generate electricity. That would mean a lot more fracking — a dangerous process that involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand, and a secret cocktail of toxic chemicals underground to force out natural gas.Outrageously, the natural gas industry doesn't have to disclose what chemicals it uses to mine gas through fracking, nor are companies required to dispose of hazardous waste in a safe manner or limit the amount of toxic pollution they spew into the air. In many places, fracking has sickened local residents, disrupted underlying geology and aquifers, contaminated water supplies, and polluted the air.
But the environmental costs of natural gas exports don't stop there. Once the gas is extracted, it needs to travel from production sites to coastal export terminals through hundreds of miles of pipelines. Such pipelines could cut across private property, scenic waterways, and public parks, putting our air, water, and land at risk. Where existing pipelines are used to transport natural gas, they will have to be expanded.
Then there are the environmental impacts associated with building the natural gas export terminals, or expanding existing terminals. These terminals will often require sensitive estuaries to be dredged to make room for massive tankers, and the huge industrial machinery needed to liquefy gas will increase air and water pollution. Expanding facilities and ship traffic will also take their toll on coastal communities, their economies, and the environment.
Finally, the energy needed to cool and liquefy natural gas to be shipped overseas leaves a carbon footprint on par with coal — increasing our dangerous reliance on dirty fossil fuels and worsening climate disruption.
Before authorizing natural gas exports to countries such as Japan and China, the Department of Energy must first conduct a thorough public analysis to determine whether those exports serve the public interest. This analysis is critical to understand the environmental and economic impacts associated with natural gas exports and to build a deliberate energy policy that protects the interests of the American public.
Our nation — and the rest of the world — can do better by finding alternative ways to power our homes and businesses. Clean, renewable, and homegrown energy exists today and is already being heavily used nationwide. In Iowa, wind power generates 20 percent of the state's electricity. The city of San Antonio is retiring its coal-fired plants in favor of solar power, which is already creating hundreds of jobs.
Ultimately, the only safe, smart, and responsible way to address our nation's energy needs is to look beyond dirty energy and scale up clean sources like wind, solar, and geothermal. Let's protect our air, water, and our health by moving beyond natural gas.
August 18, 2012
THE STATE JOURNAL:
3 injured in WV methane ignition, gas well fire
Posted: Aug 17, 2012 11:14 AM EDT Updated: Aug 17, 2012 11:14 AM EDT
VICKI SMITH, Associated Press
MORGANTOWN (AP) — A spark from a natural gas drilling operation in north-central West Virginia ignited methane gas several hundred feet underground early Friday, sending up a fireball and triggering a blaze that officials said burned for about an hour on the floor of the rig.
Three workers were injured, two seriously enough to be airlifted to a hospital after the fire at the Antero Resources site near Sycamore in Harrison County. The fire was quickly extinguished, and the well pad was in a rural area, so it posed no danger to the public.
Two victims were flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, said Sgt. Heather Mick of the Harrison County 911 Center. A third was transported by ambulance.
Their conditions weren't immediately available, but state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise said one had returned to the job site by 9 a.m.
Workers were in the early stages of drilling a Marcellus shale gas well, Aluise said. The drill was about 400 feet deep when they began to withdraw it, creating a spark that ignited the methane. That created more of a fireball than an explosion, he said.
The accident happened at the Cottrill No. 3 well on Antero's Southern pad, and Aluise said the crew doing the work was with Hall Drilling LLC of Ellenboro.
Neither Hall Drilling nor Colorado-based Antero immediately returned messages Friday.
Aluise said Antero voluntarily shut down the operation, and a DEP investigation is under way.
The rig was damaged badly enough that a new one may need to be brought in "if and when they resume drilling," Aluise said.
In June, another Antero drilling operation triggered several backyard geysers when workers struck an aquifer in the Sardis area and inadvertently re-pressurized a handful of old water wells. Emergency management officials and residents said some were 10- to 12-feet high.
There was no interior damage in the affected homes. The residents' wells had long been disconnected from indoor plumbing because their homes are all on a public water supply.
On July 31, the DEP ordered Antero to provide a detailed incident report, including a chart outlining the pressures involved, a list of the water wells that were affected and the current status of those wells.
The DEP also wants pre- and post-water analyses for each of those wells, along with a map showing their locations in relation to the well pad.
The letter from Office of Oil and Gas Director James Martin also demands information about any water wells that Antero drilled and a report that cites "any direct or indirect cause" and lays out what Antero will do in the future to minimize the likelihood of another incident.
Antero vice president Al Schopp said at the time that workers were drilling an initial hole with just fresh water and air when the bit became stuck. Rather than turn the air flow off, the crew left it on as they tried to withdraw the drill. That recharged the aquifer and trapped the air, which then sought a place to escape.
That accident happened thousands of feet above the targeted oil and gas deposits.
August 6, 2012
Marcellus on pace to be top U.S. gas field
About The Tribune-Review
The Tribune-Review can be reached via e-mail or at 412-321-6460.
By The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, August 5, 2012, 8:28 p.m.
Updated 4 hours ago
The Marcellus shale is about to become the most productive natural gas field in the United States, according to new data from energy industry analysts and the federal government.
Although serious drilling began only five years ago, the volume of Marcellus production suggests that in some ways there’s no going back, even as New York debates whether to allow drilling in its portion of the shale, which also lies under large parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
The top spot for the Marcellus shale “doesn’t surprise me,” said Jay Apt, a professor of technology at Carnegie Mellon University. “But will it lead to industries that spring up to use that gas?”
Apt said that much of the bounty could end up being shipped to Canada, the Gulf Coast or overseas.
In 2008, Marcellus shale production barely registered on national energy reports. In July, the combined output from Pennsylvania and West Virginia wells was about 7.4 billion cubic feet per day, according to Kyle Martinez, an analyst at Bentek Energy. That’s more than double the 3.6 billion cubic feet from April and represents more than 25 percent of national shale gas production.
That’s neck-and-neck with production from the Haynesville region in Arkansas and Texas, but new drilling permits there have declined sharply.
The Powell Shale Digest, an industry newsletter based in Fort Worth, concluded that a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency means “it is reasonable to assume” that the Marcellus shale has or soon will pass Haynesville as the top natural gas producer.
The Marcellus shale is a gas-rich formation of rock thousands of feet below ground. Advances in drilling technology made the shale accessible, which led to a boom in production, jobs and profits as well as a drop in natural gas prices for consumers. But there are concerns about pollution and impacts to roads and other public services.
The wholesale price of natural gas is about $3 here but $12 or more in Europe and Japan.
“It’s clear people will want to export” the Marcellus shale gas, Apt said, adding that such an outcome could lead to what economists call “the resource curse,” which is when the general population hardly benefits, while a few get very rich.
But Apt sees hopeful signs, such as the Shell Oil Co. plan to build a $2 billion petrochemical plant in Beaver County to turn Marcellus shale gas into consumer and industrial products, including plastics. It’s widely believed that if Shell moves ahead with the plant, other small industries will follow.
For now, it appears the Marcellus region will be in the top production spot for several years, analysts say. While drilling has slowed, 288 permits for new wells were issued in May, and more than 1,200 for the first five months of the year, according to data from LCI Energy Insight, an El Paso firm that tracks national energy trends.
Martinez noted that several major Marcellus region pipeline expansions are scheduled for completion this fall, which should increase production even more and make it easier to ship natural gas to other parts of the Northeast.
That could boost wholesale prices, he said, and keep energy companies focused on the region.
July 29, 2012
Natural gas industry brings uptick in local truck traffic
EQT launches pilot program to convert marcellus drilling rigs to LNG
EQT Corporation today announced the launch of a pilot program to begin converting drilling rigs to liquefied natural gas (LNG), displacing the diesel used to power equipment at the well site. This program marks the first LNG rig conversion in the Marcellus Shale and will provide a cleaner burning alternative fuel for the region’s drilling operations.
“Along with safety, protection of the environment is top-of-mind for our employees, contractors, and of course communities. We continually look for opportunities to improve our operations and displacing diesel, by introducing the use of alternatives such as LNG and field gas, is one way of doing so”
“We want to be a leader in reducing the environmental impacts related to drilling and we are proud to be the first operator in the Marcellus to launch such a program,” states Steve Schlotterbeck, President Exploration and Production for EQT. “Along with safety, protection of the environment is top-of-mind for our employees, contractors, and of course communities. We continually look for opportunities to improve our operations and displacing diesel, by introducing the use of alternatives such as LNG and field gas, is one way of doing so,” Schlotterbeck continued.
LNG is natural gas in its liquid form and from a physical property standpoint is as safe as, or safer than, using traditional fuels, such as propane or diesel. LNG, if exposed, evaporates quickly and leaves no residue on water or soil. Compared to diesel, natural gas emits between 20% and 30% less carbon dioxide and has a fraction of the emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulates.
There are other LNG benefits, such as a reduction in fuel costs – with LNG being about 40% less expensive than diesel. The use of LNG also provides another means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil imports – with sourcing coming from various U.S. shale plays. The LNG being used for EQT’s pilot program is produced locally from Marcellus natural gas reserves.
EQT’s initial rig conversion is now operating in Northern West Virginia; and pending evaluation of the pilot program, the Company hopes to convert additional rigs in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
July 24, 2012
S. Thomas Bond: Pattern of complaints arises near fracking
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of the most remarkable features of today's news is the disparity between the shale gas drilling industry claims and the claims of people and organizations where they drill.
