Pennsylvania lawmakers say bill that halts drilling in Marcellus Shale aims to protect forests

By DONALD GILLILAND, The Patriot-News

March 28, 2010, 7:38PM

Pennsylvania lawmakers should learn from history and from Dr. Seuss, said Robert F. Davey Jr., a retired forester with 38 years of experience in Penn’s Woods. The state’s forests were decimated by rampant logging in the 19th century and a number of its streams were polluted by unrestricted mining, Davey said. He compared those scenarios to “The Lorax” by Seuss, the tale of a species of trees being nearly wiped out, with only one seed remaining.  Davey said lawmakers should be careful when profiting from the Marcellus gas boom “so that future generations won’t be saddled with mistakes we made because of a myopic view of natural-resource limitations or outright greed.”

To read the full article with comments, click here:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/03/pennsylvania_lawmakers_claim_b.html

Foundation alleges rubber-stamping, challenges 2 gas-drilling permits

Here is an article from the Sun Gazette written by David Thompson. I find it very entertaining in a demented way that the comments Everett makes about miles and miles of state land that no one can get to, is the exact point and reason that some folks are against drilling in these areas! The other comment that caught my eye was the idea that we should allow these companies some time to get their foot in the PA door before we go taxing them. I’m no expert, but last time I checked the gas and oil industry was the only only one in this country that was making any money during this  period of  economic recession and I just can’t bring myself though any logical thought process to understand why we should give them a break on some taxes for a few years. Maybe Yaw and Everett are afraid these companies won’t be able to afford it and they’ll up and leave the state in search of another Marcellus Shale? Somehow, I highly doubt that they have any intentions of leaving before they have taken what they came for and the possibility of them not having the funding for it? Please, I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry over that one.

P.S. How come the Democrat has no timely response?

Foundation alleges rubber-stamping, challenges 2 gas-drilling permits

Environmental group PennFutures and Chesapeake Bay Foundation officials recently called for state lawmakers to abandon plans to lease state land to gas drilling companies and instead raise money for the state by implementing a severance tax on gas removed anywhere in the state.

At least two local lawmakers disagreed on both counts.

“I’m still unconvinced for the need for a severance tax,” said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy. “Maybe (it can be implemented) in a few years when the industry is up and running and producing something.”

Everett said he wants to see the industry gain a foothold in the state, then study the impacts the industry has on other types of taxes such as the corporate net income tax.

State Sen. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock, agreed.

The industry should be allowed to develop before such a tax is implemented, Yaw said.

“I don’t think there is any question that down the road when the industry is established that there’ll be a tax,” he said. “I’ve talked to people in the industry. They expect it.”

Yaw said if there was the potential for any other job-producing industry to move to the state, they would be offered incentives such as tax breaks to come here.

“You can’t have an industry come in and then tax them to death,” he said. “Now is not the right time.”

“There’s not really a huge industry to tax,” Everett said. “Basically, today a severance tax would hurt the shallow well business in the western part of the state.”

Both Yaw and Everett said leasing state land for gas exploration should be done and can be done responsibly.

“I think it would be irresponsible if we didn’t lease some state land,” Everett said. “There is a humongous amount of state land in Pennsylvania that can be developed responsibly and I think it should be.”

“I think some people get confused between (the words) ‘state forest land’ and ‘state park,'” he said. “There is just miles and miles and miles of state forest land that nobody sees. You can’t get to it right now.”

“There’s no question there is a lot of activity and a lot of equipment and a lot of things that go on for a couple months,” Yaw said. “Once drilling is completed, those sites are reclaimed. The ones I’ve seen are grass.”

Yaw said he understands concern about land disturbance related to the building of pipeline infrastructure, but added that pipelines should be installed, when possible, along pre-existing rights-of-way such as roads and power lines.

The foundation recently filed a legal challenge to the issuance of erosion and sediment control permits by the state Department of Environmental Protection to gas-drilling companies in Tioga County.

Fortuna Energy Inc. was issued a permit to move earth related to the installation of a pipeline in Jackson Township. Ultra Resources Inc. received a permit for drilling operations in Gaines and Elk townships.

The foundation contends the state is jeopardizing the bay watershed by “rubber-stamping” permits without proper review.

Foundation attorney Matthew Royer said the DEP should restore review responsibility to the county Conservation Districts. The agency took over permit review responsibilities from the districts earlier this year.

“Conservation Districts have the local knowledge and experience to review permits and manage the program,” Royer said. “What we see here is a clear failure by DEP to meet fundamental review obligations. DEP should restore (review) authority to Conservation Districts.”

“I didn’t understand why the Conservation District folks were taken out of the loop,” Everett said. “The explanation (by the DEP) was that there was uneven enforcement from county to county, but I think Conservation District folks can be trained to put an extra pair of eyes and pair of boots on the ground.”

“I don’t have a problem with the Conservation Districts,” Yaw said. “My experience is they did a good job.”

