New State Impact PA App

Since I now live in south central PA (I moved south from Tioga County; north central PA) and have less access to the center of the gas drilling, I frequently use State Impact PA as a resource as well as tune in to WITF radio on my commutes to work, when I’m not pedaling my bike. This site has a lot of current info and wide coverage from gas drilling incidents and accidents, politics and interviews. Their latest info includes a new App that shows you exactly who is drilling and where.

I believe this sort of program is run through NPR and you can find this sort of info for all 50 states from this map.

 

Advertisements

Shale Gas Drilling Photos

The below link will take you to public web album with photos from folks who live in areas where the gas drilling is happening.  Click the link and see what the truth looks like.

https://picasaweb.google.com/chec.pitt/ShaleGasDrilling

Marcellus Shale case appealed to Pa. Supreme Court could create ‘chaos’ by questioning ownership of gas rights

By DONALD GILLILAND, The Patriot-News

A court case that many believe has the potential to upend 100 years of case law and God knows how many Marcellus gas leases in Pennsylvania hinges on what the everyday definition of “minerals” was in 1836.

Attorneys at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney who appealed the case to the Supreme Court on Friday say they simply want the high court to reaffirm what’s been “bedrock” property law for more 100 years.

The case involves John and Mary Butler, owners of 244 acres in Susquehanna County, and the heirs of Charles Powers, who in 1881 was granted “one-half the minerals and Petroleum Oils” under the property.

Powers’s heirs argue that they are entitled to half the Marcellus gas under the property as well.

Susquehanna County President Judge Kenneth Seamans ruled against that claim in January 2010, citing what’s known as the “Dunham Rule” – a Supreme Court ruling that has stood since 1882 that a conveyance of “minerals” in a deed does not include oil and gas unless specifically stated. The Powers deed makes no mention of gas.

Powers’s heirs appealed that decision to the Superior Court, arguing that the Dunham Rule should not apply, but rather a 1983 ruling that found U.S. Steel owned the natural gas contained in the coal it owned – not the property owner who had retained the right to drill through the coal for oil and gas.

As the attorney for the heirs put it to the Superior Court: “Whoever owns the shale, owns the gas.”

To read the rest of this article click on the below link.

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/10/marcellus_shale_bellwether_leg.html

 

 

Forced Pooling: When Landowners Can’t Say No to Drilling

by Marie C. Baca, Special to ProPublica May 19, 2011

As the shale gas boom sweeps across the United States, drillers are turning to a controversial legal tool called forced pooling to gain access to minerals beneath private property–in many cases, without the landowners’ permission. Forced pooling is common in many established oil and gas states, but its use has grown more contentious as concerns rise about drilling safety and homeowners in areas with little drilling history struggle to understand the obscurities of mineral laws.

Joseph Todd, who lives in rural Big Flats, N.Y., wasn’t especially concerned when he learned in 2009 that his half-acre property had become part of a drilling unit. But when methane gas showed up in his drinking water well after the drilling began, he became outraged, describing forced pooling as “eminent domain for gas drillers.” “We never wanted to be a part of the drilling,” he said. “To have something like this happen is beyond frustrating.” Todd and some of his neighbors are now suing the company that is drilling near their neighborhood, even though no link has been proven between drilling and the contamination of their water.

People who see forced pooling as an infringement of property rights also tend to oppose the practice, including Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, who has otherwise been a staunch supporter of the drilling industry.“I do not believe in private eminent domain, and forced pooling would be exactly that,” Corbett told a group of nearly 400 drilling industry representatives and supporters last month. He also said he won’t sign pending legislation that would allow forced pooling for drilling in Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale.

Forced pooling compels holdout landowners to join gas-leasing agreements with their neighbors. The specific provisions of the laws vary from state to state, but drillers are generally allowed to extract minerals from a large area or “pool”–in most states a minimum of 640 acres–if leases have been negotiated for a certain percentage of that land. The company can then harvest gas from the entire area. In most cases, drillers aren’t allowed to build surface wells on unleased land, so they use horizontal wells or other means to collect the minerals beneath those parcels.