Drillers say no harm is done and great economic benefits result. Certainly, a vast building project is involved, the investment is in the billions, with money coming from all over the world. A map showing the shale areas of the United States where natural gas is believed to be recoverable is impressive. Politicians in some big shale states are ecstatic about what they have been told.
At the same time, newspapers and TV stations carry numerous accounts of complaints of injury by people who live in those areas when shale drilling takes place. No matter where it is done, it is the same constellation of damages. Most prominently these include destruction of aquifers, contamination of surface waters, and air pollution resulting in health claims.
There also are reports of road damage, sick and dead livestock, soil contamination. Property devaluation figures into these complaints too. The countryside where drilling occurs is abuzz with such stories.
The drilling industry has numerous public relations organizations to counter these claims. They will provide speakers for your meetings, articles to be published wherever possible, and "experts" on demand. Every company has one or more spokesmen primed to answer any question or negate any assertion.
Opposition to shale drilling has produced some 200 Internet sites in the United States and more in a dozen other countries, Canada foremost among them. The diversity of these sites is remarkable. Some want to preserve clean water, some emphasize clean air, some want to exercise political pressure by meetings, some focus on the compounds used in fracking, some on property damage, and a few are displays of aggrieved individuals. My personal favorite of the last category is Harry Boyd's once-certified organic farm for ginseng in Ohio. Shale drilling has reduced it to an open toxic dump.
So, head to head, why is this? No one is calling anyone a liar -- yet. A few days ago, a Wyoming state official took things to a new (low) level when he said, "I really believe greed is driving a lot of this ... they're just looking to get compensated." Subsequently he offered an apology.
The Oil and Gas Journal has gone so far as to say, "It's the allegation that drilling and completing wells in gas-bearing shales threaten subsurface supplies of drinking water. If not discredited, repeated falsehoods will coalesce into a political force able to stop the most promising development in generations for U.S. energy supply."
On the other hand, there is a movement among investors with over a trillion dollars invested to have the industry use more responsible drilling methods.
Are the claims "falsehoods"? Numerous claims have been taken to court. When it looks like the company will lose, such as in the Hallowich case in Pennsylvania, the company settles, paying extra to have the claimants agree to refrain from discussing the terms or amount of the settlement. Some suits are lost.
The industry is stressed. The investment is more than most of us could understand. They picked up a raw technology, never passing through the "scaled up" stage. It went straight from a single proof of concept to full-scale application without the kind or research that should have been done to check for environmental problems. This would have involved testing water and air before drilling, during drilling and after to see what happened.
Since each well has a unique geological setting, this should have been done numerous times. What goes down the well in hydraulic fracturing is known to the petroleum engineers in charge, but to this day what comes back up in the way of drill cuttings and flowback is not public knowledge, and perhaps is not known to the petroleum engineers. The high temperatures and pressures below change solubility of many compounds.
The public health industry is vitally interested. Just as the "Halliburton loophole" helps the industry avoid responsibility for clean air, water and creation of contaminated brownfields, new legislation in Pennsylvania and Ohio seeks to hamstring physicians in their relations with their patients and in interaction with other doctors. The shale drilling industry may just be its own worst enemy.
Bond, of Jane Lew, is a retired teacher and an inorganic chemist. He is a member of the Guardians of the West Fork and the Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact.
July 17, 2012
Gas, Gas, Gas, its everywhere. Its a boom for West Virginia
But Wait, What's This? They want a what?? RATE HIKE....
Gas Utilities Seek Hikes Despite Dropping Nat Gas Prices
Dan Heyman, Public News Service-WV
Join the discussion: facebook.com/PublicNewsService Twitter: @pns_news @pns_WV Google+: plus.to/publicnewsservice
(07/13/12) CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Despite record low prices for natural gas, West Virginia utilities are asking the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) to confirm sharp rate hikes. Mountaineer and Dominion Hope both want the PSC to rule in their favor on rate requests based on higher natural gas costs.
Clarksburg resident Steve Perdue pays Hope about $75 a month. He says the hike seems 'weird' when, all around him, he can see the Marcellus boom that has driven natural gas prices to a near-record low.
"It's overwhelmed the area, there's so much gas that they're getting. We just can't see why they would be getting rate increases when the price of their basic raw material has gone way down."
According to West Virginia Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT), Dominion Hope is asking the PSC to confirm a 30 percent increase in the part of the bill that goes to pay for the gas.
The company says overall, bills would only go up by 17 percent, and that the rate increase is part of a standard annual procedure for utilities to recover money for legitimate, regulated costs. However, says Perdue, a lot people can't afford the increase.
"Times are pretty tough, especially for our seniors. We've got a lot of people laid off. People on fixed income and your just average working person. It's tough on a family."
According to Dominion Hope, the company does not make any money from recapturing the cost of buying natural gas. But critics say that's not true for Hope's sister company. Hope used a financial hedging program to set the price it paid for gas. Through the complex financial deals, another branch of the Dominion conglomerate could have made as much as $20 million off of Hope's purchases. To Perdue, that doesn't sound right.
"They're in a no-lose situation, collecting all the way around. One of their diversified companies might lose money, and they'll ask for money to recoup that loss. But on the other end, they're making the money."
ACT and AARP are among the groups opposing some of the rate hikes.
July 13, 2012
Insurer won’t cover gas drill fracking exposure
ALBANY, N.Y. — Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has become the first major insurance company to say it won’t cover damage related to a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground.
The Columbus, Ohiobased company’s personal and commercial policies “were not designed to cover” risk from the drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Nationwide involved in fracking operations “are too great to ignore” and apply to policies of commercial contractors and landowners who lease property to gas companies.
The Nationwide policy first came to light when an internal memo detailing underwriting guidelines was posted on websites of upstate New York antifracking groups and landowner coalitions seeking gas leases. Smeltzer confirmed that the memo was genuine but said it wasn’t intended for public dissemination.
The memo reads: “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”
roposed in this area! )We’ve needed more inspectors for over a decade and back in 2003 the state received recommendations that they should increase the number of inspectors, but nine years later they still have not. Why don’t they want to watch these guys?
Citizens turn stuff like this in all the time.... .actual film footage of violations, pictures, etc. and very little, if anything is done to hold these drillers accountable. Perhaps if it is known that people OUTSIDE the state are watching the “goings on” in WV, we’ll get the help we need. So please circulate as you see fit.
May 19, 2012
Fracking Fluids Could Contaminate Freshwater Aquifers, Says Study
Friday, 18 May 2012 00:00 By Christine Shearer, Truthout | Report
A gas drilling well sits on a hill behind a farm house in Fairdale, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Ruth Fremson / The New York Times)A recent study has found that, under certain conditions, the chemical-laced water used in hydraulic fracturing can migrate through fractures and faults up to overlying aquifers in as little as tens of years.
The study, done by hydrogeologist Dr. Tom Myers and published in the peer-reviewed Ground Water, raises renewed questions about the potential for hydraulic fracturing to fundamentally alter shale rock formations and the hydrogeologic cycle in ways that could affect freshwater drinking supplies.
To reach gas in shale rock, a well bore is sunk thousands of feet into the earth, passing through different strata, including freshwater aquifers, sandstone and siltstone, down to the shale. Shale can include remains of the breakdown of trapped organisms that settled out with silt and clay-sized particles, making up the oil and gas. To access these fossil fuels, thousands of gallons of water with chemicals and silica particles (sand) is blasted horizontally into the shale under pressure is so high it could chip the paint off a car, in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
According to the oil/gas industry's FracFocus, the process works "to create or restore small fractures in a formation" that become "paths that increase the rate at which fluids can be produced from the reservoir formations." To protect overlying aquifers, "steel surface or intermediate casings are inserted into the well to depths of between 1,000 and 4,000 feet. The space between these casing 'strings' and the drilled hole (wellbore) ... is filled with cement."
There are concerns that improperly sealed or unsealed abandoned drilling wells and naturally occurring fractures and faults will offer a path to connect gas bearing shale layers with overlying freshwater aquifers.
A common response by the oil/gas industry to this concern is that upward migration of deep, thermogenic methane gas and chemicals used in the fracturing process is impossible, due to layers and layers of impermeable rock that prevent such movement.
The problem, some hydrogeologists say, is the industry is offering little to no data to support this argument. While the ability of shale to transmit fluids (its permeability) is about 1,000 times less than that of sandstone aquifers, hydrogeologists say the entire purpose of hydraulic fracturing is to increase the permeability of shale rock to allow the "trapped" methane gas to leak out, mainly into the more permeable overlying rock layers. Pre-existing fractures provide such a pathway.
Paul Rubin, a hydrogeologist with the environmental consulting firm HydroQuest, said savvy companies will target such fractures: "[oil/gas companies] are integrating pre-existing fractures. When they put in horizontals [drilling wells], they go perpendicular to those fractures to maximize the number of fractures they go through and the gas potential."
Myers said the low porosity of shale itself could propel movement of fluids: "I don't know where [oil/gas companies] think all that water would stay underground. I mean, the pore space, the porosity is not there for it to be retained, you're putting a lot of pressure down there and it's going to move somewhere."
Up to a third of the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing will resurface, as well as naturally occurring and extremely salty brine, or "produced water." The high amounts of the resulting wastewater from the fracturing process has raised its own challenges around disposal and treatment, as well as the potential for water contamination from spills.
But it is the water underground that Myers focuses on in the Ground Water study. Brine has been found more than a thousand meters above its evaporative source, suggesting evidence of upward movement. The question, Myers said, is how quickly this movement occurs and how the fracking process might affect the rate: "Fracking shale moves water that could meet up with naturally occurring fractures in sandstone and result in faster movement to the surface [aquifers]," Myers said.
