Pa. to lease forest land for gas drilling

Pa. to lease forest land for gas drilling
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will lease 31,967 acres of state forest land for deep gas well drilling, an amount that could meet a legislative mandate to raise $60 million from the sale of such leases in the 2009-10 budget year.

Department Secretary John Quigley said yesterday that offering leases on the forest land balances the state’s environmental and fiscal obligations.

“We chose these tracts of land after extensive environmental reviews to protect the health of the forest now and in the future, to allow for gas and timber extraction and public recreation, and to keep ecosystems intact that support a diversity of wildlife and plants,” Mr. Quigley said.

The six tracts proposed for leasing are located in the Elk, Moshannon, Sproul, Susquehannock and Tioga state forests in Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Potter and Tioga counties.

The leases require a minimum bid of $2,000 an acre and royalties of 18 percent. If the state gets $2,000 bids on all the offered acreage, it would raise almost $64 million.

State Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, who pushed for the sale of leases as chairwoman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said she is pleased the department moved quickly to implement an important part of the budget and is hopeful the offering will be successful.

Ms. White, in a statement released by her spokesman, also noted that responsible development of the Marcellus shale natural gas reserves was critical to avoiding a personal income tax increase as part of the recently passed budget.

According to state officials, the department has held 73 lease sales since 1947. The last, in 2008, brought in $190 million for 74,000 acres. But gas and lease prices have declined since then, and last spring the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council recommended that consideration of all new state forest land leases for drilling be put on hold.

Chris Novak, a DCNR spokeswoman, said a couple of recent lease agreements with large groups of private landowners in Susquehanna and Bradford counties indicates that gas drilling companies will still pay premium prices for desirable acreage.

In September, Fortuna Energy Inc. agreed to lease about 30,000 acres from a coalition of 600 property owners for $5,500 an acre. And Hess Corp. agreed to pay $3,500 an acre to another landowner coalition for drilling rights on 11,400 acres.

It’s been estimated that the Marcellus shale beds, 5,000 to 8,000 feet deep below three-quarters of Pennsylvania, could hold as much as 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas worth as much as $1 trillion.

According to the DCNR, there are about 660,000 acres of state forest land under lease for gas production and 750 wells in production. If the just-proposed leases are successfully bid, the leased total would rise to 692,000 acres, about one-third of the 2.1 million acres of state forest.

Pre-qualified bidders may submit bids until 2 p.m., Jan. 12, at which time they will be opened publicly. The department said leases will be awarded based on the amount of the first year’s land rental. The primary lease term is 10 years and a lease covers annual land rental amounts and possible royalties.

For more information about state forests and gas leasing, visit the DCNR Web site at or call 717-772-9101.

Tom Barnes contributed. Don Hopey can be reached at or 412-263-1983.

Nothing Is Sacred…

Below is another article from the Sun Gazette. The author is Patrick Donlin and the topic is heated. I spend a lot of time trying to be open minded and understanding of other points of view, even if they are not my own, but sometimes I have a hard time keeping my emotions out of my logic and my over all feelings towards any gas exploration that takes place in or near the PA Grand Canyon or Pine Creek should just be completely off limits.

Is nothing worth saving anymore? It seems that there is a price to be put on everything around us. Every tree, every drop of fresh water, every field, mountain view, nesting site and migratory path can be bought with dollars. Is this our end goal? To be so greedy for money that we sell out in every way possible until we have nothing left? I feel that there are already so many people who have signed leases for their private property. How many more gas wells do we need? Must there be one every 40 acres? There are folks who are willing to give up their private land for this consumption. Why must these gas companies push their way into every valley, every ridge, every lush and healthy hollow of forest that we have left? And if it was not enough to say “Hey. This area is beautiful and is part of the earth’s ability to create and recycle clean water and clean air and healthy soils so fauna can grow”, then at least look at the other side of that thought. The PA Grand Canyon Rail Trail has made headlines in large papers. It is talked about and recommended by many travel magazines and articles. the PA state forest and Pine Creek are some of the best places to fish, hike, bike camp and hunt in the Mid Atlantic. Apparently all the money that comes from the tourism to this area, the money that keeps the small business owners in business, the restaurants, the hotels and bed and breakfasts is just not worth it. Somebody somewhere is making decisions for themselves and those outcomes are going to effect everyone in this region as well as those who travel to it from other places.

