Corbett Administration Cuts Funds

I heard this piece from State Impact PA (WITF/NPR) this morning on my drive to work. Corbett wants to make decisions about gas drilling based on facts, not emotional…and then his administration goes and cuts the funding for research that provides just the sort of facts he is talking about.

http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2012/01/18/changing-priorities-science-funding-slashed-under-corbett-administration/

 

It’s Like We’re Losing Our Love…

This video documents Simona Perry’s research on the emotional and traumatic effects of the natural gas drilling, specifically in Bradford County, PA.

http://mediasite.cidde.pitt.edu/mediasite/SilverlightPlayer/Default.aspx?peid=689293c50f404f12b8c628b8f2285780

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:

SPORTSMEN MARCELLUS SHALE SUMMIT

Saturday, June 4th
University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown Campus

In the heart of the Marcellus Shale region, sportsmen and women, and conservation groups are working together to identify and propose solutions to mitigate the impacts from gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing on hunting, fishing and trapping experiences.

Learn more about the Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation efforts and listen to experts in the field, along with sportsmen and women with first-hand experience, discuss the following topics:

  •    Potential impacts of Marcellus Shale gas development on wildlife, coldwater    fisheries, and habitat and forest ecosystems;
  •    Impacts of Marcellus Shale gas development on the outdoors experience;
  •    Lessons from oil & gas development in the West;
  •    What you can do as an individual outdoorsmen; and
  •    How sportsmen and women interests can be protected through policies and best
    management practices that protect fish, wildlife and the outdoors experience.

How to Register:
Registration opens at 8:00 a.m. and opening remarks will be offered at 8:45 a.m. The conference will conclude by 4:30 p.m. Attendance at the Summit is free. However, space is limited and registration is required. Registration closes on May 31st. Save your space now, by registering herehttp://www.tu.org/conservation/eastern-conservation/marcellus-shale-project/summit 

Attendance is free, space is limited, registration is required, and registration closes on May 31, 2011

 Directions to the Summithttp://www.sportsmenalliance.org/directions.htm

Food and Lodginghttp://www.sportsmenalliance.org/FnL.htm

To read about this event online, click here:

http://www.sportsmenalliance.org/conference.htm

To read about Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Shale Conservation is, click here:
One thing the organization says about its focus is this:
“Even with the best environmental standards in place,
the immense number of wells projected to be drilled in the Marcellus Shale is likely
to have a cumulative impact on the region’s wildlife and coldwater fisheries, that will
in turn affect hunters and anglers and the recreational economies built upon these
sporting traditions. For these reasons, sportsmen and women from across the
Marcellus Shale region are coming together to identify and propose solutions to
mitigate the impacts from gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing on hunting, fishing
and trapping experiences.” (see: http://www.sportsmenalliance.org/index.html)


Marcellus Shale advisory board members rack up violations

Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 12:00 AM     Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 6:38 A By DONALD GILLILAND, The Patriot-News

Eight of the drilling companies with representatives on the Pennsylvania governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission were cited with environmental violations last year. One of them led the state in violations. All of them contributed to Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign.  That lends some ammunition to environmentalists’ complaint that Corbett populated the commission henhouse with industry foxes favored for their largesse rather than careful business practices. Industry officials say the representatives bring valuable expertise and talent to the panel.

According to an analysis of violations from the Department of Environmental Protection conducted by Clean Water Action, an environmental group, the companies represented on the governor’s commission accounted for 42 percent of all drilling violations last year — 514 out of a total 1,227.  “It’s pretty shocking,” said Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action’s state director. “Some of the very worst companies are on the commission.”  With 174 violations, Chief Oil & Gas led the state last year; Chief’s vice president of government and regulatory affairs, Terry Bossert, sits on the commission. Attempts to contact Chief for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. Chesapeake Energy had the third-highest number of violations at 132; Chesapeake’s vice president of government relations, Dave Spigelmyer, was appointed to the commission, but chose to step off prior to the beginning of its work.  Other companies with violations serving on the commission are: East Resources (74 violations), Exxon Mobil (66), Range Resources (32), Chevron (16), EQT (15) and Consol (5).  The violations range from administrative oversights to illegal discharge of industrial waste. About one in six wells had problems.

“We’re concerned that some of the folks on the commission are really part of the problem, and we don’t see how they’re going to be part of the solution,” Arnowitt said.

Companies represented on the commission also donated more than $790,000 to Corbett’s campaign, he said. Ray Walker of Range Resources is serving on the commission as the representative of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group he chairs.

“The commission’s objective is to develop a comprehensive, strategic proposal for the responsible and environmentally sound development of Marcellus Shale,” said the coalition’s spokesman, Travis Windle. “Having subject matter experts — like Ray Walker and others — whose understanding of these highly technical issues is second to none only makes sense.” Range is also widely recognized as one of the most environmentally responsible of all the companies drilling in Pennsylvania. It was Range that told DEP the state’s regulations had to change or its rivers would be destroyed.
That’s not good enough for Clean Water Action.  It’s one of 17 groups that plans to stage a rally outside the commission’s meeting at the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg at noon today. The groups are calling for the governor to disband the commission unless citizens groups are given seats at the table. “The rally is really to address the fact — from our perspective — [that] the makeup of the commission is not what it should be to address the problems Marcellus Shale drilling has brought to the state,” Arnowitt said.