To determine this, Myers created five conceptual models to test different parameters and the rate of flow from the Marcellus shale to the level of aquifers.
The first model offers a baseline of natural upward flow of fluids from shale to the surface without hydraulic fracturing of the shale, which produced a rate of around tens of thousands of years, consistent with what is observed in the area with the natural, upward movement of brine. The second model added a fracture from the shale to the surface and found that this sped up the flow rate of fluids tenfold, suggesting that fractures and faults can offer a shortcut for the upward fluid movement.
The third and fourth models looked at how long it takes for the hydrogeologic system to come to equilibrium after hydraulic fracturing - model three without a fault and model four with a fault. Model five simulated the actual injection of fluid into fractured shale with and without a fault.
Under certain circumstances, Myers found that the pressure induced by hydraulic fracturing combined with the changes to the fracked shale and the presence of a fault could mean that fluids migrate upward from shale to aquifers in as little as hundreds to tens of years.
Myers summarized the results: "You change the properties of the shale, you change the flow of the system. If the fractured shale between each of the well bores almost connects, you end up with a system of several orders of higher conductivity. You end up increasing the flow rate."
The gas industry has been quick to point out that the study was commissioned in part by Catskill Mountainkeeper, a New York-based environmental group that opposes hydraulic fracturing.
Some geologists have challenged not the funding, but the methods of Myers's study, such as Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Penn State. According to NPR's "This American Life," Engelder rose to prominence with the oil/gas industry after releasing his high estimations of the amount of gas in the Marcellus shale. Engelder argues that most of the overburden in Myers's model is permeable sandstone, while the actual overburden contains 90 percent shale and only 10 percent sandstone. "If the sandstone were replaced by shale within Myers's model, the time frame required for water movement to the aquifer would increase to 100,000 years," Engelder told Energy Wire.
Myers disputed Engelder's claim: "His statement does not agree with descriptions in the geology section of the New York DraftSupplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which describes it as a mixture of shale and sandstone. I considered a broad range of hydraulic parameters to encompass the full range of possibilities. [Engelder] is focusing on the very tight end of the potential range in hydraulic properties."
Myers said that rather than just rejecting his work, drilling companies should work with him on collecting data and improving the studies: "Don't just say that I'm using the wrong parameters - collect some data to show what the parameters should be and let's do future modeling and future data collection."
Other hydrogeologists like Rubin are concerned about not just fractures and faults, but the potential for water contamination through drilling well casing failures. "It is not if, but when it will happen and it will happen," Rubin said. His studies have focused on documented cases of cement and steel casing problems and the relatively short life spans (maximum 100 years) of the casings compared with the million year life span of the aquifers they are supposed to protect. "[Well] casing will degrade and even if that does not end up being a problem, the fracturing process itself will result in cracking of the cement sheath. Also, a lot of these wells are in seismically active areas and ground motion and shaking will themselves crack the sheath."
Begin your sampling before the drilling starts. Establish a baseline. You must know the condition of your water B4 the fracking takes place. Its very difficult or impossible to prove your water supply has been damaged if you can't prove what the condition was before the drilling started.
Website Connects Land Owners and Marcellus Researchers
Posted: May 14, 2012 3:34 PM EDTUpdated: May 14, 2012 4:00 PM EDT
The oil and gas industry and its presence in West Virginia almost always sparks debate.
Some argue its economic benefits, while others question the possibility of negative environmental impacts.
The fact is, not many facts are known about the affects of drilling at this time.
That's why Diane Pitcock designed a website that will hopefully answer some of those questions and concerns.
The website is called WVhostfarms.org and it's purpose is to connect landowners and environmental scientists.
Without documentation, iPitcock said it's hard to make conclusions about the Marcellus industryon of land properties before drilling takes place nearby.
"One of the biggest flaws that the research community has had and it's something we'll be able to help with, is there was no baseline testing pre drilling," said Diane Pitcock, program administrator for WVHostFarms.org.
She describes the website as an invitation to the environmental research community.
"We have a network of landowners, who are more than willing to offer their farms for researchers," Pitcock said.
"Some of them are wiling to provide lodging or camping space for the scientists," said Tom Bond, a landowner with a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and who took a Toxicology course from the American Chemical Society.
The website aims to bring scientists to West Virginia private properties.
"Free access to our private properties, where they can do their water samples," Pitcock said. "Conduct their baseline testing, so we can get the research we need as far as long term impacts."
WBOY 12 News spoke with a family a few months ago, that told us an oil and gas company told them "sorry about your luck," after test results indicated high levels of arsenic in their water well.
"Denying on the part of the drilling companies because no proper water samples were taken in advance," Bond said.
Pitcock said that response is heard all too often.
"If we run into problems later as far as water contamination or live stock being impacted, we'll have those baseline tests to show the water was fine before the fracking started," Pitcock said.
"It's hard to make a case with only anecdotal evidence," Bond said.
The website looks to change the status quo, so companies can't say 'you can't prove it', or 'we didn't know.'
"We'll have something that will actually be able to document. Something that can't be disputed by the industry 'there's no baseline testing done so you can't prove it.' We'll be able to prove it," Pitcock said.
"Have some evidence to push back against these companies which have an almost unlimited supply of money," Bond said
Bond and Pitcock say the lack of baseline testing has hurt individuals in litigation, but that's not their only or primary concern.
"Landowners that are concerned want to see this research come here," Pitcock said.
To share your stories and views about the oil and gas industry check out Jamie Stover's Facebook page.
You can also contact Jamie Stover about your story by clicking here.
May 6, 2012
In future, much more money will be made by companies that process gas into other compounds
May 3, 2012
May 2, 2012
Drilling chemicals could move quickly to aquifers, study says
By Ken Ward Jr.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Chemicals injected into the ground by natural gas drillers could migrate toward drinking water supplies much more quickly than previously thought, according to a new study that raises questions about West Virginia's ongoing Marcellus Shale boom.
Some scientists and industry officials have argued that thick layers of impermeable rock would keep "fracking fluids" used by modern natural gas operations tucked safety away underground, far below aquifers used for residential drinking water.
But using computer modeling, hydrogeologist Tom Myers found in the new study that hydraulic fracturing used by the natural gas industry could exacerbate existing cracks and faults in underground rock formations.
This could allow toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids to migrate upward toward water wells in perhaps only "a few years," according to Myers.
"The evidence for potential vertical contaminant flow is strong," Myers wrote in his study.
Myers is a private consultant based in Nevada who does work for the federal government and environmental groups. Research for the study was paid for by the Park Foundation and the Catskill Mountainkeeper, two groups that have opposed drilling and fracking in New York portions of the Marcellus Shale.
The new study was published in Ground Water, the peer-reviewed journal of the National Groundwater Association, a non-profit group that represents scientists, engineers and businesses.
In their push for more natural gas, drilling operators are increasing using a combination of vertical drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a process that shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break apart rock and release the gas. West Virginia political leaders are hoping this practice expands as gas companies seek to tap into the vast reserves in the Marcellus Shale, a formation that stretches from 95,000 square miles from southern New York and into eastern Ohio.
In a massive public relations effort, industry officials argue that fracking chemicals cannot possibly pollute drinking water, because fracking occurs far below aquifers used for wells and chemicals would take far too long to ever possibly migrate through thick layers of rock.
The new study by Myers is the first scientific paper to strongly challenge those arguments, and also may be the first peer-reviewed research to attempt to evaluate the issue.
Myers used computer software to try to project where and how quickly fracking fluids could move over time.
His models estimated that industry's fracking will speed up the movement of those chemicals, reducing travel times for the same distance from thousands of years to 100 years. When Myers factored in natural faults and cracks in the underground rock, fluids could travel 10 times faster than that.
The fastest travel times occurred when man-made fractures intersected with natural faults, with the study finding under those conditions that "contaminants could reach the surface areas in tens of years, or less."
Also, the study found, forces from hydraulic fracturing can continue for nearly a year after the actual fracking is completed. This could mean chemicals left underground are continuing to be pushed away from the drill site long after the actual drilling is done. Restoring the natural balance of the pressure systems underground could take up to six years, the study said.
The nonprofit journalism organization ProPublica, which has extensively covered the debate over the natural gas boom, was the first media outlet to report on Myers' findings.
ProPublica said that "several scientists called Myers' approach unsophisticated" and that assumptions Myers used in his models didn't accurately reflect what is known about the Marcellus Shale's geology.
Terry Engelder, a Penn State geologist who has been a proponent of shale drilling, told ProPublica that if fluids could flow through the Marcellus as quickly as Myers argues, fracking wouldn't be needed to free up gas deposits.
"This would be a huge fracture porosity," Engelder said. "So I read this and I say, 'Golly, does this guy really understand anything about what these shales look like?' The concern then arises from using a model rather than observations."
Myers noted that there is little hard data on exactly how underground fluid flows are impacted by hydraulic fracturing, and recommended that more information be collected before and after drilling to allow for more concrete studies.
"There is no data to verify either the pre- or post-fracking properties of the shale," Myers wrote, "... But there are almost no monitoring systems that would detect contaminant transport as considered herein. Several improvements could be made."
April 28, 2012
West Virginia: Do companies violate the law more where they think no one is watching?
April 22, 2012
Read this article carefully
TITLE: Setting record straight on factors in Dunkard Creek fish kill: Mine discharge, H2O withdrawals, dumping, foreign algae.
