Natural Gas

Jon Dawson / Flickr

With Pennsylvania natural gas production slowing in the last year and a half, money generated by the state’s Act 13 impact fee in 2015 fell by nearly 20 percent compared to the year before. That drop means most counties and municipalities hosting the gas wells will see smaller checks when they are sent out this month than they did last year.

Greene County Commission chair Blair Zimmerman said when he saw that the county would be getting $3.9 million this year compared to $4.5 million last year, he had to pick himself up off the floor, but for the reason one might think.

Spectra Energy Official: ‘I’m Sorry’ For Pipeline Blast

May 12, 2016
Reid Fraizer / Allegheny Front

 

More than 200 residents packed a Western Pa. church Wednesday night to hear from the company that owns a pipeline that exploded last month. The crowd, at times edgy, posed questions about the explosion and pipeline safety to four Spectra Energy officials over a period of two hours.

The officials called the blast ‘unacceptable’ and apologized for the explosion, which badly burned one man and destroyed his home.

Tim Lambert / WITF

Pennsylvania is facing a $2.9 million deficit in the fund that supports its oversight of oil and gas wells in the next fiscal year, according to a projection from Governor Tom Wolf’s budget office.

When The Fracking Boom Goes Bust

Mar 30, 2016
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

    

At Jerry Lee’s Emporium in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, there was a sign on the front door, handwritten in marker: “Store closing for good.”

Jerry Lee Edwards opened the store in 2014. He came from southern West Virginia to sell clothes to workers in Pennsylvania’s booming natural gas industry. 

RAND Corporation

Middle-skilled natural gas and energy workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are getting old.

That’s according to a Rand study, which found that one-quarter of those workers, such as welders, industrial mechanics and engineers, were nearing the age of 55 and close to retirement. The study is the first of five annual reports aiming to assess student preparation for industry jobs.

Police: Ex-Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon Dies In Crash

Mar 2, 2016
AP

Aubrey McClendon, a natural gas industry titan, was killed when police say he drove his sport utility vehicle "straight into a wall" in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, a day after he was indicted on a charge of conspiring to rig bids to buy oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

 

The gas industry’s downturn means Pennsylvania is getting a lot less royalty money from drilling on public forest land. But the state continues to have problems getting paid properly from the activity that’s still happening.

Joe Ulrich / WITF

 

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennslvania

The Marcellus Shale runs under 60 percent of Pennsylvania. But the areas where drilling takes place feel the economic effects more than most. On Thursday, those counties received $8.1 million in state funding to support 44 local projects that address housing availability, community development and rental assistance.

DEP’s New Oil And Gas Rules Irk Both Environmentalists And Industry

Aug 13, 2015
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

State environmental regulators are asking for comments on the final version of new oil and gas rules. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released detailed updates to its oil and gas rules Wednesday. The proposals result from a four-year process that garnered nearly 30,000 public comments to DEP.  Still, this latest version is getting push back from both industry and environmentalists.

How Low Gas Prices Affect Consumers And The Natural Gas Industry

Jul 31, 2015
Gerry Dincher / flickr

With the local economy relying more and more on the gas and coal industry, the news that Consol Energy posted a loss for the past quarter and outlined spending cuts for the next year-and-a-half can't be good. As the price for natural gas continues to slide, what does it mean for us? We talked with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer David Conti.

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).

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.

While the American West grapples with drought, lack of water isn’t much of a concern in Pennsylvania.

Still, it’s a natural resource that is finite. A bill in Harrisburg aims to promote the use of treated coal mine water rather than fresh water for natural gas development.

“It’s going to recycle the treated water that comes from a coal mine, which would typically be pumped right back into a mine to hold it,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington/Greene). “It would also really reduce the use of fresh water in the fracking process.”

AP Photo/Ralph Wilson

Somehow Pennsylvania lost 160,000 gas industry jobs overnight.

What happened? Did drillers flee at the specter of a new tax on production? Not quite. Although companies have been laying off workers and cutting costs– lackluster market conditions don’t explain this shift.

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.

Wolf Reverses Natural Gas Tax Hike

Mar 6, 2015
Mike Mozart / flickr

Late last year, the Corbett administration increased the state's tax on liquefied natural gas, following a Department of Energy change in how LNG is measured at the federal level.

This week, Governor Tom Wolf reversed the tax increase and made it effective retroactively to January 1, 2015.

