Marcellus Shale

Katie Colaneri / StateImpact Pennsylvania

It all started with beans.

Joyce and Steve Libal run a small orchard on their 63-acres in Little Meadows, Susquehanna County where they sell fruit and organic vegetables.

One day in early September, a friend came by to purchase ten pounds of green bush beans.

“In this area, with all the drilling going on, the conversations usually end up talking about the gas industry,” Steve Libal says. “And he just brought up that he had seen, he’s a borough councilman and they received a packet of information about a well pad behind our house.”

Wild and Scenic Film Festival Comes to Pittsburgh

Oct 2, 2013

A film festival that explores the beauty of nature but also potential negative impacts from oil and gas drilling has its Pittsburgh premiere this month.

The Allegheny Defense Project will host the Wild and Scenic Film Festival to provide a forum to discuss the growing climate crisis Americans face and inspire action.

According to Matt Peters, the events and outreach coordinator at the Allegheny Defense Project, the goal of the festival is to highlight nature both locally in Pittsburgh as well as around the world and raise awareness about potential threats to it.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly gaveled into session this week after a long summer break, and on the agenda are items related to the use of natural gas from Marcellus Shale.

But the package of bills aimed at expanding use of the resource has some environmental groups concerned.

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

In 2010, Pittsburgh was the first municipality in the nation to institute a ban on hydraulic fracturing. Many others have followed suit, including the boroughs of Baldwin, West Homestead and Wilkinsburg, as well as State College, PA.

Now citizens in Youngstown, Ohio are looking at the structure of Pittsburgh’s fracking ban in shaping a their own ordinances. PublicSource reporter Natasha Khan recently wrote about the ongoing debates in Youngstown as it pertains to jobs and environmental concerns.

Opponents of the Youngstown ban say it’s unconstitutional for a municipality to regulate beyond state and federal law. Similar objections have also been raised in Pennsylvania.

Ferlo Calls for Fracking Moratorium in PA

Sep 18, 2013

When lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week they will be faced with a new proposal to put a moratorium on new permits for hydraulic fracturing. 

State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) announced that he is introducing legislation during a news conference at the Allegheny County Courthouse Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1100 would also create a commission to analyze the agricultural, economic, environmental and social effects of Marcellus Shale drilling.

Diesel is generally the fuel used to power everything from vehicles going to and from natural gas well sites to equipment used at the sites.

EQT Corporation and Green Field Energy have announced the completion of multiple fracturing stages using pumps powered by natural gas supplied from a Marcellus Shale gas well.

“Most of the engines used for hydraulic fracturing are diesel, so if you have turbine pumps that can use the natural gas on-site as the fuel source, it’s cleaner burning and reduces up to 85 percent of fuel costs,” said EQT spokeswoman Linda Robertson.

Democratic Frontrunner for Governor Proposes Severance Tax On Shale Gas

Sep 5, 2013

Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz announced Wednesday that as governor, she would impose a 5 percent severance tax on Marcellus Shale production.

Schwartz told reporters on a conference call that her plan for what she called a “reasonable, fair, moderate tax” would generate $612 million this year and nearly triple to $2 billion in about 10 years. She said she wants to use the money to invest in education and transportation infrastructure.

State Board Approves Tighter Oil and Gas Regulations

Aug 28, 2013

An arm of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has approved a new package of regulations that, if approved, would govern the surface operations of oil and gas producers in the state. The proposed rules from the Environmental Quality Board were developed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as part of a two year push to refine Act 13.

DEP spokesperson Lisa Kasianowitz said the package includes four main changes:

Consol Energy

Consol Energy plans to build six well pads and three impoundment ponds on land surrounding the Pittsburgh International Airport as it works to tap into the Marcellus shale under the facility. 

Miles of water and gas pipelines and access roads are also part of the plan that is currently up for public review.

Allegheny County Council inked a deal with Consol to drill at the airport pending regulatory approval from several agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration. The deal could be worth as much a $500 million dollars to the county.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority and Consol Energy will unveil the plan to drill for oil and natural gas at Pittsburgh International Airport during a public workshop Tuesday.