DEP investigating spill into creek
JOLLYTOWN - A spokesman with the state Department of Environmental Protection said the agency will be issuing a notice of violation to Equitrans, a subsidiary of EQT, for a 4,500-gallon spill of bentonite into a tributary of Dunkard Creek on Wednesday.
John Poister of the DEP said although not toxic, bentonite can be detrimental to aquatic life. Bentonite is most commonly known for its use as a major component of drilling mud. It is also widely used as an additive for viscosity and filtration control.
Gilmore Township Supervisor Charles Wise reported the spill.
"I noticed the gray color in the water and contacted DEP ... and the two landowners who have cattle," Wise said. "A clay substance had blown out into the stream."
EQT was putting in a 24-inch pipeline beneath the Garrison Fork tributary when the spill occurred, according to Poister. The line is part of the Equitrans Sunrise Project, a 45-mile gas pipeline extending from Southwestern Pennsylvania into northern West Virginia.
Poister said DEP would be conducting further testing and inspections on Friday.
"We don't know the extent of damage to the stream, if there was any damage," Poister said. "The company brought in a crew to remove the bentonite and keep it from spreading. One of the concerns is the stream is kind of cloudy."
Bentonite leaking into streams can kill fish and aquatic life by clogging their gills, burying them or burying their eggs. It swells considerably when exposed to water.
EQT told DEP it had finished the cleanup and resumed drilling by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Poister. The spill occurred between noon and 1 p.m. the same day.
Poister said the DEP hopes to have more information available Monday.
April 13, 2012
Marcellus traffic invading W.Va., panel told
By Ken Ward Jr.
FAIRMONT, W.Va. -- Communities in Northern West Virginia are facing "an invasion" of heavy truck traffic related to the boom on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, a local sheriff told a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday.
Marshall County Sheriff John Gruzinskas described the situation in his area during a field hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
"We were never prepared for the onslaught of heavy trucks that would monopolize our roads, damage our property, and destroy our roads," Gruzinskas told lawmakers. "The drivers are not from here so they do not care what happens as a result of their reckless operations."
Gruzinskas testified here at a hearing put together by Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., to focus on the infrastructure needs of the drilling industry and potential downstream businesses such as a much-touted ethane cracker chemical-processing facility.
Witnesses were heavily stacked toward industry officials and boosters from within government. Except for Gruzinskas, no local citizens were asked to testify about how the boom is affecting their communities.
In West Virginia and some surrounding states, business and political leaders are pushing hard to encourage continued growth in natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation. The drive is heating up, as states race each other to offer economic incentives to lure another "cracker" plant like the one Shell Chemical is considering in western Pennsylvania.
Industry supporters say little about recent scientific papers that question whether natural gas really provides improvements in terms of greenhouse emissions or concerns that the gas boom diverts resources and attention from developing cleaner, renewable energy sources. And local residents in gas-producing areas remain concerned that even a new West Virginia law passed in December does not provide them enough protections from potential drilling damage to their property, local roads and environment.
Steve White, director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, said little attention is given to the issue of companies bringing in out-of-state workers to fill jobs created by the drilling boom.
"When a plant closes and we lose hundreds of jobs, there is a huge uproar, and rightfully so," White said. "Yet, when companies bring in out-of-area workers and we lose hundreds of local jobs, there is little outcry."
White added, "Unfortunately, too many companies are importing workers and too many local businesses are not given a chance to bid projects. We need to encourage all companies to hire locally."
Rockefeller pressed Randy Albert, chief operating officer for CONSOL Energy's gas operations, about why the industry doesn't improve trucking safety by hiring more West Virginia drivers who know the local roads.
Albert said that CONSOL tries to employ West Virginians, but added, "I can't mandate to my subcontractors that they hire West Virginians."
Rockefeller shot back, "You know, I think you can. And I think most of them aren't West Virginians. I would think that you probably could do that."
On the roads issue, state Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said "most of the damage" to roads from the drilling boom is being repaired by contractors hired and paid by gas operators. Under a state policy worked out with the industry, operators spent more than $20 million on repairs last year alone, Mattox said.
"Most repair projects have begun within a couple of days, if not the same day as the damage occurs," Mattox said. "Many operators have contractors on 'stand by' contracts. Many operators are learning that preventative work done before starting the well construction is more economical and provides better relations with local citizens."
Scott Rotruck, a vice president of Chesapeake Energy, said during Wednesday's hearing that "enhanced infrastructure" -- including railroads, pipelines, and gas processing facilities -- "are essential for the development" of the shale-gas reserves like the Marcellus. He said that Chesapeake spent $61 million on Northern West Virginia road improvements in 2011, and plans to spend another $93 million this year.
"West Virginia's road system was not built to accommodate the large transportation demands of shale development, but the good news is the process, while initially intrusive and disruptive, as is the case with many economic development projects, will leave behind an enhanced system of roads for the benefit of local residents and the state coffers," Rotruck said.
April 6, 2012
CREEK DAY 2012
Boy Scouts lend a hand to help keep Whiteday Creek clean.
Here is the link to the story:\
Know whats in your lease BEFORE you sign
Binghamton NY PressConnects.com:
Federal court deals blow to landowners in gas lease dispute
Decisions could give Chesapeake Energy the upper hand with force majeure claims
7:06 PM, Apr. 4, 2012 Written by Steve Reilly
Two federal court decisions may deal gas drilling goliath Chesapeake Energy the upper hand in an ongoing lease dispute with Southern Tier landowners.
Nearly a year after two federal lawsuits were filed over the Chesapeake's use of "force majeure" clauses to extend sub-market rate oil and gas leases, U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd said in a pair of orders issued late last month that dozens of those lease disputes need to be decided by arbitrators, not federal judges.
More hopeful news for landowners came in the second decision, which opened the door for disputes over the fraction of leases without an arbitration clause to move forward in the federal court system.
"I think that's the positive aspect of this is that there's a group of landowners moving forward to have their case heard in court," said Scott Kurkoski, one of several attorneys representing landowners in the two lawsuits. "That's going to be good for everyone."
Included in most oil and gas leases, force majeure clauses allow a company to extend the leases in the case of an unforeseen event hindering the terms of the contract.
New York state's four-year hold on issuing permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing falls into that category, Chesapeake and other energy companies have claimed recently.
In the first lawsuit, filed against Chesapeake last April, 259 plaintiffs representing about 150 leases and 10,000 acres of land sued the Oklahoma-based company over its use of the force majeure clause to extend the leases on the properties.
Landowners had signed the leases with small energy companies between 1999 and 2005 for $3 per acre per year, and they were acquired later by Chesapeake as interest in shale gas drilling grew. The leases under dispute involve mostly land in Broome and Tioga counties, but also include some parcels in Cortland and Chemung counties.
Robert Jones, an attorney for Coughlin & Gerhart, which is representing the landowners, said because the lease agreements were signed in the pre-Marcellus Shale era, few paid as much attention to the details as they would have today.
"These were documents that were drafted by the gas and oil companies and very rarely did a landowner get an attorney and negotiate with them," Jones said. "They simply signed a dotted line and didn't quite understand what all of the fine print meant in these leases."
In his March 20 order, Hurd granted Chesapeake's request to force the matter into arbitration.
"There are valid agreements to arbitrate and the disputes raised fall within the scope of the arbitration clause," Hurd wrote. "Therefore arbitration will be compelled as to those leases that include an arbitration clause."
The leases call for each dispute to be decided by three arbitrators: One selected by the landowners, one selected by Chesapeake, and the third selected by the two arbitrators.
"These leases also require that the arbitrators' decisions be unanimous, and that makes it more difficult to get some resolution in arbitration," Jones said.
All but two of the 150 leases contested in the lawsuit contain an arbitration clause.
The case may have sweeping implications for landowners across southern New York. Jones estimated about half of the roughly 1,000 leases his firm has reviewed contain arbitration clauses.
"We are contemplating our options, and one of them might be an appeal," Jones said. "We still have time to think about that."
CREEK DAY 2012
The Whiteday Creek Watershed Assoc. will be hosting its annual Creek Day on Saturday March 31, 2012.
See the events page for details
Bridgeport,WV - On the morning of Wednesday, March 26, over 30 anti-fracking activists from across West Virginia and Appalachia picketed the Bridgeport office of EQT Energy. The group of activists were supporting two landowners, Eileen and Jim Burke, who came from Doddridge County to try and meet with officials about concerns they had about EQT's shale gas operations near their property.
Hydraulic Fracturing, commonly called fracking, is a controversial method of natural gas extraction that involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laden water deep underground in order to shatter the bedrock and release the gas.
Eileen said that after setting up an appointment with a company representative, they found the doors locked. The company representative, Tim Groves, told the Burkes that he wasn't allowed
to speak with them. Police were called and the Burkes were escorted outside, where activists held a giant banner that read "Stop Fracking: Clean Water is a Human Right". The protestors chanted and held signs for passing traffic for the following thirty minutes.
Eileen Burke said that she had not come to cause trouble, but wanted to talk to EQT about her concerns for the safety of her family: "I worked as a schoolteacher and we made so many sacrifices to get here. I don't see myself as just an environmentalist-but especially as a mother who wants her kids to inherit the beautiful land and precious water that's now being ruined by gas and greed. Is making sure your children inherit clean water too much to ask?" The Burkes are concerned that they do not know which chemicals were used in the fracking process, and they recounted an experience where an EQT truck had caught on fire in front of their house in the middle of the night. Eileen spoke of how worried she had been about the
possibility of an explosion, and how the company has done little to explain what happened or to guarantee her family's security.