WATERVILLE – State foresters are being encouraged to ensure the environmental preservation of a patch of public land where natural gas well drilling is proposed.

Mark Murawski, county transportation planner, said Tuesday to the Pine Creek Rail Trail Advisory Committee that wells are a possibility around the southern end of Ramsey Road, Cummings Township.

A company he identified as PGE has expressed investigative in

tentions, although no representatives were at the meeting held at the Waterville fire hall.

Officials with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will decide if wells will be built at the site located just east of Waterville and known as the Ramsey Vista.

“The DCNR has jurisdiction where that site is at,” said Toner Hollick, county planning commission member and the township’s representative to the trail advisory committee.

Murawski said the county’s involvement is limited to zoning permit review, which it hasn’t approved yet.

“The county doesn’t have any jurisdiction on state forest land, other than issuing a zoning permit,” he said. “We’re reviewing it (the permit) now.”

Jerry Walls, Pennsylvania Wilds planning consultant, wants to ensure eyesores aren’t erected in the picturesque Pine Creek Valley, which has been nationally recognized as one of the best places to take a bicycle ride.

Drilling rigs and pipelines are possible if gas wells are approved.

Walls understands gas well exploration may progress, but he successfully encouraged the trail advisory committee to send correspondence to the DCNR, encouraging reasonable protection of the natural scenery.

The number of wells is unknown, as Tiadaghton state Forester Jeff Prowant said anywhere from one to 14 could be created.

The company may lose interest if ample gas isn’t present, according to Rebecca A. Burke, chairwoman of the county commissioners.

“If they do it on a couple wells and they’re not productive, they might move on,” she said.

News on the CBF appeals to DEP and Water Pollution!

This is a must read article!

Group appeals DEP’s expedited permits for gas drilling
Thursday, September 10, 2009
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is challenging the state’s new expedited permitting process for Marcellus shale gas wells, claiming that it fails to police drilling and doesn’t protect streams from erosion and sedimentation runoff.

The foundation yesterday filed an appeal with the state’s Environmental Hearing Board of permits granted by the state Department of Environmental Protection to Fortuna Energy Inc. to drill in the Tioga State Forest in Tioga County.

Last week, the foundation filed similar appeals of two other DEP permits granted to Fortuna and Ultra Resources for Marcellus shale gas wells on private land in Tioga County.

All of those permits were granted by the DEP since April when it stripped County Conservation Districts of the authority to review gas well drilling erosion and sedimentation plans. The DEP, without public notice, also instituted an expedited permitting process that requires only an administrative review to determine if all permit paperwork has been submitted.

The new DEP permit requires no technical review of the environmental impacts on wetlands or streams by the state, which is illegal under state and federal clean streams law, according to Matt Royer, Chesapeake Bay Foundation attorney.

“The DEP is rubber-stamping permit applications without any independent environmental review,” Mr. Royer said. “And it’s putting Pennsylvania’s precious waters and streams at risk.”

He said winning the appeal would set a statewide precedent and require DEP to perform environmental reviews on each permit application.

Teresa Candori, a DEP spokeswoman, would not comment on the appeal.

When the DEP removed the Conservation Districts from the permitting process, it said the changes would consolidate permit review and inspection within the department’s regional oil and gas offices where 37 new inspectors had been hired to handle a flood of drilling permit applications for Marcellus shale wells.

But the Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water, a coalition of 36 environmental groups, immediately condemned the change as illegal because it was done without public notice and provided for no meaningful agency review of the drilling operations.

