Marcellus Shale

While he awaits a decision whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will reconsider its decision to strike down part of Act 13, Gov. Tom Corbett is asking oil and gas drillers to continue to follow the environmental requirements established in that statewide drilling law.

“I am calling upon Pennsylvania’s oil and gas operators to honor both the spirit and intent of these setback provisions to continue helping us protect Pennsylvania’s water and natural resources,” Corbett said.

Pennsylvania’s Natural Gas Advisory Committee (NGAC) is supposed to discuss the role of state forest land in energy production — it just hasn’t done it yet.

The commonwealth has already leased about 385,400 acres of forest land for natural gas extraction, according to a report released by the DCNR in October.

A group of state lawmakers and advocates are calling on their colleagues to consider placing a tax on the production of natural gas.

Under Gov. Tom Corbett, the Legislature passed an impact fee, which put a levy on each well drilled.

Supporters of the severance tax idea point out Pennsylvania is the only state within shale formations that doesn’t tax gas yields.

Democratic Representative Harry Readshaw of Allegheny County notes such a tax would bring in more money than the impact fee, at a time when dollars are sorely needed.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority will hold a public workshop Tuesday to answer questions about oil and gas development plans at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will hold hearings next month on a proposed package of regulations that would govern surface operations of oil and gas producers.

More than two dozen researchers meet Monday at Duquesne University as part of a symposium on the latest findings regarding Marcellus Shale drilling.

Foundation-funded researchers from universities including Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Duke and Yale presented their independent research on topics such as air quality, human and animal health, effects on water treatment plants and local government response to shale gas development.

The '10 Commandments' of Drilling

Nov 22, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed in July that drilling in Dimock, Susquehanna County had caused methane to migrate into groundwater in that community.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, there have been 41,000 wells drilled in the state over the past twelve years—oil, traditional gas and Marcellus Shale. 

Many have deemed shale drilling controversial due to concerns with groundwater contamination and even earthquakes, but the shale gas industry says it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

However, five research and policy organizations claim the shale industry is overestimating its impact.

In Pittsburgh, Corbett Says Shale Opponents Are 'Economic Development Deniers'

Nov 14, 2013

At a shale gas conference in Pittsburgh Thursday, Gov. Tom Corbett defended his policies promoting drilling in the state, and defended his own math, too.

Corbett, who is running for re-election, said drilling under his watch was responsible for a vast economic lift to the state. "More than 200,000 jobs have either been created, made more prosperous or made more secure" by the drilling boom brought on by fracking in Pennsylvania.

“That number of course seems to bother some out there," said Corbett.

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.

Discussing Municipal Bans on Fracking

Sep 24, 2013
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.

Leaked EPA Fracking Report Reports Leaks

Jul 31, 2013
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.