Eileen also commented that people in her community who have been affected by the gas drilling are under a great deal of pressure to not speak out. "The gas man who comes around here puts his hand on his heart and talks to us like we have a patriotic duty to allow this, as if we're threatening national security if we speak our minds. It's a routine speech that all my neighbors have seen. But to me, patriotism involves the practice of protecting people and the
environment, and that shows the ultimate love of our country."
David Baghdadi, 35, who currently lives in Rock Creek, West Virginia, said that he was inspired to attend the protest after visiting fracking sites in neighboring Doddridge County and listening to personal impact stories from local families. "Many local residents don't own their mineral rights and are powerless to watch as gas companies erect well pads, storage tanks and compressor stations on their lands. A lot of people have had their water go bad after the gas industry moved in, and many of them can't afford to move because having fracking operations nearby can destroy your property value. “We're here today to take a stand for justice, and to show concerned citizens in this community that they are not alone in this."
The protest was planned by Mountain Justice, a group that organizes citizens of the Appalachian region to fight against mountaintop removal mining (MTR). A number of Mountain Justice protestors came from the southern coalfields of West Virginia and were eager to draw
a connection between fracking and MTR. The group Mountain Justice commented, "In a state that has been devastated for hundreds of years by the coal industry, we refuse to let another extraction industry profit from the destruction of our mountains' waters and
communities. These are our most valuable resources, and the future of Appalachia deserves to be protected."
"Before you make a decision about fracking, do your research," said Doddridge County resident, Mirijana Beram. "We already have a bad track record for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. We're having our water polluted with serious toxins, yet we don't even know what to test it for because the fracking companies aren't obligated to disclose the chemicals they're injecting into the ground. How can you trust any industry that can inject carcinogens
deep under your home and doesn't even have to tell you about them?"
The demonstration lasted approximately 90 minutes with many cars honking in support of the picketers. A few of the smaller signs read, "Question Fracking", "Water & Mountains Matter More Than Gas" with a college student holding up a sign that read, "Please Don't
Frack My Future." Protestors said they hope their actions will help start a conversation across West Virginia around the promises and perils of fracking the Marcellus Shale.
High res photos can be found
The Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas has launched a webpage that contains information specifically related to horizontal drilling as defined by the Horizontal Drilling Act that was passed by the state Legislature in December.
As part of the Act, the Legislature required the DEP to create the page so citizens could obtain information about the location of proposed horizontal wells and give them the opportunity to comment on those permit applications.
Currently, the page offers links to items that will be further developed as permit applications are received by the agency. Links to pages that allow citizens to submit or review comments about specific permit applications, as well as a link to a tool that helps them find the location of a proposed well,are included.
The site can be found at:
Witnesses: Unsecured Equipment Causes Multi-Vehicle Accident On I-79
The Marion County Sheriff's Department is investigating a multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 79.
It happened shortly after 9 p.m. on I-79 northbound past exit 132.
According to witnesses, a large pick-up truck was hauling a flatbed trailer with unsecured drilling equipment.
Here is the link to the story:
Creek Day to be held on March 31, 2012
See the events page for details
The Fracking Industry Buys Congress
By Sharon Guynup, Environment News Service
22 February 12
WASHINGTON, DC, February 16, 2012 (ENS) - A natural gas drilling rush is on in rural North Dakota. And with it, residents are reporting growing numbers of respiratory ailments, skin lesions, blood oozing from eyes, and the deaths of livestock and pets.
Elsewhere, residents of Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wyoming and other states who thought they'd hit the lottery by signing natural gas drilling leases have watched their drinking water turn noxious: slick, brown, foamy, flammable.
In December, for the first time, federal regulators scientifically linked hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to the contamination of an aquifer, refuting repeated industry claims that the practice does not pollute drinking water. It happened in the rural ranching community of Pavillion, Wyoming, an area riddled with 162 natural gas wells, dug between 1990 and 2006. Despite a decade of complaints from residents that their reeking water was undrinkable - and that many suffered from nerve damage, asthma, heart trouble and other health problems - state officials did nothing. Finally the EPA stepped in, launching a three-year study running from 2008 to 2011.In its report, the EPA identified numerous fracking chemicals in Pavillion's water. Cancer-causing benzene was found at 50 times safe levels, along with other hazardous chemicals, methane, diesel fuel, and toxic metals - in both groundwater and deep wells.
Now, across the country in Pennsylvania, the EPA is testing drinking water in 61 locations in Susquehanna County for possible fracking-related contamination. Nationwide, residents living near fracked gas wells have filed over 1,000 complaints of tainted water, severe illnesses, livestock deaths, and fish kills. Complaints, sometimes involving hundreds of households, have risen in tandem with a veritable gold rush of new natural gas wells - now numbering about 493,000 across 31 states. This month's hearings on the EPA's Pavillion report, led by the House subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, have been contentious, with pro-drilling politicians and industry representatives attacking its conclusions. "The EPA is trying to go after fracking everywhere they can," said subcommittee chairman Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican. "They've had absolutely no proof that fracking had polluted drinking water, that I know of." Both he and industry spokesmen implied that the media had created a poorly-informed frenzy,spreading fear and mistrust of fracking.
However, James Martin, the EPA’s regional administrator for the West, testified that cement casings that should have protected drinking water were weak or missing - a possible source of contamination.
Other witnesses, including Dr. Bernard Goldstein, of the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, argued that the public should be concerned, noting that policy makers lack adequate information to protect public health.
Still, the fracking industry goes virtually unregulated. Why? The answer is money.
The oil and gas industry has reaped billions in profits from fracking. And since 1990, they've pumped $238.7 million into gubernatorial and Congressional election campaigns to persuade lawmakers that fracking is safe, which has effectively blocked federal regulation.
DOMINION POST Monday 13 February 2012:
County sees slowdown of new permits
No drilling applications filed in Mon since Oct.
BY DAVID BEARD
The Dominion Post
CHARLESTON — Monongalia County hasn’t been a hotbed of recent Marcellus permitting activity. There have been no new permit applications since The Dominion Post’s last report in October.
The reason may be the nature of the gas lying under Monongalia County — at least for one major Mon County operator.
The Oct. 19 report was an update from July 3, when there were 13 permitted wells. The Oct. 19 report showed two new applications pending — both by Chesapeake Appalachia.
One of those permits — for the Promised Land Mon 8H well east of Interstate 79 between Goshen and Halleck roads — was issued Jan. 17. The other, for Leslie Keaton Mon 3H — the H stands for horizontal — is still pending, according to Department of Environmental Protection records.
Compare that to Marion and Preston Counties. As of the July report, Marion County had 60 active permits with two more pending. Now, Marion has a total of 75 active permits with three more pending — one by Chesapeake; one by Trans Energy, an independent St. Marys operator; and one by XTO, an Exxon subsidiary.
In July, Preston County had 32 active permits with four pending. Now there are 40 active with four more pending — three by Chesapeake; one by Enerplus Resources, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Why is Mon County so quiet? Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, didn’t know for sure, but speculated it could be the nature of the local geology. For Chesapeake, which holds 7 of the 14 active permits in Mon County, it’s more specific — the gas itself.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of natural gas — wet and dry. Dry gas is mostly methane — the stuff you burn to heat your house. Wet gas contains other hydrocarbons — called natural gas liquids — such as ethane, propane and butane.
Wet gas is more valuable because the liquids can be sold or processed for additional profit. For instance, the state Legislature spent the early part of its 2012 session passing the governor’s cracker plant incentive bill to provide tax breaks for a company to locate an ethane cracker plant in West Virginia.
A cracker plant would convert ethane to ethylene to make plastics and other products. The American Chemical Council expects an investment of $3.2 billion would generate 8,000 construction jobs, $15 million in taxes and $363million in wages. The operation phase would generate 12,000 permanent jobs, $95 million in taxes and $729 million in wages.
The price for dry gas, meanwhile, hasn’t been so low since 2002. Gas industry officials said this week that the price for natural gas has fallen to about $2.65 per mcf (thousand cubic feet).
The last time the price was that low was for the first three months of 2002, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The price reflected a brief bottoming out after a steady rise from $1.85 per mcf in January 1999 to $6.82 in January 2001.
Prices began climbing after that, peaking at $10.79 in July 2008. They’ve been falling since.
Mon, Marion and Preston counties all sit on top of dry gas — in fact, Mon and Marion sit on the western border of the dry gas zone, according to a Penn State Marcellus Center map. Wetzel, Tyler and the Northern Panhandle sit atop wet gas.
In late January, Chesapeake announced it planned to cut its number of dry rigs from its 2011 average of 74 down to 24. Looking at shale plays across the nation, Chesapeake said, “the company intends to reallocate the capital savings from reduced dry gas drilling, well completion and pipeline connection activities to its liquids-rich plays that offer superior returns in the current strong liquids price environment. The company estimates that approximately 85 percent of its 2012 total net operated drilling capital expenditures will be invested in its liquids-rich plays.”
Stacey Brodak, Chesapeake Appalachia’s senior director of corporate development, addressed the situation in north-central West Virginia. “We are redeploying rigs from our dry gas plays to our liquid-rich plays. We currently have eight rigs in Marcellus South (which includes two rigs in southwestern Pennsylvania and six spread throughout the northern parts of West Virginia). It will decrease to six. It’s important to remember that portions of the Marcellus South area are rich in natural gas liquids in addition to dry gas. The six rigs in Marcellus South will be drilling in the wet gas areas of the play. Our forecast is generally five rigs in northern West Virginia and one in southwestern Pennsylvania.”
