Did Pennsylvania’s highest court unravel environmental protections for oil and gas? | StateImpact Pennsylvania

Did Pennsylvania’s highest court unravel environmental protections for oil and gas? | StateImpact Pennsylvania.

New oilsands watchdog a victory for science

New oilsands watchdog a victory for science.  Feb. 4th 2012

Environmental Health Perspectives: Missing from the Table: Role of the Environmental Public Health Community in Governmental Advisory Commissions Related to Marcellus Shale Drilling

Environmental Health Perspectives: Missing from the Table: Role of the Environmental Public Health Community in Governmental Advisory Commissions Related to Marcellus Shale Drilling.

Ark. considers ban on injection wells (Wednesday, June 22, 2011)

An E&E Publishing Service

OIL AND GAS: Ark. considers ban on injection wells  (Wednesday, June 22, 2011)

State regulators recommended yesterday that the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission implement a permanent ban on deep wells that are used to dispose of natural gas drilling fluids in an area north of Little Rock that has seen a swarm of recent earthquakes.
Two wells were shut down in February under an agreement between the well owners and the commission. Two others will have to stop operating if the commission approves the regulation at a July 26 hearing.
The ban would not stop natural gas drilling in central Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale. Hydraulic fracturing can continue, but the millions of gallons of fracking fluid used in the 1,150-square-mile region would have to be trucked to injection wells elsewhere in Arkansas, or in Oklahoma or Texas, Commission Deputy Director Shane Khoury said.
Khoury said the commission worked with the Arkansas Geological Survey and the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, before making the recommendation.
“This is similar to pending litigation — I can’t go into a lot of details. But based on our analysis … this is the correct and warranted regulatory response,” Khoury said.
Before the two wells stopped operating this spring, there were 85 earthquakes with a magnitude 2.5 or higher. Since then, there have been fewer quakes — 20 in the 18 days following the shutdown, according to the state Geological Survey.
Mickey Thompson, a partner in Clarita Operating LLC of Little Rock, said yesterday that earthquake swarms are a natural occurrence and that there is no reason to support the ban.
“We feel like the decision has been made and that we’ve been denied our due process,” said Thompson, whose oil and gas service company operates a well in the zone under the proposed ban. “We were believing there was actually going to be a scientific study and a scientific presentation, not a hunt for a political scapegoat.”
The commission will also recommend rules that would require setbacks from fault zones in other areas of the state, spacing between disposal wells, and the installation of seismic instruments near new or existing injection wells in the Fayetteville Shale region (Chuck Bartels, AP/FuelFix <http://fuelfix.com/blog/2011/06/22/arkansas-regulators-seek-ban-on-injection-wells-in-fayetteville-shale/> , June 22). — AS

E.P.A. to Delay Release of New Rule on Emissions

Alert Name: environment
June 14, 2011 Compiled: 5:46 AM

SCIENCE / ENVIRONMENT

By JOHN M. BRODER (NYT)

The postponement is a tacit admission that efforts to control pollution will take an economic toll; environmental activists see in it a surrender to industry pressure.

Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board

Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.

“Setting the Bar for Safety & Responsibility”

Gray bar

Homepage photoOn May 5, 2011, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu charged the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Natural Gas Subcommittee to make recommendations to improve the safety and environmental performance of natural gas hydraulic fracturing from shale formations. Secretary Chu extended the Subcommittee membership beyond SEAB members to include the natural gas industry, states, and environmental experts. The Subcommittee is supported by the Departments of Energy and Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

President Obama directed Secretary Chu to form the Natural Gas Subcommittee as part of the President’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future” – a comprehensive plan to reduce America’s oil dependence, save consumers money, and make our country the leader in clean energy industries.

The Subcommittee will conduct a review, and will work to identify any immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental performance of hydraulic fracturing. They will also develop advice for the agencies on shale extraction practices that ensure protection of public health and the environment.

Notice of Public Meeting

The SEAB Natural Gas Subcommittee will hold a public meeting on Monday, June 13, 2011, at Washington Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania.

View the event live via webcast beginning at 7PM EDT.