Representatives from the airport authority and Consol Energy will answer questions about the plan and its environmental impact.

The workshop is meant to provide residents with more information about the oil and gas development plans, the environmental assessment, the drilling schedule and process.

But airport authority spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said it’s not an open forum.

Nothing has been decided yet, but Allegheny County Council is considering an offer to develop natural gas found under Deer Lakes Park.

A new group made up of several grass roots organizations is planning to urge the group to say “no.” Members of Protect Our Parks will deliver their message at Tuesday’s County Council meeting.

Daniel Foster / flickr


Despite a declining number of wells, Marcellus Shale gas production in 2013 is up 50% from 2012. According to Nick Nanos, President and CEO of Nanos Research, this can be attributed at least in part to a shift of focus.

“The focus has been on higher quality drills and wells that can yield a greater value,” Nanos explains.

Laurie Barr, via Wikimedia Commons

A group charged with examining the Marcellus Shale industry in a comprehensive, unbiased manner has made several recommendations regarding the development, distribution and research of natural gas.

The Shale Gas Roundtable released its final report, and any further action is up to industry leaders, lawmakers and environmentalists.

Marcellus Shale natural gas production is rising even faster this year than energy experts had predicted, and that's having a national impact on energy.

Bentek, a Colorado company that analyzes energy trends, said 2013 production in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is up about 50 percent compared with last year. Figures for the pipelines that take gas out of the Marcellus show that in the first six months of the year, Pennsylvania produced about 1.5 trillion cubic feet of gas, with projections for a year-end total of about 3.2 trillion cubic feet.

The Department of Environmental Protection will continue to study air quality near gas wells in Washington County through the end of the year.

In 2012, the DEP began a long-term study to measure ambient air pollution in Chartiers and Hickory townships, where both “wet” and “dry” natural gas are being extracted and sold through compressor stations and pipeline networks.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said while most of the attention has been on water contamination, the emphasis is beginning to shift towards drilling’s effect on air pollution.

Lifelong Gag Order Imposed on Two Children in Western PA Fracking Case

Aug 2, 2013

Two young children are forbidden from speaking about Marcellus Shale or fracking for the rest of their lives. The court action stems from a settlement in a high-profile Marcellus Shale lawsuit in western Pennsylvania.

The two children were 7 and 10 years old at the time the Hallowich family settled a nuisance case against driller Range Resources in August 2011. The parents, Chris and Stephanie, had been outspoken critics of fracking, saying the family became sick from the gas drilling activity surrounding their Washington County home.

Ari Moore / Flickr

A PowerPoint presentation leaked to reporters at the LA Times and other news agencies implies that methane from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, did contaminate wells in Dimock, PA.  The report comes from a regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency. Many believe the information was not disclosed as a result of pressure from lobbyists and political figures at the national level. 

According to the PowerPoint, the regional mid-Atlantic office of the EPA did not agree with the national decision to close the investigation in Dimock. Susan Phillips, Energy Reporter for StateImpact PA and shale gas reporter and author, Tom Wilber explained the difficult nature of regulating fracking and natural gas.

After nearly four years, the head of Pennsylvania’s leading natural gas industry group will be stepping down.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) announced Friday its CEO Kathryn Klaber will be leaving the group this fall and will stay on during a nationwide search for her replacement.

Klaber, a Beaver Falls native, will be representing the MSC at upcoming events in Australia and London and will host the group’s third annual Shale Insight conference in Philadelphia in September.

A landmark federal study on fracking shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers at the Department of Energy in Pittsburgh, found that the chemical-laced fluids used to release natural gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water. That's according to geologist Richard Hammack.

Pennsylvania’s Act 13 Marcellus Shale impact fees from the state’s 6,000 wells so far amount to $400 million: $204 million for 2011 and $198 million for 2012 (because the price of natural gas declined). 

A fixed amount goes to agencies that oversee the industry, and the rest goes to local entities. 