Does that mean no more development for Monongalia County? No.
Charleston-based Northeast Natural Energy has four permitted wells in Mon County — two in the Blacksville area, two in Morgantown Industrial Park. Northeast President Michael John told The Dominion Post in December that the company will evaluate its Morgantown well production before deciding if it wants to seek more permits for that pad.
It likely wouldn’t return to the MIP pad until 2013, but for 2012, he said then, “We’re continuing to look at opportunities in Mon County -— and we’re hopeful that some of those will materialize. We’re excited about the potential.”
Talking Drill Cuttings with DEP
By Leslee McCarty, WVEC
Last week, we wrote that we temporarily stopped the DEP rules bill on solid waste from being considered in committee because of our concerns about Marcellus drill cuttings going into landfills and about new cells being constructed just for Marcellus waste.
That enabled us to begin a dialogue with DEP about how drilling mud and drill cuttings waste is being managed. DEP has provided us with more information, and we have provided DEP with a list of additional questions. The meetings are continuing.
Below is the list of chemicals that DEP is mandating landfills taking Marcellus drill cuttings test in the leachate coming out of the landfills. Somehow this list does not make me feel any better about the “Marcellus play.”
The good news is that they require expensive testing for all of these components, costing $3,000 to $5,000 twice monthly. The bad news is that we did not regulate the industry before we permitted drilling and we are not properly prepared for such a massive impact on our state’s water, land and people.
total suspended solids
total recoverable cadmium
total recoverable silver
total recoverable aluminum
total recoverable selenium
total recoverable zinc dibromochloromethane
total recoverable boron
total recoverable beryllium
gross alpha radiation
gross beta radiation
total radium 226
total radium 228
total strontium 90
total recoverable copper
total recoverable nickel
total recoverable chromium
total recoverable arsenic
total nitrated hydrocarbons
total recoverable lead
We are continuing our talks with DEP aimed at transparency in the permitting process and working towards a comprehensive long term solution to the solid waste issue. We’ll keep you posted.
'Gasland' director arrested at House hearing
Credentials issue leads to unlawful entry charge
5:55 PM, Feb. 1, 2012
WASHINGTON -- An Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker was arrested at a House hearing Wednesday after trying to film the proceedings without the required media credentials.
Joshua Fox, of Milanville, Pa., was led out of the room in handcuffs and charged by Capitol Police with unlawful entry.
Fox directed the anti-drilling documentary "Gasland," which was nominated last year for an Academy Award. Fox also is an activist who has spoken out against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which was the subject of the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing.
Fracking takes place when large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected into wells to break up underground rock formations, such as the Marcellus Shale, allowing natural gas to escape.
The oil and gas industry has criticized Fox and his film for what it says is a sensationalized attack on fracking.
Democrats forced two votes, one to allow Fox to film the hearing and a second to recess the hearing for a week so that Fox could obtain credentials. Both motions were defeated on a party-line vote.
Committee Republicans issued a statement saying that committee rules state, "Personnel providing coverage by the television and radio media shall be currently accredited to the Radio and Television Correspondents' Galleries.
"The individual removed was not accredited by the House Radio and TV Gallery and had refused to turn off his camera upon request by Capitol Police," the statement added.
The hearing was available for viewing on the committee's Internet site, which is routine practice for most congressional committees.
"It is beyond unacceptable that acclaimed documentary director Josh Fox was arrested for trying to film a public hearing on groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing in Pavilion, Wyoming," Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, said in a statement. "This was a public hearing, there was plenty of room for cameras, and a credentialed camera crew was told they would be denied access because they were working for a documentary filmmaker. This is blatant censorship and a shameful stain on this Congress. I stand by Josh's right to record this hearing. His arrest was a huge mistake."
A Democrat on the committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, said Republicans were trying to hide criticism of the Environmental Protection Agency.
She said, "If Republicans want to undermine the use of science at EPA they can't hide it from the American people because they have a right to know."
Group: Cement dumped into stream
Friends of Cheat concerned about unauthorized action
BY MICHELLE WOLFORD
The Dominion Post
KINGWOOD — A Morgantown-based company with a facility in Kingwood has been ordered to stop dumping cement into a stream.
Amanda Pitzer, director of Friends of the Cheat, a nonprofit watershed advocacy group, said she contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after she saw photos of cement dumped into Morgan Run, near the Preston Concrete plant on Old Tunnelton Road in Kingwood.
“It’s an illegal dredge and fill,” Pitzer said. “It’s flagrant. We have businesses in this community that obey the rules and regulations. When it is repetitive and flagrant, Friends of the Cheat is here to help advocate for the affected citizens.
“We’ve known about the problem for over a year,” she said. “We contacted the state Department of Environmental Protection. I thought it was also important to notify the Corps. We contacted them and they came out and found additional dumps upstream.”
According to a release from the Corps of Engineers, a cease and desist order was issued to Preston Concrete in December for “unauthorized fill being discharged near or into Morgan Run.”
Friends of the Cheat provided a copy of a certified letter mailed to Robert Walls, the company owner, on Dec. 19. The letter indicates that such “unauthorized fill” is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act, which could result in civil fines. But, the letter continues, “it is not the intent of the Corps of Engineers to impose monetary fines or initiate legal action if this matter can be resolved informally.”
According to the letter, “Morgan Run’s banks and stream bed has been a site of many past and present unauthorized fill activities within several locations along your property.”
Walls said he is working with the Corps of Engineers to remedy the situation. He said the Corps has asked that he replace culverts, including one that runs in front of the concrete plant, but Walls said he doesn’t think he should have to replace it since he doesn’t own it — the Division of Highways does.
Charleston Gazette Tuesday 31 January 2012:
Tim Manchin is not helping landowners
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Is Delegate Tim Manchin serious about his plan to help surface owners through forced pooling? After months of meetings, Manchin failed to achieve meaningful landowner rights. His efforts resulted in Gov. Tomblin's horizontal drilling law which was a failure for landowners like me. It limits and reduces landowner rights and it does nothing to return or defend constitutional landowner rights.
Now, Mr. Manchin wants to "help us again" by eliminating even more property rights. Manchin's plan would force owners to surrender mineral property to a private company. It would deny owners just compensation because they would receive less royalties than others in the same mineral pool. It isn't clear if Manchin's forced pooling plan would provide lease bonus compensation to owners but it appears it would not.
This is just another bad example of West Virginians being denied constitutional rights to property, just compensation, equal protection and due process.
Manchin should stop telling property owners he is going to "help them" and what is in our best interest. He should protect our constitutional rights. It's difficult enough for us to oppose property invasion without his "help."
Look, people like me don't want to stop oil & gas development. But, we do oppose any "forced taking" of our property, government supported or otherwise. We oppose mineral development without regulatory enforcement that protects the environment. We want fair and equal protection under the law! Property owners are being "legally" robbed and our constitutional rights are being denied in plain view.
LTC Rick Humphreys, USA-Ret.
WASHINGTON POST Wednesday 25 January 2012:
Posted at 11:33 PM ET, 01/24/2012
In State of the Union Address, Obama says he will push forward with fracking
By Stephen Stromberg
President Obama wants to frack.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama spoke optimistically about the bounty of unconventional natural gas under the eastern United States. “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years,” Obama said, “and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.”
This is good news, pretty much no matter where you land on the political spectrum. Burning natural gas produces a lot less air pollution than burning coal — and half the carbon emissions. It’s also cheap. Which means that fuel switching is economically attractive, it would immediately better Americans’ health, and it would give renewables and new nuclear time to catch up in the fight against global warming.
But environmentalists, who should want responsible natural gas development, have attacked the process by which energy companies obtain this unconventional natural gas. They say that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — might taint drinking water or even cause earthquakes. Many want a moratorium.
The real answer is to press forward with exploiting this tantalizing resource while studying and curbing the side effects of extracting it — with intelligence, not reaction. Obama Tuesday night announced that his administration will require energy companies to disclose the chemical cocktails they use to fracture the subterranean shale in which the natural gas is trapped. This seems like a sensible place to start if you’re trying to promote careful natural gas production, instead of shutting it down.
That won’t satisfy anti-fracking activists. Then again, the environmental movement is so obsessed with the Keystone XL pipeline right now, it will probably let Obama’s heresy pass without too much distress.
By Stephen Stromberg | 11:33 PM ET, 01/24/2012
In news reports on January 6, 2012, Delegate Tim Manchin supported a FORCED Pooling initiative that would not only force property owners to participate in horizontal hydraulic fracturing, through reduced royalties it would penalize them for not voluntarily participating.
A petition has been created requesting our representatives "STOP Forced Pooling; START Protecting Individual Rights and the Environment." Will you help this cause by adding your name?
When you sign this petition, a copy immediately goes to the Governor, each Senator and each House of Delegates member. Our goal is to reach 1,000 signatures and we need your support.
You can read more and sign the petition here:
Whiteday Creek Watershed Meeting
Thursday, Jan. 19th, 2012
Bunners Ridge Volunteer Fire Dept.
Please attend and bring your ideas along to share with the group. We will be planning our activities for 2012. An update on our current water quallity studies will be provided.
