You Have a Voice so Use it!

Hello folks!

I don’t like to tell other people what to do and this blog is supposed to offer information and not too of my blabber….but if you have time today please, please call Senator Scarnati’s office and let him know that you want him to support Amendment 3916 to House Bill 1489 (the severance tax bill). I just called this morning and it was very simple and easy to do. In fact you are welcome to call all your state reps and let them know the same thing. You’ll find a link to a page with that info on it below.

This is the number for his office. 717.787.7084. The secretary will answer and all you have to do is tell her your name, where you are calling from and let her know which amendment (use the number above) you want him to support for which bill (also using the number from above). There is a good chance this might pass this week and if they do not hear from us then it will be tough for him to represent us, which is what he is supposed to be doing.  If you call Matt Baker’s office they will tell you that there is nothing certain to be voted on this week. That may very well be since they are still ironing out the budget, but you can still call and let them know where you stand on a severance tax. If you want more info about the severance tax please check out this site.

http://www.pennfuture.org/media_sd_detail.aspx?MediaID=1058
Here are some details on this amendment and bill that are being passed.

Please call your state representative ASAP. Tell them to support Amendment 3916 to House Bill 1489 (the severance tax bill). This amendment by Rep. Dave Levdansky substantially improves the bill by increasing support for the Environmental Stewardship Fund (aka Growing Greener) and the Fish and Game Commissions in the long term.

A vote in the House could happen this week so please contact your representative soon. Go to the upper right corner of http://www.legis.state.pa.us to find your legislators.

Detail:

House Bill 1489 presently would establish the natural gas severance tax and dedicate 15% of it to Growing Greener, which is running out of money. The Fish and Game Commissions would receive an additional 2% each for habitat and public access work. Amendment 3916 would increase the dedicated amounts to 20% for Growing Greener and 3% for each of the commissions.

(Amendment 3916 is sensitive to present budget shortfalls by directing more severance tax revenue to the state’s General Fund this year and in 2010-11. This is a far better way to deal with the shortfalls than rushing to lease more publicly owned State Forest for gas drilling without respect for good science and principles of sustainable management of the forest.)

For general information on the natural gas severance tax and drilling impacts, go to http://landandwater.org.
Thanks to all who attended the waterdogs meeting last night and thank you for calling. If you need a phone stop by my store and you are welcome to use the shop phone, free of charge!

A Marcellus Shale Report

Here is a great resource for anyone who would like an introduction to the science and technology behind drilling for natural gas or anyone who has a bases of knowledge and wants to know more. This publication is put out by the Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) who has partnered with Earthworks to make this information available to the general public.

http://www.un-naturalgas.org/OGAPMarcellusShaleReport-6-12-08.pdf

Cabot Oil Acts on PA Orders

By George Basler of the Star Gazette

DIMOCK, Pa. — Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. plans to comply “as quickly as possible” with an order from Pennsylvania state regulators so it can resume hydrofracturing operations in Susquehanna County, a company spokesman said Monday.

The company has been in contact with the Department of Environmental Protection to hold an administrative conference in the next seven days to discuss the steps that must be undertaken by Cabot, said company spokesman Ken Komoroski.

The DEP issued the order after three separate spills of a gel-like lubricant at the Heitsman site in a week. In a release issued, Sunday, Cabot said the first two spills were caused by failed piping connections between the frac tanks holding a fresh water supply and the equipment used to pump the fluid into the shale formation. The third spill was caused by a pressure surge that caused a hose to rupture.

The spills polluted a wetland and caused a fish kill in Stevens Creek, the department said.

“Three spills at one location is unacceptable to us,” Komoroski said.

To comply with the DEP order, Cabot has started work on engineering and safety reports, Komoroski said. They include preparing an updated Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan and an updated Control and Disposal Plan within 14 days, and conducting an engineering study of all equipment and work practices at hydrofracturing well sites within 21 days.

Meanwhile, Dan O. Dinges, president and CEO of Cabot, said the company is committed to “the timely resumption of our fracking operations” and is working cooperatively with state regulators, even though it’s “disappointed” with the DEP order and disagrees with several of its allegations.

The DEP order, issued Friday, applies to a Heistman well site in Dimock Township, and seven other wells that Cabot is now drilling in Susquehanna County. Cabot can continue work to drill the wells.

Cabot has not calculated how much the work stoppage will cost the company, Komoroski said.

“Basically, we’re focused on incidence avoidance, not how much it’s costing,” he said.

Session Daze…

More about the budget and gas drilling in PA.

http://my.pennfuture.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=12641.0&dlv_id=14061

Budget Targets Environment

Pennsylvania is the last state in the union that has not had a budget since July 1st 2009. It seems that an agreement is being drawn upon and at this point the natural resources of state forests and fresh water are very much at stake due to the gas drilling. Here’s what the Philadelphia Inquier has to say about PA’s new budget plan.