Arnowitt was part of an April 13 meeting between environmental groups and both the governor’s energy executive and the DEP secretary. The groups were denied seats on the board, but the officials asked them to supply specific ideas of how to incorporate more public comment into the proceedings. That has not been done. “We’re still putting together ideas,” Arnowitt said. “We’re happy to talk more about how to include more input, but that’s a separate question.”

That disparity between public and private action is telling, said Chad Saylor, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who leads the commission.The proceedings are open and transparent, he said, and public comment is still welcome.


To read this article in full online, click here:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/04/gas_panel_members_rack_up_viol.html



Video: Natural gas blow back in Bradford county

Frac fluid spills from well for 20 hours at Chesapeake site near Canton. Fluid flowed into a creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna. For more details, see

http://www.wnep.com/wnep-brad-leroy-gas-drillingemergency20110420,0,1884646.story

Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission challenged on environmental issues at first meeting

Alright, I apologize up front for this being rather lengthy but I really feel that the information being provided here and the comments below are worth reading through slowly and considering carefully when trying to figure out which side of this debate you want to fall on. I know many of you already have your minds made up and any of you who are living in areas where the drilling is heavy know this is not all coming up roses the way they keep telling us it is or will be.

Published: Friday, March 25, 2011, 6:44 PM     Updated: Friday, March 25, 2011, 7:05 PM

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley opened the first meeting of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Friday with an idyllic vision of what Pennsylvania could become in 20 or 30 years “if we make the right decisions today.” Brain-drain” and “rust belt” would be phrases of the past. “Tens of thousands” of people would be working in the natural gas industry, “and thousands more working in related industries like water purification.” There would be “open spaces and family farms that have passed from generation to generation because foreclosure was avoided today.” Cawley’s vision was reitterated by most of the other commission members, whose introductory remarks were punctuated with two mantras: “we need to do this right” and “we need to find science-based and fact-based solutions to environmental issues.”
Even the environmental members of the commission echoed those sentiments. With one exeption. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation stepped up with a list of specific environmental concerns …. “CBF would like to draw attention to the fact that Pennsylvania’s recently crafted Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load does not currently account for the cumulative increases in the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment loads generated by the natural gas industry, an omission that will need to be addressed,” said staff attorney LeeAnn Murray. “CBF also notes that DEP currently reviews permits for gas extraction on a permit by permit basis without viewing the potential comprehensive cumulative impacts resulting from increases in sediment loads from erosion and post-construction runoff from roads, wellpads, pipelines and other infrastructure.” “It is issues like these that we believe may have an impact on water quality,” she said, “and with recent scientific studies indicating that water quality is affected by gas extraction activities we hope to discuss methods of reducing such impacts.” … She said the foundation is “looking forward to discussing topics involving: shallow gas migration, the ultimate fate and risk of contamination from frackwater, documentation and tracking of waste products, inadequate bonding laws, setbacks, fines, well pads siting issues, floodplain concerns, an exploration of alternative fracking methodologies that may have less environmental and health impacts and a funding source…whether a fee, assessment or, tax, which compensates PA for the extraction of a natural resource and allows citizens of the Commonwealth to utilize the money for local impacts and environmental improvements.” Murray was by no means the only commission member to address environmental concerns, but the Chesapeake Bay Foundation representative was the only person at the table willing to jostle Gov. Corbett’s apple cart from the start.
Outside the meeting, representatives of more activist environmental groups complained about not being appointed to the commission. Even the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which works to clean up the water flowing into the world’s largest estuary, “is not involved in shale issues up to the eyeballs like the rest of us,” said Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action. But it appears — at least at the moment — that the activist environmentalists do trust the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to be a torch bearer for their concerns. “They have a perspective to this that’s a lot bigger than Pennsylvania,” said Virginia Cody, an activist from Wyoming County. But the foundation has not been given one of the leading roles in the “working groups” expected to do most of the work between now and July, when the commission is supposed to give the governor its recommendations.
Lt. Gov. Cawley appointed Michael Krancer, Acting Secretary of DEP, as chair of the working group on “public health, safety and environmental protection; vice-chair is Cynthia Carrow of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
When asked about the industry-leaning make-up of the commission after the meeting, Cawley said, “This really isn’t about the make-up of the commission, but the information we get. I suspect and hope we will hear even more from environmentalists.” When asked if there would be an opportunity for the public to at least observe or listen to the meetings of the working groups, Cawley said, “I’m sure.
To read this article online an access the links within the text, click here:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/03/marcellus_shale_advisory_commi_1.html

Below are comments and thoughts from Anne with the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA). Please take the time to read through this, especially if these issues are new to you.