THE STATE JOURNAL:
School skill sets need tweaked for Marcellus jobs
Posted: Jan 09, 2012 11:34 AM EST Updated: Jan 09, 2012 12:45 PM EST
By Ann Ali, Political Reporter
It takes 450 jobs to put in one natural gas well in West Virginia, and those jobs span 150 occupations, according to a study Kathy D'Antoni, assistant state superintendent of schools, shared with an interim committee of the West Virginia Legislature Monday.
The study was commissioned by the West Virginia Department of Education last year to look at job skills and job creation for the Marcellus shale industry. The study was done by a corporation called WIN, which did a similar report for Pennsylvania last year.
The study found that 450 jobs are associated with drilling one well, and 150 occupations are associated with those jobs.
"We've talked with companies about what kind of worker is needed," D'Antoni said. "The company said to me … we've got to do a job quickly and bring in people who get it done in the short term."
D'Antoni said the state's community and technical colleges and tech centers are trying to develop skill sets and pathways for students to be able to access the needed jobs and also to help connect companies with students to do those jobs.
"CDL truck drivers were needed, but we heard from employers saying often that we need more skill sets than just being able to drive the truck," she said. "They'd like them to drive to the location and have welding and electricity skills so they don't sit in the truck cab for eight hours."
D'Antoni said there is a perception that workers are brought to West Virginia from other states, but D'Antoni said companies told her they have a three-week turnaround on certain aspects of drilling wells, so it's easier to bring in workers who already know what they're doing, then ship them back out.
"We're trying to get ahead, so they can contact us," she said. "We're on the right path, but it's going to take us some time to get through the system, and we're putting together skill sets to meet the job needs they have."
D'Antoni said in working with the manufacturing industry, they were able to develop an employee portal with a list of available skill sets so companies could contact the career center and find workers. She said she's hoping to do the same thing for the natural gas industry.
"You can't gear up specifically for one industry, because that industry downsizes," she said. "What we're finding across industry and across business is there are a set of foundation skills required by all folks, and if we could get those strongly integrated … then a person is valuable in different areas.
"That's the key. It's basically skill sets you arm students with."
D'Antoni said drug testing is a huge problem across the country, but at one West Virginia job fair, 25 applicants out of 250 passed the company's drug test.
January 8, 2012
Remember the headline posted on Jan. 5th.?? Lawmakers unlikely to revisit marcellus shale in 2012.. Well guess what, the industry wants something more, what a shock.
Industry aims for forced pooling of properties for wells
BY DAVID BEARD
The Dominion Post
CHARLESTON — The gas industry wants legislation allowing for forced pooling of properties for gas wells. Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, would like to see, in exchange, up to a 1 percent severance tax hike to fund an infrastructure trust fund.
Manchin suggested the idea Thursday during a legislative preview meeting hosted by The Associated Press at Marshall University’s South Charleston campus. The session focused on potential changes to the recently passed Marcellus legislation.
West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association Executive Director Corky DeMarco responded that industry does want the pooling, but not the tax hike.
“I think we’ve got some major problems with severance increases no matter how benevolent the increases might be,” he said.
West Virginia is competing with Ohio and Pennsylvania for Marcellus drilling dollars, DeMarco said, and has a higher overall tax burden. Companies — whose stockholders are interested in maximum profits — may come in and drill one well to hold their leases, but go elsewhere where the profit margins are higher.
Forced pooling requires that a mineral owner who doesn’t want to be part of a group of leased properties, or who can’t be located, be put in the pool so sufficient acreage can be assembled for a well pad and its horizontal wells that extend beyond the pad.
Manchin acknowledged forced pooling has certain advantages: It can minimize the number of well pads in an area,
The tax hike, he said, might be needed to entice legislators to OK forced pooling.
The mineral owners would need a concession too, Manchin said. Owners forced into a pool usually receive smaller royalties. The penalty should be significantly reduced. Since they won’t negotiate a lease, their compensation should be within the top 20 percent of negotiated leases within certain parameters.
“If we’re going to give them [the industry] the ability to take, they should be paying at the top end,” Manchin said.
Later in the day, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Chief of Staff Rob Alsop addressed a question about the severance tax, and said Tomblin isn’t looking at tax hikes at this time.
Manchin, who co-chaired the Joint Select Committee on Marcellus Shale, noted other changes he’d like to see.
In its draft bill, the committee put in a requirement that the industry report the numbers of its out-of-state workers. The governor’s bill, which became law, struck that, authorizing instead an employment study by the Workforce Investment Council.
The state needs to know how many people are getting jobs, and what kind — whether they are highpaying specialty jobs or low-paying general labor, he said.
DeMarco balked at the idea of reporting labor statistics. “We feel like we’re being picked on.” No other industry has to report its out-of-state workers, he said. The state needs to train the types of workers the industry needs.
Manchin responded that no other industry has the kind of community impact of Marcellus operations, promising jobs galore that aren’t materializing. Training is needed, he agreed, so in-state workers can land the best, highest-paying industry jobs.
Manchin also regretted that Tomblin’s bill removed most of the surface owner protections that were in the committee’s bill. “There’s not much we’ve done for surface owners,” he said. “We’ve got to get a little better on surface owner rights.”
The passed legislation includes public notice requirements, but struck one allowing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the discretion to hold public hearings. It also struck a provision giving incentives for drillers to negotiate surface owner agreements so owners could protect their best land. Manchin said he would like to see legislation requiring surface owners be compensated for the market value of their land, not its existing use. Owners could lose the use of valuable, developable land and be compensated merely for the price of a hay field. “I find this to be unbelievable, unfair and inappropriate.”
Demarco said he doesn’t know how much change can be expected this session. “I don’t know if there’s interest in the members of the House and Senate to visit anything Marcellus right now.”
Two legislators who spoke later, House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, RKanawha, and Senate Finance Chair Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, agreed. After three years of debate and a special session that just ended, there’s some Marcellus burnout.
Manchin acknowledged that. There won’t be major changes, he said, but he hopes for some important tweaks
January 6, 2012
Lawmakers unlikely to revisit Marcellus shale in 2012 Posted: Jan 05, 2012 12:00 PM EST Updated: Jan 05, 2012 4:30 PM EST
Industry and lawmakers attending the Associated Press Legislative Lookahead agreed on at least one thing about Marcellus shale legislation in 2012 – it's probably not coming up.
Following more than two years of work and countless hours discussing Marcellus shale legislation in West Virginia, officials and industry representatives say Legislature is likely too Marcellus-weary to continue. This is despite the notable absence of resolution on major issues such as forced pooling.
Del. Tim Manchin, the House leader of the interim joint committee on Marcellus shale, said there was not likely any political will to address the problem, despite the governor's office making substantial changes, including deletions, from the interim committee's bill.
"We've got a number of bills. I'm just not sure if leadership or the committees have a desire to take them all up," Manchin said. "My sense is that they've been dealt with in some fashion and we may just have to wait a year until we get some stuff back."
Manchin had issues with several items of the passed legislation. Missing elements, Manchin said, included providing landowners a rebuttable presumption of water source contamination due to drilling, more stringent labor reporting requirements and consideration of effects of drilling due to population density and other special conditions.
"I think we're not in much of a position to adopt something until we get something back from (the EPA) and DEP," Manchin said. "I really think now is the time for us to start looking a little harder at the forced pooling issue."
Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, was also skeptical of any political will to enact additional Marcellus shale legislation.
"This has been a long, hard struggle. People are a little worn out with Marcellus and think they have done what needs to be done," DeMarco said. "That's something we don't necessarily agree with, but whether they have an appetite to do anything more or not, we don't know."
DeMarco said his organization is working on forced pooling legislation, but whether it is introduced will depend on "some looking for friends type thing."
"They're tired. They're wore out," DeMarco said.
Del. Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha and Republican minority leader, and Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, also attended the event, and both said they were not expecting major legislation involving the Marcellus shale in 2012.
"I think a number of the issues that are most contentious are ones that are addressed in this bill," Armstead said.
Armstead there may be some "fine tuning" done to the bill.
"I think there's a sufficient amount of rule-making and review with the agencies to come through and promulgate certain rules that gives them the flexibility to tweak. I think there's a vehicle within the current legislation that would allow the agencies, DEP and those folks to come in and promulgate the rules."
Prezioso said he believes the Legislature did a good job, and he commended the governor for taking leadership on passing the bill.
Recent reports tying hydraulic fracturing to water contamination in Wyoming and seismic activity in Ohio, Manchin said, were not of particular concern.
"It's not changing my mind at the moment," Manchin said. He said he would like for more information and study on the issue.
DeMarco was also dismissive of such studies, which have gained significant media traction.
"This whole thing is and education process," DeMarco said. "The links are being tried to be made because it's a new industry and we're doing stuff underground. It's less known by the majority of people what's actually going on. People are looking for reasons, and we appear to be the reason."
January 5, 2012
CALL FOR ACTION
The number of trucks hauling material and equipment to and from gas well sites is growing at a steady pace. With this increase in traffic comes the increased danger of property damage or worse personal injury. In the last three weeks I have had damage done to the windshelds of two vehicles in my family. One on I79 and today on Rt. 73 near Meadowdale. Todays incindent was a direct result of a truck that was not equipped with mud flaps. Its time for the West Virginia Dept. of Transportation to institue some check points and begin inspecting these vehicles. City, County and State law enforcement should also be instructed to begin preforming road checks in order to get this issue under control. We've all read about the terrible situation in Wetzel county. Marion and Mon Counties are soon to suffer the same. We're practically being run off of OUR highways. The owners and operators of these vehicles must obey and follow the same rules and regulations required for the citizens of West Virginia.