It’s estimated that Pennsylvania could have as much as 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas worth as much as $1 trillion deep underground in the shale formations that underlie three-fourths of the state. The gas wells to tap those deposits are 5,000 to 8,000 feet deep and each uses up to 4 million gallons of pressurized, chemically treated water to crack or “frac” the shale and release the natural gas. The wastewater left over contains high levels of salts, dissolved solids and fracing chemicals.

Mr. Royer said the Tioga County Conservation District had approved an erosion and sedimentation plan for earth disturbance caused by construction of a single eight-acre well pad after doing field surveys of wetlands and stormwater runoff conditions in the state forest.

But in recent months the DEP has approved 13 amendments to that permit, including nine for additional well pads and three for impoundments for drilling waste water that authorized clearing 105 acres of timberland without conducting technical reviews of the plans or their cumulative effects on the forest or nearby streams.

Don Hopey can be reached at or 412-263-1983.

PA Budget and Taxing the Oil and Gas Industries

Below is a letter from the PA State Forest Coalition. Has some good contact numbers and other info in it.

72 Days without a State Budget  – Help the Politicians Solve the Budget Impasse

Pennsylvania is poised to be the center of the Marcellus Gas industry.  Our location, close to pipelines and the big markets on the East Coast, is ideal because their biggest cost is transportation – getting the gas to markets.

The Gas Industry will make billions of dollars from drilling in the Marcellus. That’s a given.  Pennsylvania taxpayers should not be stuck paying for the damage they do to our roads, bridges and water supplies.

Natural gas is not subject to local taxation in Pennsylvania (PA Supreme Court 2/19/09), so the Townships & Counties suffering the damage will have a big problem footing the bill for repairs.

Pennsylvania State Representative Bud George has proposed a Natural Resource Severance Tax Act (House Bill 1489).  Of the 14 states with large natural gas fields, only California and Pennsylvania do not have a gas severance tax.  HB 1489 is a fair bill. It would ensure that tax dollars would be returned to the communities suffering the impact of the industry.

The Pennsylvania bill is nothing new – it is simply copying what West Virginia had recently enacted – but the Lobbyists are crying to our politicians “Don’t kill our infant industry with a tax on the gas we take”.                             Bullfeathers, folks.

The Oil & Gas industry can certainly afford the extraction fees.

The 200 largest O&G companies now operating in Pennsylvania all have between 108 and 5,374 wells.  A total of almost 98,000 wells.

See DEP’s listing at:

A recent Penn State publication titled “Marcellus Shale: What Local Government Officials Need to Know,” stated on page 15 that local municipalities will “very likely will face higher demands for services and thus higher costs, and yet receive little new revenues to pay for those services. The result could be higher local taxes  .  .  . ”

View the entire document at:

HB 1489 would ensure that the gas industry pays its own way for the impact it will make on the boroughs and townships in Pennsylvania because the municipalities would share part of the revenue.

When we remember the damage left behind by previous extraction of oil and coal in Pennsylvania  (taxpayers are still footing the bills for that damage), it is only fair that the industry pays their own way this time around.

We’ve been 72 days without a State Budget.   Go to, enter your zip code in the upper-right corner and contact your State Senator and Representative.

Use a few of the talking points we covered to convince your legislators that we’ll be stuck for the bills associated with the Marcellus Gas extraction unless the Gas Companies pull their own weight for a change.

.   .   .   Do your good deed for the week for Pennsylvania

Dick Martin

Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale and Pennsylvania’s Coldwater Resources Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited

This paper was in my inbox this morning and I thought all of you might like to read it as well.

Gas Drilling in the Marcellus Shale and Pennsylvania’s Coldwater Resources
Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited

