Marcellus Shale

Many natural gas drilling companies use treated water from abandoned coal mines for fracking, but that number is decreasing due to questions on liability issues, according to Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Greene, Washington).

Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

The centerpiece of Gov. Tom Wolf's state budget died its umpteenth death around a negotiating table this week.

Republican legislative leaders emerged from closed-door negotiations with the Democratic Wolf administration to announce that the governor's proposed severance tax on natural gas drillers is a non-negotiable no-go.

Environmental permits issued to Royal Dutch Shell could pave the way for construction of the proposed Appalachia ethane cracker in Beaver County, the Department of Environmental Protection said Monday. 

AP Photo/Andrew Rush

Although Pennsylvania has experienced a recent boom in natural gas production, many wells have no direct connection to the main infrastructure of pipelines.

The Wolf administration has created the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF), to oversee the fulfillment of the demand for connecting pipelines.

Courtesy of Michelle Johnsen via StateImpact PA

Local governments all over the country are trying stop the surge in oil and gas development by embracing a novel legal tactic–community-based rights ordinances. It’s a strategy that carries risks.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

When Gov. Tom Wolf was campaigning, he said if elected he would place a severance tax on Marcellus shale gas in the commonwealth, and now he’s moving forward on a plan to do just that. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, however, doesn’t agree with some changes.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new proposal from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) strengthens regulations on the oil and gas industry, while attempting to increase transparency and protect the general public.

“The release of today’s draft update to the commonwealth’s Oil and Gas regulations  in my view represents a great step forward for responsible drilling in Pennsylvania, and my definition of responsible drilling is protecting public health and the environment, while enabling drilling to proceed,” said Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Quigley.

New Map Shows Fracking on PA State Lands

Mar 9, 2015
Courtesy photo/ PennFuture

  There are more than 8,000 Marcellus Shale natural gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania, with 430 on public lands. Now the public can see exactly where drills are on state lands, thanks to environmental interest group PennFuture, which collaborated with digital media artists from the FracTracker Alliance to create an interactive map that shows the overlap between public lands and gas wellheads.

Flickr user Kara Newhouse

Sunoco’s pipeline division has withdrawn its request that its Mariner East I pipeline be designated as a public utility, a development environmental groups are hailing as a victory.

The pipeline runs just south of Pittsburgh from the MarkWest Energy Partners processing and fractionation complex in Houston Pa. to an existing Sunoco pipeline in Delmont Pa..

Environmental groups say Sunoco was seeking to have the pipeline designated as a public utility by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in order to obtain eminent domain authority.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

Gov. Tom Wolf, who ran last year with the backing of environmental groups, will soon be giving a first glimpse at how his administration will approach the powerful Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.

Next week, Wolf's Department of Environmental Protection is preparing to release its plans to update various rules over the drilling industry, including how it must prevent methane leaks and how it must handle toxic wastewater.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Wolf campaigned on a promise to pump $1 billion into public education, and he was in Monroeville Monday promoting his plan to do just that.

Wolf has proposed severance tax of 5 percent plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas extracted. He said the Independent Fiscal Authority determined that would amount to an overall tax of about 5.8 percent.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf fleshed out his plan to tax natural-gas drilling Wednesday, saying it would bring Pennsylvania into line with other gas-producing states and generate as much as $1 billion a year largely earmarked for helping the state's financially strained public schools.

The Democrat made his case for the tax during a visit to Caln Elementary School in Thorndale, located in one of the poorest school districts in Chester County, as he kicked off a statewide "Schools that Teach" tour.

Impact fees have been in place for counties with Marcellus Shale drilling sites, but if State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) gets his way, pipelines could be the key to spreading the wealth.

Dinniman plans to introduce legislation Monday that would establish a pipeline impact fee in Pennsylvania.

He said the burden needs to be taken off those who are directly affected by the pipelines carrying shale gas to the ports of Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore.

An environmental group plans to appeal a court ruling that upheld the leasing of public lands for gas and oil drilling. Commonwealth Court rejected a 2012 lawsuit by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation seeking to halt drilling in state parks and forests and diverting revenues from a conservation fund to the general operating budget.

Adam Welz for CREDO Action / Flickr

Last month the state of New York voted to ban fracking. While many celebrated this news some saw their visions of an economic boom go bust.

Journalist Tom Wilber has been covering shale gas developments and gives a first-hand account of this latest news and emphasizes the importance of timing for this decision,  fracking's impact public health and social consequences and its relation to Pennsylvania.