I urge each and every citizen to contact the Secretary of Transportation and insist on immediate action to get this problem under control. The goal is to PREVENT accidents. Its only a matter of time until a serious event takes place.
Here is the contact info:
Paul A. Maattox, Jr. Cabinet Secretary WV Dept. of Transportation
Shale drilling facts you might not know
(by S. Thomas Bond)
Several times as much money has been invested in the shale drilling boom as was invested in the housing boom of the last decade. One qualified observer has estimated five times as much in the United States. Money has come in from all over the world, with China and Norway leading investors. Yet there is a lingering sense of skepticism about the success of the enterprise among many observers.
It is essentially a scheme for selling investment, because the market for so much gas does not exist. While the investment comes in things go well, but it can not survive on today’s market. The emphasis has shifted from dry gas to natural gas liquids because they are more saleable.
The recovery is very low, apparently 10% or less. Well life is short, due to rapid decline of production. Barnette wells are abandoned, on the average, at seven and a half years. Marcellus wells decline more rapidly. Secondary recovery, restimulation of played-out wells has not been demonstrated.
Opposition to drilling is strong. At present there are over 100 sites on the internet opposing shale drilling and several times as many organizations are working to restrict the industry in the U. S and more in the rest of the world. And there are law firms which advertise they will support individuals against the industry. This growing force hasn’t reached a level where it can generate significant political force – yet. Opposition is strongest where people are best educated, increasing toward the north and east in the Marcellus area. Many places have bans against drilling. Watersheds where the great eastern cities get their water are largely protected from shale drilling.
Economic benefits touted by shale gas proponents come down to one thing – jobs and the business it takes to keep workers near the drilling. Most of the labor is skilled, and the men are “worked hard and put away wet” as they used to say about horses. The industry wants nothing to do with them after hours. It hires a few token locals. Very little the industry uses is produced locally, so there little local economic help there. Drilling is about 10 times as capital intensive as other industries. However it has a very low economic multiplier for the area where it takes place
Calculations of economic benefit not paid for by the industry are almost as rare as hen’s teeth. enefit calculations never consider the effect on other industries. Tourism, fishing and hunting, second and retirement homes are seriously hurt by drilling. Forestry and farming, which have high economic multipliers and are likely to grow as the world population increases, are injured now and for the long indefinite future. Economic calculations never include environmental damage, cost to local infrastructure or effect on local people’s lives. Neither is the depreciation of the land drilled on, which in Pennsylvania and Texas has been as much as 50% to 75% of the original value
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
According to Common Cause, the industry has spent three-quarters of a billion dollars on politicians. And they didn’t even consider West Virginia! Gov. Corbett in Pennsylvania got a cool $1.6 million from the industry. It was a good investment, judging by the results. Of course, the West Virginia Governor, who notoriously weakened the bill worked out by the legislative select committee, didn’t merit more than a small fraction of Corbett’s campaign contributions.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The real bomb-waiting-to-go-off is pollution. Air pollution, water pollution and soil pollution. The industry’s narrative disallows any pollution beyond an occasional “accident.” This is just a story made up in advance. That is clear from the existence of the “Halliburton loophole,” included in the 2005 Energy Act. It was guided by then Vice-President Chaney, who has extensive ties to the Halliburton company, which worked out the technique and used it for the first time two or three years before the Act was passed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This exemption and other legislative and bureaucratic action excuses shale drilling from
~~~ The National Environmental Policy Act,
~~~ The Clean Air Act,
~~~ The Clean Water Act,
~~~ The Safe Drinking Water Act,
~~~ The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (standards for handling of hazardous waste),
~~~ The Superfund Act (holds polluting industries responsible for cleanup cost) and
~~~ The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (requires industries to report to the EPA the release and transfer of significant levels of toxic substances)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Pollution of aquifers is like the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Everyone from the men on the drilling rig to all the neighbors know it happens. Still the powers that be in the industry go through contortions claiming it doesn’t happen, allowing them a legal right to continue to pollute. A Forbes article reports two government agencies are offering 35 million dollars to researchers “For Fracking Pollution Solutions.” Experts like Karlis Muehlenbachs, an expert on distinguishing the source of natural gas; Dan Bain, a groundwater expert; and Poune Sabri, an expert in health effects of pollution, publish and talk about pollution caused by shale drilling. They are all research scientists and holders of a doctorate. And hundreds of people have had the experience of losing their water simultaneously with the drilling of a shale gas well.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So what does the industry have to fear will puncture the shale drilling bubble?
~~~ First, public recognition of the environmental and health hazards from the use of present methods, and the mendacity it has used when dealing with the problem.
~~~ Second, the growing reaction against shale drilling methods which accompanies expansion into new territory.
~~~ Third, the loss of favorable legislative climate due to growing political power of the public reaction.
~~~ Fourth, loss of continuing investment due investor awareness of any of the previous developments, or the very tentative nature of predictions for future income.
~~~ Fifth, and most to be feared, a serious depression, which will cut off both investment and market.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The shale drilling industry is long on hype, short on earned income and much more fragile than appears by its robust expansion and political clout. All that holds it together is a story, often repeated, that many people want to believe
"The Quote of the day" from Doug Malcolm, an engineer and past president of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of West Virginia, asked, "What's wrong with out-of-sate workers?"
So now the truth comes out, all the talk about how the Marcellus boom would effect employment in West Virginia was just a snow job.
The real question should be....
WHAT'S WRONG WITH HIRING IN-STATE-WORKERS ????
December 18th, 2011
The Governor and the industry passed a bill. Most of the items submitted by individuals, concerned citizens groups and by the Joint Committee were tossed. This may well be the "worst" legislature and governor the state has ever had. Their approval rating must be lower than the crowd in Washington.
The key to regulations is writing them to PREVENT problems. We the people wish to protect our environment. The industry would rather just march ahead and then shellout a few dollars after the damage has been done. Its like putting on your seat belt after the accident.
Here is a link to the bill:
STATEHOUSE BEAT, Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette, Sunday 4 December 2011
If Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin calls a special session on Marcellus Shale drilling regulation next week (which looks increasingly likely), it will be not because there's consensus on the bill, but because he believes he has enough votes in the House to pass a version of the bill favored by industry.
One of Tomblin's issues with the draft bill that came out of the House-Senate select committee is that it would put specific standards for such things as well casings directly into state law, rather than going through the normal rule-making process.
Generally speaking, Tomblin's concern is well taken, since its comparatively easy to amend agency rules to adapt to changes in technology and other requirements.
However, those who've insisted on putting the technical regulations into the legislation, including Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, know that the legislative rule-making review process also favors industry, who are able to overwhelm environmentalists and landowners with the sheer numbers of lobbyists and technical advisors that they can devote to the rule-making process.
Some legislators have expressed concerns about the potential embarrassment of coming out of a special session with no legislation -- given the short window of opportunity to act prior to the Christmas holiday week.
December 6, 2011
FAIRMONT — Local drivers may have noticed a convoy of trucks traveling through Marion County on Monday, delaying traffic along the way.
Here is the link to the story:
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983.
PSC Puts Gas Pipeline Safety Information Front and Center
Posted: Dec 05, 2011 2:23 PM EST Updated: Dec 05, 2011 3:06 PM EST
By Pam Kasey
Kanawha County had the most miles of natural gas pipeline in the state in 2009, at 409, followed by Marshall at 317 miles and Wetzel at 314.
Altogether, about 4,000 miles of gas transmission line criss-crossed the state in 2009, along with more than 10,000 miles of smaller gas distribution line and just 600 miles of gas gathering line.
These are just a couple of the interesting facts now easily accessible through a gas pipeline safety information page the Public Service Commission of West Virginia has created on its website, accessible under "Other Areas of Interest" on the commission's home page.
A link to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration page for West Virginia offers breakdowns of pipeline mileage. It also gives statistics on pipeline incidents involving injuries, fatalities or property damage for each of the past 10 years and a database detailing each incident.
Another link sends the user to a Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration page that can create a transmission pipeline map for any county in the state.
In addition, links are provided to the state's gas pipeline safety regulations as well as to contact information for agency staff and for the nearly 50 pipeline companies that operate in the state.
The addition of the gas pipeline safety web page to the PSC's website brings transparency in most of the areas emphasized in a recent report by the Pipeline Safety Trust.
PST's Nov. 28 report reviewed the website of every state's pipeline safety regulatory agency for eight types of information: contact information for agency staff, contact information for pipeline companies, pipeline safety regulations, transmission pipeline maps, incident data, inspection records, enforcement records and excavation damage data.
While the Pipeline Safety Trust ranking had West Virginia tied for 16th-worst among states for transparency, the new, more accessible web page would put it among the several most transparent states.
Appox 400 gallons of a synthetic based fluid that is used with drilling mud was spilled along the roadway that leads to a drill pad in the Bunners Ridge Area, near Fairmont. Some of the fluid ran down a ditch and entered a small tributary of WhiteDay Creek called Laurel Run. Booms were placed in the creek in several places and remediation is taking place along the roadside. According to Chesapeake Energy the WVDEP has taken samples and is overseeing the work. I visited the site this morning and only a small amount of the polluting fluid is visible in the stream. Chesapeake has advised me that this fluid is not hazardous and should cause no problems.Channel Five news has a story posted and WBOY has stated they would do a story today as well. The Dominion Post is presently putting a story together and should be in Friday's paper. We should expect the WVDEP to issue a public report on the incident.
Link to Channel 5 Report