February 13, 2009
A major natural gas boom is underway in Pennsylvania. Energy companies from across the US have come to this region to drill for gas in a geological formation known as the Marcellus Shale. PA Trout Unlimited believes the Marcellus Shale gas boom has the potential to significantly damage Pennsylvania’s coldwater resources and trout fisheries, if not managed properly.
What is the Marcellus Shale?
Marcellus Shale is located in the Appalachian region of the US. It spans approximately 600 miles from the southern tier of New York through Pennsylvania and Ohio, and into West Virginia. Its area is estimated to cover about 54,000 square miles, and it coincides with the location of many of Pennsylvania’s wild trout streams. Marcellus Shale is variable in depth. A majority of the shale is about a mile deep, and in some areas it is as deep as 9,000 feet below the surface. Marcellus Shale is a low-density rock with tight pores that hold natural gas. It is estimated that the Marcellus Formation holds 363 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of recoverable natural gas. In 2006, the US consumed more than 21 TCF of natural gas, and current estimates state that the US now uses approximately 30 TCF of natural gas per year.
How is gas extracted from Marcellus Shale?
Natural gas has long been produced from shallow shale formations. However, recent advances in deep well drilling combined with horizontal drilling, and advances in hydrofracturing (fracking), have made gas extraction from deep shale formations economically feasible.
Depending on the geology, gas companies use both vertical and horizontal wells to capture the gas. Wells can be drilled vertically for several thousand feet. Then the drilling can be angled, creating an arc to the horizontal, and drilling can be continued horizontally through the shale formation for several thousands of feet. Multiple wells may be drilled from the same well pad site, radiating out horizontally from a central vertical well. Well pad sites can vary in size from 3 acres up to 30 acres, or more.
Fracking is a technique used to release natural gas from the tight pores of the shale. A mixture of water, chemicals and proppant (usually sand) is pumped down the well and into the shale at high pressures. The pressure creates fractures in the shale and the proppant holds open the fractures to allow gas flow from the shale and into the well. Chemicals used in fracking may include friction reducers, biocides, surfactants and scale inhibitors.
Fracking requires large quantities of water. Horizontal projects typically use between 1 and 3 million gallons of water for the initial fracking. It is important to note that wells drilled in Marcellus Shale may have to be hydrofractured several times over the course of their lifetimes to keep the gas flowing.
The millions of gallons of water must be piped or transported by truck to the well site prior to a fracture treatment. The flowback water (waste water) from the fracking operation must also be trucked out to a disposal facility. A large percentage (20% to 40%) of the injected fluid remains underground for some time. Fracking and treatment fluids do not come back all at one time. At first, the flowback is primarily treatment/fracking fluids, but this is diluted by formation water. As time goes on, the percentage of treatment/fracking fluids decrease and the percentage of formation water increases. Flowback of fracking fluids and water can continue over a period of years.
Presently there are 63,000 registered wells in Pennsylvania, including those currently producing natural gas, and those which have been drilled and capped for future production. The vast majority of these are vertical wells that have been developed using fracking with water and sand, similar to the fracking techniques used within the Marcellus Shales.
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Brines from vertical wells have been treated at several treatment plants throughout Pennsylvania that are dedicated to brine disposal. Other methods of disposal include use as dust suppression on dirt roads, use by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for road treatment for ice and snow, and dilution through sewage treatment plants. While abuses have occurred, especially on the over-application of brines for dust suppression, major environmental impacts have been addressed and enforcement actions taken. Unfortunately, these brine treatment facilities are not currently equipped to effectively deal with some of the production fluids used in the Marcellus gas extraction process.
What permits are required?
• Well Drilling Permit and Addendum – The operator must obtain a drilling permit, pursuant to the Oil and Gas Act, as well as an application addendum outlining a water management plan for that operation, pursuant to Title 25 PA Code 78.11-33.
• Earth Disturbance Permit (ESCGP-1) – The operator must obtain a permit from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) for implementation of erosion and sediment controls, including stormwater management, if the site disturbance area is greater than 5 acres. A plan for erosion and sedimentation control is required if under 5 acres. Sites in excess of 5 acres must obtain a general sediment and erosion control permit under Chapter 102.
• Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency (PPC) Plan – The operator is required to prepare and implement a PPC Plan and make it available to PA DEP upon request. The plan must address the types of wastes generated, disposal methods and a spill prevention plan. Construction and operation of on-site storage impoundments must also be described.
• Water Withdrawal Permits – PA DEP has required water withdrawal permits for all withdrawals of surface or ground water. For projects located in the Delaware or Susquehanna Basins, a separate Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) or Susquehann River Basin Commission (SRBC) water withdrawal permit is required.