Counties where drilling takes place get 60 percent of the remainder, while 40 percent goes into the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which is accessible to all.

Lovers of PA’s Loyalsock Forest Fight to Limit Drilling There

May 24, 2013
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY/Newsworks

Deep in the Loyalsock State Forest, where no cell phone signal reaches, the sounds of rushing waterfalls and forest birds are suddenly interrupted by the sound of a helicopter.

Paul Zeph of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society says the noise could be related to gas drilling. Drillers will often drop seismic testing equipment into remote areas that are difficult to reach by roads. And that leads Zeph to cite one of the many worries that naturalists and outdoors lovers have with plans to expand drilling in the Loyalsock.

The Marcellus Shale boom in western Pennsylvania has gained the attention of oil and gas companies, and they are seeing new opportunities in Pittsburgh.

One of the businesses making a move to Pittsburgh is Swift Worldwide Resources.

The outplacement company opened an office in Robinson. The new office will focus on hiring people for management and supporting roles in the oil and gas industry.

These roles include positions in technical shale drilling along with safety and environmental consulting.

Poll Shows Support for a Drilling Moratorium in Pennsylvania

May 15, 2013
StateImpact Pennsylvania

A new poll out Tuesday shows strong support for a moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, despite showing general support for gas extraction.

The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan, in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, surveyed both Pennsylvania and Michigan residents on fracking. The survey shows general support for gas extraction in Pennsylvania. Forty-nine percent of respondents approve, and 40 percent oppose.

A small sampling of people living near Marcellus Shale development sites were found to have higher rates of perceived health problems and stress levels.

That’s according to a study done by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. This was not a clinical study, but researchers said it could provide insight into effects of stress.

Senate Panel Approves Bills to Expand Natural Gas Services

May 2, 2013

A pair of bills moving through the state legislature aim to give consumers more access to Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas reserves.

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) is the primary sponsor of Senate Bills 738 and 739. Although he lives in the midst of the Marcellus Shale drilling, he doesn’t have the option of natural gas service at his own home.

“Pennsylvania has one of the largest gas deposits in the world and the citizens can’t take advantage of it.”

At a Harrisburg rally yesterday, there were petitions signed by 100,000 people for Gov. Tom Corbett, and State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) announced he will introduce legislation calling for a temporary moratorium on any new Marcellus Shale gas drilling.  

Ferlo said with 10,000 wells operating, it's time to take a step back because evidence has grown of water contamination and air pollution, as well as adverse impacts on personal health property values and the state’s billion-dollar industries: agriculture and tourism. 

In June 2010, Pennsylvania State Police placed 250 trucks hauling wastewater or supporting shale drilling operations out of service along with 45 drivers. 

Three months later, in the next “Operation FracNET,” troopers removed 208 trucks and 64 drivers from Pennsylvania roads for everything from faulty brakes and lighting to permit violations.

In the most recent crackdown on shale industry trucks, a two-day period in March 2011, troopers pulled 131 vehicles and 14 drivers off the road.

Now gas drillers and truckers are trying to further reduce those numbers. 

State House Democrats and environmental advocates are asking the Corbett administration to block natural gas drilling in a state forest that straddles three counties in the thick of Marcellus Shale country.

Anadarko Petroleum owns subsurface rights to tens of thousands of acres of the Loyalsock State Forest, but it could only access the shale below by way of scattered chunks of land that also happen to be ecologically sensitive.

Now, some lawmakers want Anadarko’s request for an agreement that would allow drilling in the forest to be turned down.

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

A year after Pennsylvania enacted an impact fee on the Marcellus Shale industry, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) launched a new website that would allow the general public and local governments to see where the revenues are going.

Under Act 13, or the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett in February 2012, certain Marcellus Shale drillers have to pay a fee to the PUC every year. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The Department of Energy estimates that gas from shale is expected to account for roughly half of the country’s natural gas supply by 2040. Pennsylvania is playing a major role, thanks to development of Marcellus Shale.

A symposium at Carnegie Mellon University Thursday examined the role of shale gas in manufacturing, transportation and the environment.

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