Budget targets Environment

By Greg Vitali

The state budget agreement being finalized by Gov. Rendell and legislative leaders would have a devastating impact on Pennsylvania’s environment.

Expected to be presented to rank-and-file legislators as early as this week, the agreement would slash the state Department of Environmental Protection’s funding almost 25 percent and offer hundreds of thousands of additional acres of state forest land for natural-gas drilling.

In hard times, even important state programs must face cuts, and the 1.4 percent decline in this year’s total proposed spending reflects that. But the disproportionate reduction in the DEP budget – from $229 million to $173 million – reflects an attempt to cripple environmental protection more than it does a good-faith effort to marshal scarce resources.

Even without these proposed cuts, the DEP has been forced to scale back important programs, such as those aimed at eradication of West Nile virus and black flies. In addition, the Keystone Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) is set to end in December.

If the cuts become final, as many as 400 of the DEP’s 3,000 employees would be let go. This would leave insufficient resources to enforce the laws that protect the quality of our air, water, and soil.

In addition to the DEP cuts, the budget agreement requires leasing an excessive area of state forest to raise revenue. Although the specifics remain secret and have changed over time, the possibilities have included offering as much as 100,000 more acres of state forest for Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling this year, and again as much the following year.

This much drilling would irrevocably damage the character of our forests. The drilling process involves using a high volume of water, as well as disposal of water contaminated by drilling. It would also require the construction of roads, sediment basins, and other infrastructure. All of this would disturb sensitive habitats and make our state forests less desirable to sportsmen, hikers, and tourists.

A reasonable amount of natural-gas drilling on state forest land is necessary to help our economy and access a needed resource. But it is important to note that about 660,000 of the 1.5 million acres of state forest in the Marcellus Shale play is already available for drilling. Using the best forest-management practices, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – not politicians – should determine how much acreage is offered for drilling.

A better way to raise revenue would be to tax the natural gas from wells that are already leased. Almost every other state where natural-gas drilling occurs levies such a severance tax. To lease additional state forest land without imposing a severance tax would be fiscally irresponsible as well as bad public policy.

Legislative leaders are working to produce a final budget document that I and my fellow state legislators will vote on. When we do, let’s remember that Pennsylvania’s environment should not be compromised to solve short-term fiscal problems.


Greg Vitali is a Democratic state representative from Delaware County and a member of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. He can be contacted via www.pahouse.com/vitali.

A Tale of Two Cities

This is an article from the Star Gazette by Tom Wilbur that does a pretty good job of explaining or foreshadowing what could happen for many PA residents who are leasing their land to the gas industry. There is no way of knowing from the beginning what sort of troubles may arise, and in some cases people have had no problems what-so-ever and are very happy with their experiences. I am finding that some of these gas companies are better to work with than others. Most of the trouble we have seen reports on comes from the north eastern section of PA where Cabot Oil & Gas has created many catastrophes for residents with wells. At this point I’m not sure why you would sign on with Cabot at all. I am trying to do do some checking and researching on the gas companies that are drilling in PA and will see if I can come up with a list of the better ones (and the reasons why) for folks that are considering leasing land.

http://www.stargazette.com/article/20090919/NEWS01/909190346/Marcellus%20Shale%20%20A%20tale%20of%20two%20cities?GID=8kLy/Ugp5it1g9QfS1tH3gPDJ2FECM17pGWwoR/KHiQ%3D

Natural gas industry speakers at Penn College of Technology

Start Date: 9/29/2009 Start Time: 4:00 PM
End Date: 9/29/2009 End Time: 5:00 PM
Event Description
Tuesday, September 29, from 4-5 p.m.
The natural-gas industry in the area, from its little-known past to its economically expansive future, will be discussed by two speakers during a Sept. 29 event at Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Madigan Library.
“Oil’s Stepchild: The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia; A History from the First Discovery to the Maturity of the Industry,” will kick off the discussion, which is free and open to the public in the Library’s second-floor reading loft. The presentation will be offered by David A. Waples, author of “The Natural Gas Industry in Appalachia: A History From the First Discovery to the Maturity of the Industry.”
The second half of the program will feature Larry L. Michael, executive director of workforce and economic development for Penn College, who will share findings from the recent Marcellus Shale Workforce Needs Assessment.
A question-and-answer session will follow the event.
For more information on the event and speakers, please see the article in PCToday.
Location Information:
Penn College Main Campus – Madigan Library (LIB)
Contact Information:
Phone: (570) 327-4523
Email: library@pct.edu