Chapter 105 Obstruction and Encroachment Permit – An operator must obtain a permit from PA DEP for construction, excavation, or operation in a wetland, stream, or body of water. A similar requirement is also required under the Oil and Gas Act.

Water Quality Management Permit – An operator must obtain this permit if a centralized impoundment will hold fluids other than fresh water (such as drilling or fracking fluids). The siting, construction, use and closure of temporary pits are regulated under Chapter 78. Permits are only required if the pit is part of a treatment facility. However, permanent impoundments to hold drilling or fracking fluids are rare. In the case of freshwater impoundments, strict adherence to design and safety standards must be met and adequately enforced.
Pennsylvania TU’s position on gas drilling
We understand that natural gas drilling and other energy developments are important to the economy of the Commonwealth and the nation. However, we are adamant that this drilling be done in a manner that does not damage our natural resources. Deep gas well drilling is relatively new to Pennsylvania, and the environmental concerns have not been fully evaluated prior to numerous permits being issued. Adequate permit restrictions and oversight are necessary. We encourage our regulatory agencies to actively ensure that all protections be enforced to protect our water resources as afforded under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Streams Law.
What are our concerns?
1. The removal of millions of gallons of water from streams and aquifers to frack the Marcellus gas producing zones. 2. The potential environmental damage the fracking water will do; both on site and during its disposal.
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3. Drilling activity in Special Protection Watersheds (HQ and EV streams) and Wilderness Trout Designated areas may permanently affect these areas. 4. Bonding is inadequate to deal with plugging/closing of wells and to deal with any long-term environmental implications of orphan/abandoned well sites. 5. Potential increase in sediment and stormwater from the well pad sites. 6. Resource agencies may be inadequately staffed to deal with the increase in permit requests and on site enforcement.
What should happen?
Marcellus Shale drilling and production presents a new series of problems. Namely, the need for millions of gallons of water for fracking, and the need to properly treat and dispose of this water when it returns to the wellhead. Simply put, Pennsylvania must enact criteria and disposal methods not yet employed in the Commonwealth. As an organization concerned with coldwater fisheries and the water quality and quantity needed to support these fisheries, Pennsylvania Trout Unlimited (PATU) insists that PA DEP must meet this new challenge. For example, PA DEP should encourage the use of reverse osmosis units to remove salts and any associated heavy metals from production waters and reuse the resulting water for future fracking.
PATU strongly believes that Marcellus Shale development cannot be permitted within Exceptional Value (EV) watersheds. We do not see how the existing Best Management Practices (BMPs) for sediment and erosion control, given the significant earth disturbances associated with road and pad construction, can comply with the anti-degradation standards required under the Clean Streams Law.
PATU sees an urgent need for PA DEP to change its present bonding requirements for existing vertical wells, and to cover the likely higher plugging costs for Marcellus wells. PA DEP needs to take immediate steps to determine the anticipated costs of closing Marcellus wells. PA DEP needs to consult with surrounding states regarding their existing or proposed bonding rates for this class of wells. PA DEP also needs to work closely with the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) to assure that bonding rates meet the necessary closing costs for Marcellus wells. Without adequate bonding, Pennsylvania will inherit more abandoned wells that cannot be properly closed, and that risk the spewing of contaminants into our waterways, much as we presently see from pre-Act drilling, and where bonding was inadequate to close the wells.
PATU sees an urgent need for PA DEP to require a severance fee adequate to meet the Department’s costs for permitting, inspections and enforcement, including the logistical needs of the program.
In High Quality-Coldwater Fishery (HQ-CWF) watersheds, PA DEP should, at minimum, require individual permits for gas development. Individual permits assure that the public has an opportunity to review, object to, or request a public meeting on, the proposed drilling operation and its associated discharges prior to the issuance of the permit. These options are not available with the present practice of issuing general permits pursuant to Chapter 102. Appeal rights, under the general permit, are limited to a short window after issuance of the permit. We find this practice unacceptable.