COMMENTS: About the above article, take with lots of salt grains.   I highlighted some specific sections and will comment on these here.

(1) Consider this comment: “Brain-drain” and “rust belt” would be phrases of the past. “Tens of thousands” of people would be working in the natural gas industry, “and thousands more working in related industries like water purification.” There would be “open spaces and family farms that have passed from generation to generation because foreclosure was avoided today.”
If the Governor cuts support for PA’s educational institutions, just how does that stave off the brain drain?

As I said in past messages to this email list concerning jobs: the gas industry is hiring retired members of the region’s governmental and regulatory agency elite – or in some cases not waiting that long and just hiring them away from those jobs. That’s not bringing new jobs to those who need them. So far the majority of the newly-hired from the ranks of the non-retired unemployed are not family-friendly jobs. Because of overtime pay for working long shifts and/or having no days off within a week, the take home money may be family-sustaining. But the worker doesn’t get quality time to spend with his/her family.

Regarding open spaces and family farms, consider what family would want to remain on their land  – much less farm it – if the gas industry ruins their source(s) of fresh water. Some of those who have leased large farms for drilling have said, should their wells become contaminated, they will take their royalty money and move away. That’s one way to maintain open spaces. But I don’t think that’s what the Governor intended when he mentioned maintaining open spaces.

(3) Consider the comment: “we need to find science-based and fact-based solutions to environmental issues.”
Without unbiased scientists on the Commission, the likelihood of getting unbiased science to use in decision-making is close to zero. See below my comment about the one professional scientist on the Commission – Terry Engelder. He’s a legitimate geologist with a credible academic track record of relevant research and publications. BUT, and this is a really big “but” – he should not be considered unbiased regarding Marcellus Shale matters because of his public statements and his funding sources.

The Commission needs more scientists – those without industry ties and those with expertise in environmental and health science. One industry-funded geologist is not enough for any good scientific input from this commission.  It’s a good thing that the representative from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation spoke up for the need to assess comprehensive and cumulative impacts. That’s something any good scientist would say right out of the gate. However, looking at impacts comprehensively and cumulatively should not be limited only to erosion and sedimentation issues.


(4) Here’s something to keep in mind about Michael Krancer, the chair of the working group on public health, safety and environmental protection – who also happens to be the acting head of DEP. His contribution to Mr. Corbett’s campaign for Governor and the Republican party was in excess of $200,000 (see: http://www.followthemoney.org/database/StateGlance/contributor.phtml?d=22286044). Money buys influence and power.


(5) Don’t forget what constituencies make up the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Here’s a copy of what I said in a previous email about this group. The subject heading from that email is: “Governor Corbett creates system to marginalize regulatory control over gas drilling – putting big business interests over public’s protection”, dated 3/13/11. I have added additional information below.


Commission members

Boldface type indicate members with business and/or gas industry ties that I know of (14). Underlined names are those who represent organizations with at least some environmental focus (4). DEP is not considered an environmental organization; it is a regulatory agency. There is only one scientist on this commission, Terry Engelder, who acknowledges receiving funding from the gas industry and has repeatedly supported the benefits of drilling, minimizing environmental impacts. Important environmentally-protective regulatory agencies noticeably absent from this commission are  Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and PA Fish & Boat Commission. It’s also noteworthy that there are several Corbett appointees to state positions, such as Patrick Henderson, Governor’s Energy Executive and Mike Krancer, Acting Secretary of DEP (see #4 above). One would expect these individuals to support the Governor’s perspectives.

Terry Pegula, who has no affiliation listed for him, used to own East Resources (a major drilling company in the Marcellus Shale). Pegula sold East to a Dutch Company – Royal Dutch Shell – but he’s still listed as an employee of East. Campaign contribution records show Mr. Pegula donated $100,500 to Governor Corbett’s campaign, and his wife, listed as an employee of East Resources (parent company Royal Dutch Shell) donated $180,500 to the campaign. For details, see:
and the links within this page:

It’s also noteworthy that Mr. Pegula has donated millions to Penn State and has been quoted when asked what the would tell Penn State Students: “

I would tell students that this contribution could be just the tip of the iceberg, the first of many such gifts, if the development of the Marcellus Shale is allowed to proceed”(see:http://onwardstate.com/2010/09/18/pegula-marcellus-shale-development-good-for-students/). Studies touting the economic benefits from Marcellus Shale development that have been published under the aegis of Penn State and/or by Penn State faculty, have come under fire for inadequate data leading to faulty conclusions. See the following sites:

(2) Critique: (“Penn State Admits Gas Study Flaws”): http://www.northcentralpa.com/article/penn-state-admits-gas-study-flaws


It has also been said such publications from Penn State should be considered in the light of institutional bias toward the natural gas industry. If only the contributions from Mr. Pegula are considered here, there is certainly evidence that this could be the case.


Anne