Thirty-nine states have some form of forced pooling law. West Virginia and Pennsylvania each have measures that don’t apply to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, and proponents are trying to expand the laws in those states. (Check out our chart of forced pooling laws across the United States.)

In New York, the owners of 60 percent of the acreage in the proposed drilling unit must agree to lease their land before the state oil and gas board will consider a driller’s petition for compulsory integration, as it is known there. In Virginia, only 25 percent of the land must be leased. In all states with such laws, drillers must notify all the landowners within the prospective drilling area of their right to participate in a hearing before the oil and gas board, or whatever regulatory agency the state has set up for that purpose.

If the board approves the driller’s petition, holdout landowners typically have three choices: contribute to the cost of the well and share profits from the sale of the gas; don’t pay for the well and share the gas profits after a “risk aversion” penalty is subtracted, or receive a state-mandated minimum royalty payment. Landowners who choose none of these options are automatically enrolled in the last plan. Opting out is not a possibility.

Gas companies argue that forced pooling allows them to build fewer wells and harvest gas efficiently, creating tidy drilling parcels as opposed to a patchwork pattern of leased and unleased land.

Forced pooling is also supported by landowners who fear that drilling companies will place wells near their property and siphon off their gas without payment. Another group of supporters includes people who own the surface rights to their property while someone else owns the mineral rights–a situation known as a “split estate.” Although these landowners usually aren’t entitled to any payment, some forced pooling laws compel drillers to compensate them, too.

The complexities of forced pooling can be seen in Big Flats, a town of about 7,000 in Chemung County, in the southern tier of New York. Gas drilling has provided a huge boost to the county’s economy, said budget director Steven Hoover, bringing in $30,000 to $40,000 a year in royalties and more than a million dollars in bonus payments from land the county has leased to drilling companies. That money, along with savings in other areas, has allowed Chemung County to cut property taxes over the last few years, Hoover said.But Joseph Todd thinks struggling communities like his are too willing to accept the erosion of residents’ property rights in exchange for an influx of cash.

In 2009, he and his wife Bonnie received a letter from the state informing them that Anschutz Exploration Corporation would be allowed to extract gas from beneath their land.

At first, the Todds didn’t think much about it. No construction crews visited the modest ranch house where they had lived for more than 20 years. No heavy equipment materialized in their backyard. A horizontal well was built less than a mile away, but from the road its operations were almost invisible.

Then in September 2010 the couple discovered mud and methane in their private water well. Methane, the largest component of natural gas, isn’t toxic, but it can be explosive if it accumulates.

“We’ve lived in this house for 22 years without any problems, and suddenly the water turns dirty and fizzy and can be lit with a match,” said Todd, a firefighter.

After hearing about similar water problems near drilling operations in Pennsylvania, the Todds began to wonder if their dirty water–and the water problems that had simultaneously cropped up at nine neighboring homes–could be traced to the nearby drilling.

Denver-based Anschutz and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation both say the water problems aren’t related to drilling. But in February, the Todds and their neighbors filed a lawsuit in Chemung County State Supreme Court, accusing Anschutz and its subcontractors of negligence in the drilling, construction and operation of the wells, causing the families to be exposed to combustible gases and toxic chemicals, and reducing property values. They are seeking millions in damages.

Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan said the company abides by state law and has committed no wrongdoing.

Joseph Todd says he’s angry, not just about his contaminated well water but about the compulsory integration law that made it easier for drilling companies to move into his neighborhood. He said he has spent thousands of dollars on bottled water and laundromat fees–and that the royalty payments he’s supposed to receive, even as an unwilling participant in the nation’s natural gas boom, haven’t begun arriving yet.

ProPublica’s Nicholas Kusnetz contributed to this report.

Correction (May 19): This story has been corrected. It should have made clear that state regulations in New York and Virginia require drillers to lease a certain percentage of the acreage in a drilling unit before forced pooling or compulsory integration can occur, rather than a percentage of the landowners. May 20: This story originally said 38 states have some form of forced pooling law. Actually, 39 states do.

