PennFuture files federal lawsuit against Marcellus Shale driller Ultra Resources, Inc. for violations of federal and state air pollution laws

Harrisburg, PA (July 21, 2011) – Citizens for Pennsylvania‟s Future (PennFuture) filed a lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Ultra Resources, Inc., for air pollution at its Marcellus Shale drilling sites, which violates the federal Clean Air Act, Pennsylvania‟s State Implementation Plan (the “Pennsylvania SIP”), and Pennsylvania‟s New Source Review regulations. PennFuture also filed a formal request with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all records of air pollution at drilling sites throughout the Commonwealth.
“Ultra‟s drilling operations in Tioga and Potter counties are emitting dangerous and illegal air pollution and operating without the required permits,” said Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of PennFuture. “Unless gas drillers operating in Pennsylvania control the air pollution from their operations, air quality will deteriorate, putting public health at risk.

“The noxious air pollution is widespread in the two county area of the Marshlands Play,” continued Jarrett. “The operations include natural gas wells, pipelines, compressor stations, and other equipment, all of which are connected by pipeline to a Metering and Regulation Station, also constructed and operated by Ultra, where the gas produced at Ultra’s wells is adjusted for pressure, measured, and delivered to an interstate pipeline. Ultra constructed the operations without the necessary permits – specifically a permit required by Pennsylvania’s New Source Review (NSR) regulations, and without achieving the lowest achievable emissions rate or purchasing emissions reductions credits. The company is emitting large amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the air, creating serious health risks for anyone living downwind from the operations.

“The laws were passed for a reason – to protect the health of our families,” continued Jarrett. “According to the United States EPA, even short-term NOx exposures, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, cause adverse respiratory effects including airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma. And this air pollution also leads to more fine particle pollution, which can cause heart attacks and other deadly illnesses.

“But this appears to be business as usual for many drillers,” continued Jarrett. “A study out of Fort Worth (TX) recently showed that the NOx pollution just from the average compressor engine there is about 60 tons per year. And with drilling going like gangbusters here in Pennsylvania, that same kind of pollution from all the operations would create serious public health problems, and destroy any ability of Pennsylvania to meet air quality standards. We’ve also seen the formerly pristine air in Wyoming now more dangerous than that in Los Angeles, thanks to massive drilling. We need to stop this problem here and now.“We are also asking DEP to open the books on its assessment of air pollution at other drilling operations throughout the Commonwealth,” said Jarrett. “We cannot and will not allow the drillers to operate without meeting our clean air rules.”
Copies of the PennFuture court filing and Right to Know request may be downloaded at www.pennfuture.org
To read a copy of the Right to Know Request, click here:
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PennFuture workshop: Gas and Our Water

Gas and Our Water:

Legal tools for watershed advocates dealing with

drilling in the Marcellus Shale

Saturday, April 16

King’s College, Wilkes-Barre

This workshop will give grassroots conservation and watershed groups, concerned citizens and volunteers the legal tools necessary to protect our water and ensure Marcellus Shale gas drilling is done responsibly. Hear from leading environmental attorneys on land use and zoning, permits, wastewater issues, and enforcement of our clean water laws and regulations. Find out how to participate in the permitting process and to get decision-makers to listen to you.

Specific topics include:

* Wastewater and stormwater permits and permit appeals;

* Clean water enforcement; and

* Land use and zoning – Planning a boom

 

Space is limited – Register today

3 CLE credits available

Breakfast and materials included

 

The cost of the workshop is FREE to PennFuture members and students with ID; $10 for non-members. Free parking.

Space is limited and registration is required; register online today or by calling 717-214-7920.

A draft agenda will be available soon.

Date: Saturday, April 16, 2011

Time: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Location:

King’s College -Burke Auditorium

133 North River Street

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

If you’d like to attend this event you can purchase tickets online by clicking here:

http://my.pennfuture.org/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=107422&autologin=true&AddInterest=1261

Marcellus Shale Drilling – Avenues for Action: Regional advocacy workshops

See the below message from Penn Futures. Register today! Pre-registration is required.

As drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale continues in our region and across Pennsylvania, PennFuture, Clean Water Action, PennEnvironment, Pennsylvania Sierra Club, Responsible Drilling Alliance and EARTHWORKS are holding an invitation-only strategy session to discuss the avenues and opportunities for action in 2011.

At these sessions, you will:

* Hear from top environmental advocates about the political landscape in 2011.

* Review the legislative avenues for action at the state and federal levels.

* Learn more about drilling on state lands, the drilling tax, protections of our water, bonding, enforcement, and other issues confronting Pennsylvania.

* Learn more about wastewater treatment, compressor stations, municipal zoning authority, and the issues facing your local community.

* Find out how to be involved in local citizen monitoring and visual assessment efforts.

The events are free, but pre-registration is required.

We can’t do this without you! Join us at an event near you!

RSVP for March 19, 2011

1 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Lycoming College

Jane Schultz Room

700 College Place

Williamsport, PA 17701

RSVP for March 26, 2011

1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh

Katz Performing Arts Center

5738 Forbes Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15217

RSVP for April 2, 2011

10 a.m. to 1p.m.

NIER Institute

1600 Plank Road

Mayfield, PA 18433

 

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.