"New York and Pennsylvania are different states in terms of their history with mineral extraction. I think that Pennsylvania has a different comfort level with mineral extraction, going back to the days of the anthracite coal mining. I think there is more of an acceptance of the downside of mineral extraction in Pennsylvania. [ In New York] It's foreign to people [mineral extraction]."

Allegheny Front reporter, Reid Frazier responds to Wilber’s point by reminding us that along with the attention of environmental groups, PA Governor-elect Tom Wolf has said he will be focusing on the public health implications of fracking in Pennsylvania.

Vantage Energy Appalachia has been fined $999,900 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for more than a dozen violations of regulations in connection with a Jan. 15 landslide as well as illegal waste disposal at a well pad in Franklin Township, Greene County.

While the population in Marcellus Shale drilling towns has not increased, crime, housing costs and other negative impacts have.

That’s according to the left-leaning Keystone Research Center and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s report "The Shale Tipping Point: The Relationship of Drilling to Crime, Truck Fatalities, STDs and Rents in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio."

More than 300 people filled a ballroom at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh Thursday to devise the framework for a regional energy development plan.

Representatives from more than 20 energy-related organizations led the event, trying to pinpoint key issues to address in the energy development plan.

Pittsburgh and the surrounding 32 county region have a long history of being energy innovators, according to Power of 32 Implementation Committee Chairman Greg Babe, but the area lacks vision and strategy.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A new demonstration project in Sarver, about 30 miles outside Pittsburgh, is taking a decades-old problem and turning it into a possible solution for the natural gas industry. Winner Water Service has launched treatment facility that aims to clean up polluted water – and sell it to natural gas developers for use in fracking operations.

A recent survey of 37 energy companies in southwestern Pennsylvania found some 7,000 jobs will need to be filled between now and 2020, jobs that are critical to ongoing operations.

That’s according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which conducted the survey. CEO Dennis Yablonsky said with more than 1,000 energy companies in the greater region, the job needs are likely much higher. The problem is finding enough skilled workers to fill those jobs.

Enter the Appalachia Partnership Initiative.

Daniel Foster / Flickr

Are state police in Pennsylvania tracking activists for Marcellus Shale drillers? 

We’ll pose that question to journalist Adam Federman who recently reported on this issue for the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia City Papers.

A recent series of stories produced by The Allegheny Front and 90.5 WESA explored the influence of industry money on Pennsylvania’s oversight of the natural gas boom.

In one of the reports, there was an assertion from environmental group PennFuture that the former head of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was available mostly to industry:

Daniel Foster / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County. The $4.15 million fine is the largest ever brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era. We'll be joined by DEP spokesman John Poister.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County.
 
“We have fined Range Resources $4.15 million, the largest fine that has ever been brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era,” said DEP spokesman John Poister.
 
In addition, Range Resources has agreed to close five impoundments and upgrade two others. The impoundments in question are used to store water.
 

Can Living Near a Fracking Site Cause Health Problems?

Sep 17, 2014
Ari Moore / Flickr

 A new study has found that residents in Western Pennsylvania living close to natural gas drilling sites were twice as likely to report health problems than those living farther away. We talk with the study's lead author Dr. Peter Rabinowitz, who says public health researchers surveyed nearly 500 adults and children in Washington County, southwest of Pittsburgh.

Another Republican, this time a candidate for state Senate, is voicing support for a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers, largely a pet issue of Democrats.

Tom McGarrigle, running for a Delaware County seat, joins several sitting GOP senators who also support an extraction tax  to raise money for schools, infrastructure or pension obligations.

But it doesn’t mean an extraction tax is imminent.

Slapping natural gas drillers with a new tax is something more frequently proposed by Democrats.

Six years into a natural gas boom, Pennsylvania has for the first time released details of 243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“Energy independence.”

“Shale revolution.”

These were the buzzwords used Monday morning as officials gathered for a ceremony marking the start of natural gas drilling activity near Pittsburgh International Airport.

The mood was festive — complete with music, appetizers, goodie bags and air conditioned portable restrooms — as Gov. Tom Corbett and Consol Energy President and CEO Nick DeIuliis prepared to take the podium.

Dozens of oil and gas companies across 12 states, including Pennsylvania, are using prohibited diesel fuels in hydraulic fracking, according to a report released Wednesday by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

The Marcellus Shale Industry continues to grow, though at a slower pace than years past. That’s according to the recently-released Annual Workforce Survey from the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Industry companies expect to hire 2,000 workers in 2014, a 50 percent drop from 2013 numbers.

“We’ve seen a reduction in rig count, primarily due to the drop in natural gas prices not only Pennsylvania, but across the country,” said Dave Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, “kind of victims of our own success.”

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