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.

Wolf Proposes Natural Gas Extraction Tax

Feb 13, 2015
Gerry Dincher / Flickr

Governor Wolf has proposed a 5 percent natural gas extraction tax that would be based on both the value and volume of gas extraction from natural gas wells.

For its part, the natural gas industry has fought hard against such a tax in Pennsylvania, saying it will discourage continued investment.

But is this myth or fact?

“The argument from the drilling industry is that the state already has high corporate income tax and the industry is ... paying its fair share in other ways beside a severance tax," says Reid Frazier, a reporter for the Allegheny Front. 

He goes on to say that environmental groups have been a bit silent about this proposal. 

“Some of the environmental groups are waiting to see more details, to see specifics. There are certain environmental clean up initiatives they would like to see. State programs to clean up run off from agriculture, abandon mine clean up. That’s a five billion dollar problem in Pennsylvania that is essentially not funded. They would like to see more funds go to that.”

Despite the frigid temperatures, a few dozen people showed up to a fossil fuel divestment rally at Oakland’s Schenley Plaza Friday.

Those gathered wanted the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University to divest from coal, oil and natural gas. It's unknown how much of the universities’ investments are in those fields.

Pitt junior Mihir Mulloth went to the rally because he said he reads climate reports and the state of our planet becomes more alarming the more he reads.

Marcellus Life: A Native American Protest to Stop a PA Pipeline

Feb 9, 2015
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Chief Carlos Whitewolf beat a small hand drum and sang a Native American prayer for Mother Earth in the cold January air in Hershey, Pa.

Many of the 50 or so other protesters outside the Hershey Lodge, where national Republican leaders attended a retreat, demonstrated against issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and climate change.

But Whitewolf, chief of the Northern Arawak Tribal Nation of Pennsylvania, was objecting to something more local. In nearby Lancaster County, it’s the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project.

Cuomo Gets Kudos, Scorn for New York Fracking Ban

Dec 18, 2014
AP Photo/Mike Groll

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is getting heaped with praise by environmentalists and scorn by business interests for a planned state ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, even as he insists the decision wasn't his.

Residents statewide remain almost evenly split on the issue, and the divisions are clear, pollsters said Thursday. The decision announced Wednesday followed Cuomo's re-election last month, which the Democrat won easily as expected.

Quinnipiac University Poll's Mickey Carroll said the political impact is likely to be limited and the decision was predictable.

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.

Flickr user KordIte

As the natural gas boom continues across Pennsylvania and the rest of the country, producers are looking for new markets for their products.

A recent study commissioned by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, an industry trade group, identified opportunities for the use of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to power cargo vessels on the nation’s waterways and railroads.

Locals Seek Control at Fracking Waste Wells

Sep 26, 2014
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

As natural gas production continues to spread across the country, some citizens are trying to fend off drilling rigs and waste sites in their backyards. While gas companies say they already face tough state regulations, that oversight doesn’t always ease residents’ fears.

As Ohio quickly becomes a go-to destination for the nation's fracking waste, some people worry about earthquakes and water contamination, and argue the state has taken away their authority to decide whether oil and gas waste should be allowed.

Discussing the Threat Posed by Aging Natural Gas Lines

Sep 25, 2014
Consumers Energy / Flickr

In the last 10 years, accidents involving gas distribution lines killed more than 120 people and injured more than 500. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Mike Wereschagin discusses his recent series on the complications, dangers and costs of managing gas lines that are, in some cases, 100 years old.

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:

Inside the Halls of Government, Gas Industry Makes its Pitch

Sep 11, 2014
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Greg Vitali has been a state representative for more than 20 years. He saw the rise of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania mainly through the lens of the state Capitol. About five or six years ago, he says, lobbyists for the industry began showing up. And they’ve never left.

“Drillers have this constant presence in Harrisburg  You go to any committee meeting, related to drilling, you see representatives from American Petroleum Institute, you see lobbyists from Range Resources,” Vitali says. “They’re just always here.”

Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

In February, Governor Tom Corbett announced his intention to balance the state budget, in part, using millions of dollars in projected revenues from new oil-and-gas drilling leases in state parks and forests. It was the first public acknowledgment of Corbett’s plans to lift a 2010 moratorium on leasing.

But records uncovered in an investigation by 90.5 WESA and the Allegheny Front suggest the issue may have been under active discussion much earlier.

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