Drilling projects have the potential to cause multiple impacts on our environment. Permit approvals should consider all of the impacts before issuing a permit, including water needs for drilling, treatment and discharge of backflows and brine, habitat destruction from drill site pads, and erosion from road construction and pipeline construction.
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PATU urges state agencies to prohibit any oil and gas development in Exceptional Value (EV) watersheds, Wilderness Trout Stream watersheds, EV wetlands or areas containing threatened or endangered species. Increased oversight should be applied in High Quality-Coldwater Fishery (HQ-CWF) watersheds.
We insist that water withdrawal permitting by SRBC, DRBC and PA DEP be closely monitored. Namely, flows from the permitted watershed need to be documented at the time of withdrawal to assure that the stream uses are protected. This will require that flow monitoring devices are part of the permit, thus assuring that the Q-7/10* is not violated.
PA DEP is obligated to consider the cumulative impacts these drilling sites will pose in a watershed. In addition, resource agencies should evaluate the overall impacts to groundwater and surface flows and place a cap on permits to prevent Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) from being reached. While any one project may do minimal damage, the cumulative impacts from multiple projects could cause significant damage.
Surface landowners must consider the cumulative impacts of site development as it pertains to forest fragmentation and its potential impacts on our coldwater resources.
Roads built to and around well pad sites should be required to incorporate Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance principles as outlined by the Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads Program.
Fracking water must be treated at facilities built to meet NPDES permit requirements. Municipal sewage treatment plants are not capable of treating chlorides and toxins present in fracking water.
The public has the right to know what materials the industry is injecting for Marcellus Shale development. It also has the right to know the chemical analysis of the flowback water.
*Q-7/10 is defined as a consecutive 7- day low streamflow during a ten year drought. Water quality modeling is based on this low flow condition to assure that stream uses are maintained.
Whom should I contact with concerns?
If you believe that drilling activities have affected water resources or caused pollution, you should contact your nearest PA DEP Regional office, County Conservation District (CCD), Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), or the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). The numbers are as follows:
PA DEP Regional Offices:
Northeast: (866) 255-5158
Northcentral: (570) 327-3636
Northwest: (814) 332-6945
Southeast: (484) 250-5900
Southcentral: (877) 333-1904
Southwest: (412) 442-4000
Toll free, after hours and weekend:
1-800-541-2050 or 1-866-255-5158
Pennsylvania Game Commission Regional Offices:
Northeast: (570) 675-1143
Northcentral; (570) 398-4744
Northwest: (814) 432-3187
Southeast: (610) 926-3136
Southcentral: (814) 643-1831
Southwest: (724) 238-9523
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Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Regional Offices:
Northeast: (570) 477-5717
Northcentral: (814) 359-5250
Northwest: (814) 337-0444
Southeast: (717) 626-0228
Southcentral: (717) 486-7087
Southwest: (814) 445-8974

PA DEP’s Marcellus Shale Page:

Penn State Cooperative Extension Natural Gas Page:

Oil and Gas Accountability Project:

Pennsylvania Land Trust Association Oil and Gas Page:

Natural Gas Lease Forum:

Getting Off the Ground

I’ve been seeking a way to communicate concerns about my local environment and it’s communities to the people who live and play within them. There are some very large changes taking place in north central Pennsylvania this summer. Changes in the oil and gas industries that can and may destroy or harm the deep forests and fresh waters of the PA Wilds.

I am seeking the truth any way I can. Watching for it to surface in the deep ruts of drilling trucks, in heart-felt letters to the editors of the local papers, in land-lease agreements, public blogs, community meetings and the bottom of your well.

I am seeking out others who have experiences, questions and concerns regarding the past, current and future drilling situations in the Mid-Atlantic. We all use the same water. We owe it to ourselves and our families to inquire about the procedures and regulations that are currently in place and insist that they are of such a design that we do not have to fear for our health, our land rights or significant changes in the land we use.

let’s get organized and get off the ground!