To read this article in full online, click here:

http://www.propublica.org/article/forced-pooling-when-landowners-cant-say-no-to-drilling

To read what Governor Corbett told the 400 drillers, click here:
To view ProPublica’s chart of forced pooling laws across the USA, click here:
To read the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s take on forced pooling, which they term “fair pooling”, click on these links:

Do not discuss the chemicals – Lessons from the landman’s handbook

So, I’m posting this email I received from the RDA (responsible Drilling Alliance) out of Williamsport, PA because it is full of all the things that I’ve been certain of since the gas companies and their land men showed up, but now there is actually some proof. At least it is proof enough for me. I always encourage you all to educate yourselves and draw your own conclusions so if you’re just starting to feed your mind with gas drilling info you may want to take a few deep breaths before reading through this one.

“Do not discuss the chemicals”
Lessons from the landman’s handbook

The story of the “Landman’s Manual” hit the Internet with a flourish last week. Many of you may have seen this from other news sources and listservs.

First, a bit of background. The term landman refers to an agent hired by a gas company to negotiate with landowners in order to get a lease signed at the lowest possible price per acre, with the lowest possible royalty payments for any extracted gas.

John Trallo, an RDA member and resident of Sullivan County who has been tireless in his efforts to oppose the gas industry’s industrialization of PA, tells the story as it unfolded. Trallo writes:

“A few weeks ago, I received an email from a woman in Ohio regarding gas drilling. Apparently, someone had forwarded some emails and postings I sent out. The woman had expressed serious concerns about drilling, stemming from reports of problems in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Texas that included ground water contamination, reduction in air quality, public health and safety issues, and property devaluation. She told me about a “Landman’s Manual” that she acquired when it was dropped in her driveway after a landman had visited her trying to get her to sign a gas/oil lease. She was concerned about retaliation from the landman, and/or the company he represented, and was reluctant to distribute this to the press. I assured her that her identity would be protected, and that I would look the manual over. Based on my own experiences in dealing with landmen, the combined experience of many people I know, as well as industry reports such as the 2009 Certus Strategies report Managing Stakeholder and Community Resistance to the Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction Project” (delivered at the Pennsylvania Natural Gas Summit in 2009), I’ve no doubt that this document is genuine. I also contacted the company who dispatched the landman, but my calls were not returned.  I therefore decided to distribute the manual to the press, various community groups, and PA legislators.” 

The entire document is available at: http://www.greenlink.org/uploads/pdfs/OIL_TalkingPoints.pdf  

These are the highlights:

Don’t give them time to think: “It is critical to obtain a lease signature in the first meeting, or at least the agreement to sign and take the lease to a notary. Drive them to the notary if you have to.”
Avoid talking about the environment: “At any point in the pitch if talk turns to local issues, environmental hazards, etc.. a good way to re-direct the conversation is to re-engage over the nation’s energy needs and the desire to be oil self-reliant.”

Whatever you do, don’t let them talk about fracking: “Hydraulic Fracturing, ‘Fracking’ – This technique to develop gas resources is coming under scrutiny, both in the mainstream media with articles appearing in the New York Times, and even in Hollywood with the movie ‘Gasland’. Expect questions on this topic and be ready to diffuse land owner concerns.”

Really, really avoid talking about fracking: “If anyone knows about slick water fracturing, avoid the topic. DO NOT discuss the chemicals and other material used during slick water fracturing. The best strategy is to say that the chemical mixtures used are proprietary and are highly diluted with water when injected. Reassure landowners that no well contamination has ever been documented. Do not mention water contamination in Pennsylvania.”
Truck traffic is awesome: “Just tell landowners the more trucks, the more royalties. Money will normally deflect most arguments.”

So what if it’s noisy: “If pressed for details tell them we monitor noise to ensure it is approximately 80 db at 200 feet. They will likely not understand the details, and will not admit that the technical data means little to them. Do not compare it to anything tangible, like train noise or airplane noise. Stick with the numbers, they provide the truth but make it hard to understand the exact implication.”

Denial is a river in drilling country: “Some might ask how many wells will be in a square mile. Don’t answer that question. Most landowners will not realize that 10-20 wells can be placed in a square mile.”