Failing to Pass a Severance Tax…

Below some comments from the press and PennFuture about the state of the State’s budget sans a tax on drilling.

Inaction on drill tax has a bad odor to it
Sunday, October 24, 2010
By Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

…. Its [PA’s Legislature] latest gaffe is passing on collecting tens of millions of dollars in revenue from the oil and gas industry, which is making huge money in our state (and passing a good bit of it around Harrisburg). Nearly all of the nation’s natural gas comes out of the ground in states that have severance taxes, but we won’t have any….

Bill Holland is associate editor of Gas Daily, which covers the natural gas market in North America. He said, “Industry analysts have never been very concerned” about paying a tax in Pennsylvania. Even the House bill passed largely by Democrats last month wasn’t that big a deal, Mr. Holland said. “They expect a tax eventually — like there is everywhere else drilling occurs,” he said.

It’s not as if profit margins are low. Mr. Holland pointed to Chesapeake Energy’s recent statement that its break-even selling price for drilling Marcellus Shale gas is $2.45 per thousand cubic feet, and Friday’s closing price for gas futures was $3.35. Now drillers don’t have to worry about even a pin scratch on that pretty price spread….

To read the full opinion online, click here:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10297/1097325-155.stm

PennFuture’s Drilling Fact of the Day

October 22, 2010
The refusal of the Pennsylvania Senate leadership to consider a severance tax bill leaves Pennsylvania citizens in the lurch, with a $70 million hole in this year’s state budget, and with local communities holding the bag on covering the public safety and social costs that drillers bring with them….

To read the full PennFuture Drilling Fact of the Day, click here:

 

Delay Equals Opportunity…make your voice heard!

Last week’s expected House floor action on the Save the Forests bill (HB 2235) – to protect the best parts of our state forest land from gas drilling – was pushed back to next week. HB 2235 would impose a five-year freeze on new leasing of state land for gas drilling until the state can study the impacts of drilling on natural resources and hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and other uses of the forest. The bill’s proponents are working to gain strong bipartisan support for the bill.

If you haven’t already done so, contact your representative in the State House and asking her/him to vote for the bill. Don’t let this opportunity to help save the forest pass by.

Tax Day Fairness

Here is a piece about the gas industry and taxes that comes from Penn Futures.

Tomorrow brings the annual income tax deadline, and the media will
predictably cover those who complain the loudest about having to pay
taxes. But all the sound and fury misses the point – most citizens
regard paying taxes as their civic duty, but are disturbed by the lack
of fairness in the system.

In Pennsylvania, the folks complaining the most about paying taxes are
the Marcellus Shale gas drillers and their friends. These multi-
national corporations, which include CONSOL Energy and ExxonMobil, are
crying poor, claiming that charging them an extraction fee on the
liquid gold they are taking from our land would destroy an “infant”
industry.

Of course, the fee is one these same corporations happily pay in other
states. Out of the top 15 natural gas producing states, Pennsylvania
is the only one that doesn’t have a fee to compensate for the loss of
our natural resources and help fix the scars of extraction. An impact
fee (also called a severance tax) identical to the one in place in
West Virginia since 1987 would raise more than $100 million a year
initially, rising to more than $630 million annually

Pennsylvania is ideally situated close to large markets, and since the
cost to transport natural gas constitutes at least 40 percent of the
price consumers pay, Pennsylvania gas is among the most profitable in
the country for the drillers. Even with an impact fee, Pennsylvania
gas will still be a bonanza for the gas drillers.

Nevertheless, the drillers and the Pennsylvania Chamber of (some)
Business and Industry still cry. “We already pay way too much tax. We
have to pay this state’s awful corporate net income tax and adding a
new tax will kill our ability to create jobs.”

But not so fast. The multi-national energy companies rushing to drill
here aren’t dumb, and they can legally avoid the corporate net income
tax by simply choosing a particular corporate structure – a limited
liability corporation – or incorporating in the state of Delaware, a
tax avoidance move known as the Delaware loophole. In fact, 71 percent
of companies doing business in Pennsylvania paid zero corporate net
income tax – nada – last year. And 79 percent of the remaining
companies paid less than $10,000 each. So our current corporate tax
scheme in no way can be described as “job crushing,” as these multi-
national behemoths allege.

Without an extraction tax, the drillers get to take all the profits,
but local communities and our environment are left holding the bag.
Natural gas extraction imposes heavy costs on our communities and
environment – pipelines, drilling pads and wastewater storage pits
altering our landscapes and fragmenting wildlife habitat, heavy rigs
damaging our roads, billions of gallons of water taken from our
streams and operational errors contaminating our land and drinking
water.

Some of the money raised from a natural gas extraction tax could be
used to offset these costs, going back to the communities that “host”
the drilling operations. It could also be invested in watershed
restoration and protection, habitat conservation, public access to
outdoor recreation, and conservation of open space and farmland. This
can be accomplished by directing a portion of the tax to the
Environmental Stewardship Fund (Growing Greener) as well as the
Pennsylvania Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission for habitat
improvement and public access purposes.

Passing an extraction tax to help pay Pennsylvanians for the use of
our resources and to pay for the damage left behind by the drillers
would go a long way to making our tax system fairer, which is what
most taxpayers want more than anything – especially on April 15.

http://www.pennfuture.org/UserFiles/PDFs/vol12no08_041410.pdf