Yaw added that both the DEP and Susquehanna River Basin Commission have “been very responsive” in streamlining their permitting process “without compromising the environment.”

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, did not respond to the Sun-Gazette’s request for comment as of deadline for this report.

Harrisburg took the permit reviews away from the Conservation Districts

How about that? If you don’t know about this you should…except I cannot find any good info about how or why this happened. I have heard from a few folks who work under the DEP that the local conservation districts have been told it is no longer a part of there job to fully review permits for state land.

The reason that we have people employed to review permits is to protect areas, like the Pine Creek watershed..which is also part of the Chesapeake watershed, from waste, chemicals, destruction of wild life and aquatic life, etc. Without those permits being reviewed it opens a door to anyone, in this case the oil and gas industry, to come in and easily get a permit to run a pipeline through the creeks or possibly dump waste water into our wetlands or have storm surge contaminate our water ways. It would appear that those folks in Harrisburg (a.k.a Rendell…) want it to be this way because they sure are making an effort to take down all the road blocks that have been built over the years.

If you look at s few of my older posts you’ll find the letter in which Matt Royer discusses the lack of permit reviews and how they effect local areas as well as those are at 300 miles away from Tioga County, PA.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation and DEP permits

Here is the link to the press release on the challenges by the Chesapeake Bay Foundations to the DEP permits from my post on appeals a day ago.

http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1394

Appealing for Permits

Below is a copy of a letter I received from one email list I belong to. It is a perfect example of what has been going on in my area. The gas companies move swiftly and because they know that if locals are informed of and given the choice, they will rebel against what is happening.  Therefore, these large companies with years of practice sweeping in over night and and jamming a foot in the door without having to deal with all the legalities and paperwork, are easily getting what they want.  A miss-informed, uneducated public. The few of us who are aware of how quickly this devastation is happening are struggling to get the word out and create a strong unified group of educated people who can work to prevent this kind of rushed and hap-hazard drilling.

Hi Folks:

“Wanted to let you know that, in last few days, I’ve been moving fast and furious on some E&S permits whose appeal period clocks were fast approaching midnight, and, thankfully, was able to beat that clock and file Notices of Appeal yesterday.  These appeals are challenges to the expedited permit review process.

On Friday afternoon of last week, I trekked up to Williamsport and reviewed 5 E&S control permits issued by DEP Northcentral Regional Office under the new “expedited permit review process.”  (Originally, Williamsport gave me a date of 8/26 for the file review, but I begged and pleaded and got the date moved up to last Friday so we’d have time to appeal the permits if warranted).  2 of these permits provided good fact senarios under which to challenge the permit process.  The trick was that the appeal periods on both of these permits ended yesterday (Monday, August 24).  So I went over the files carefully and drafted objections over the weekend, and CBF filed Notices of Appeals at the EHB yesterday.  Attached are the Notices of Appeals.

I am going back up to Williamsport tomorrow to look at 12 more files.  The appeal period for most of these permits expires September 8th, so there will be a little more time to assess these particular cases.  I’d be glad to update you all and talk further on what I find out following my file review tomorrow.

We will be issuing a press release announcing our appeals later in the week.

Here is a summary of each appeal:

The first is of a permit issued to Ultra Resources, Inc.  for earth disturbance activities in a 558 square mile project area known as the “Marshlands Play” in Tioga and Potter Counties .  The permit was issued 2 days after the application was received, without any technical review of plans.  It contains no stormwater calculations to analyze runoff rates or volume, and fails to address post construction stormwater entirely.  The erosion and sediment control plan and the application was prepared by a land surveyor, not an engineer.  Phase II, which authorizes earth disturbance activity to construct a gas pipeline, was issued in 7 business days after the application was received, again  without technical review.  It contemplates at least two stream crossings of High Quality trout streams.  The PA Bulletin Notice from which we are appealing is for this Phase II authorization.

The second is  of  a permit issued to Fortuna Energy, Inc. for earth disturbance activities associated with building a gas pipeline in a 40 square mile area in Tioga County .  Like the Ultra permit, this permit also did not undergo technical review, does not address post construction stormwater, and was prepared by the same land surveyor.   The Phase II authorization for this permit, which was issued 3 business days after the application was received, allows the pipeline to be constructed through wetlands that qualify as EV wetlands because they are adjacent to a tributary of a wild trout stream designated by the PA Fish and Boat Commission.  Impacts to EV wetlands cannot, as a matter of Pennsylvania wetlands law, be permitted for these kinds of projects. Nothing in the permit application identifies these wetlands as EV wetlands, and there is nothing in the file that indicates DEP treated them as EV wetlands.  This permit issuance shows what can happen when the Conservation Districts are cut out of the process and DEP staff are only conducting administrative review of plans—illegal encroachment into EV wetlands is authorized.”

Matt Royer

Pennsylvania Attorney

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

I’d also like to add this press release on this topic.

http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1394