Don’t worry about water: “Residential owners will not know that we pull water directly from the local aquifer.”

What radioactivity?: “ENSURE you tell the landowner that we use NO RADIOACTIVE materials. The radioactivity comes from natural sources in the ground and is released by the process, but don’t tell them this. Most landowners will not know.”

The value of your home is not important: “Multiple studies have shown that property values decrease for land with oil and gas leases on the property. Avoid this topic. Some major banks have stopped issuing mortgages on properties with leases for mineral and oil/gas rights, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and other large financial institutions. This is a no-win discussion point. ”

Did I mention to avoid fracking?: “The overall plan is to drill exploratory wells, and then use more advanced techniques to get at the small oil pockets we find. This will require multiple well heads, where we pump in a high volume of water and chemicals, in much the same manner as in the fracking process. DO NOT DISCUSS this point. We want no correlation between fracking and enhanced oil recovery processes.”

Whatever you do, don’t talk to women: “Men are more likely to sign than women. Men don’t like to believe that you know more than they do, so they are also less likely to ask questions. In the state of Ohio, the husband can sign the lease without spousal permission. Go that route if required. Tell them it is their decision. Write the lease agreement with only the husband’s name on the paperwork. This will make it more likely that they will sign alone. Men are also more conservative, and more likely to want oil and energy independence. Women will have more concern for the environment and will challenge you more often. Knowing who to approach can seal the sale.”

Still not willing to sign?: “Tell the landowner that all their neighbors have signed. Even if the neighbors have not, this often will push an undecided landowner in favor of signing.”


Cheaper by the billion

Via Penn Futures – Friday, March 04, 2011

Range Resources is selling the 52,000-acres it owns in the Barnett Shale natural gas play in Texas for a cool $900 million.

Is Range bailing out of one of the most productive shale plays in America?

Are they going bankrupt?

Um, no.

According to one industry analyst, Range intends to plow the proceeds of that sale into developing its Marcellus shale holdings in Pennsylvania.

Why? Because production in Pennsylvania is “cheap.”

And production is not the only thing that is cheap.

Transportation of gas to market is the largest component of a gas driller’s cost. Pennsylvania’s Marcellus gas lies in the middle of the strongest natural gas market in the world – the Eastern United States.

So, transportation costs in Pennsylvania are also cheap.

According to this analyst, Range will spend over a billion dollars this year developing its Marcellus production capacity. Despite giving up its Texas holdings, Range expects production to grow 10 percent this year, and 25 to 30 percent next year. It also expects that costs will remain low this year and next year, meaning “solid” (an industry term for huge) profit margins will continue.

“Range offers shareholders a future full of cheap production growth. The company is going to generate significant cash flow, which is great news for shareholders,” wrote the analyst.

But it gets even better for Range.

According to another report, Range has the potential for a “triple play” – to produce natural gas and natural gas liquids not only from the Marcellus Shale but also from the Upper Devonian Shale above the Marcellus and the Utica Shale below the Marcellus.

Range Resources CEO John Pinkerton sums it up well. “…our shareholders are going to make a whole bunch of dough…”

But none of this is great news for ordinary Pennsylvanians facing drastic reductions in government services, for communities in the Marcellus region that are struggling to deal with the impacts of gas development, or for Pennsylvania’s environment. Because Range, like all the other gas drillers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus development boom – who have similarly cheap production – pays no drilling tax.

That’s what’s really cheap.

FrackTracker

Here’s an exceprt from the blog at Fracktracker, a useful site for info and maps and visuals.

The Environmental Protection Agency has submitted a draft of its Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan, which is to be reviewed by the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group of independent scientists that works with the agency. According to the EPA’s news release, the focus of the study will be the lifespan of the water, from extraction to disposal of the waste water.

The 140 page draft has been made to the public. The SAB is scheduled to review the plan March 7th and 8th, and the plan will likely be edited based on their input.

Initial results of this study are expected by 2012, with an additional report due by 2014.

Want to see more of this site? Go here: http://www.fractracker.org/