On a Party Line Vote, Committee Rejects Lowey-Hinchey
Amendment to Make Shale Gas Panel Unbiased and Impartial

***NEWS RELEASE***

 

For Immediate Release

June 15, 2010

Mike Morosi (Hinchey) – (202) 225-6335

Matt Dennis (Lowey) – (202) 225-6506

 

Appropriations Committee Republicans Block Lowey-Hinchey Amendment

to Prevent Increased Financial Conflicts of Interest on
U.S. Department Of Energy-Sponsored Fracking Panel

On a Party Line Vote, Committee Rejects Lowey-Hinchey
Amendment to Make Shale Gas Panel Unbiased and Impartial

 

    Washington, DC – House Appropriations Committee Republicans today rejected an amendment offered by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) that would have prevented natural gas industry executives from serving on what is supposed to be a neutral federal advisory panel on shale gas drilling.  The Lowey-Hinchey amendment would have eliminated report language authored by House Republicans that would force the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to have at least one-third of the members on the newly-created Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board be shale gas industry representatives.

 

The Lowey-Hinchey amendment was offered during a markup of the Fiscal Year 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill and was rejected by the Republican majority on the Appropriations Committee in a party line vote.  Currently, the DOE has filled six of the seven panel slots, including the chairman position, with individuals who have financial ties to companies involved with hydraulic fracturing operations.  The Republican measure, which Lowey and Hinchey were unable to overcome, would require the DOE to replace or add panel members with individuals who are employed by the very shale gas industry the panel is supposed to independently assess.

 

“It is outrageous that the Republican majority opposed our common-sense effort to ensure members of federal advisory boards are unbiased and without conflicts of interest,” said Lowey.  “Allowing the shale gas industry to put a thumb on the scale of this board makes it more likely that the decisions it makes will focus more on profits and less on the safety of our water sources, Americans’ health, and environmental preservation.”

 

“Federal advisory boards are supposed to be unbiased, impartial bodies that advise our agencies, but almost everyone who currently serves on the shale gas advisory panel has direct financial ties to the oil and shale gas industry,” said Hinchey.  “Now the Republican majority is calling for an even greater bias by requiring that one-third of the panel work directly on behalf of the shale gas industries. This isn’t an honest effort to give industry a seat at the table. Instead, it’s a blatant attempt to rig the decisions of  the panel in favor of industry and against the safety and security of our environment, drinking water and public health.”

 

A number of recent reports and incidents are raising serious concerns about hydraulic fracturing. A study by researchers at Duke University found a statistically significant correlation between methane contamination of drinking water wells and their proximity to shale gas drilling sites. On April 20th of this year thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid spilled into the Susquehanna River watershed, following a major fracking well blowout in Leroy Township, PA.

 

The text of the amendment, which was rejected on a party line vote follows:

 

Pages 99 and 100, strike ‘‘The Committee is concerned that the selected panel members will not adequately represent industry perspectives, and therefore will not foster a spirit of partnership among industry, environmental, and governmental parties. In order to strengthen these partnerships and industry support for any subsequent recommendations, no less than one-third of panel members should be industry representatives who actively work in the shale gas industry. Further, the’’ and insert ‘‘The’’.

 

Fracking the Future – How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health and Climate

Fracking the Future – How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health and Climate.

Unconventional gas drilling is emerging as one of the most controversial energy & environmental issues in the United States and around the world today.

Advancements in extraction technologies, particularly horizontal drilling and high volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking), have enabled drillers to reach previously inaccessible gas in geological formations underlying several areas of the U.S.

Increasing public awareness of the threats posed by America’s dependence on foreign oil and dirty coal to public health and the global climate have led many – including some environmental organizations and progressive politicians – to embrace gas as a “bridge fuel” to help America kick its dirty energy addiction.

54 page report at: http://www.desmogblog.com/fracking-the-future/desmog-fracking-the-future.pdf

But recent revelations about the dangers that unconventional gas drilling poses to drinking water supplies, public health and the global climate are raising important questions about how “clean” this gas really is.

Scientists studying the impacts of unconventional gas drilling warn that gas is likely to have a greater influence on water, air and climate than previously understood. Major scientific bodies have cautioned against a national commitment to gas as a bridge fuel, citing the need for further research into the potential consequences of continued reliance on this fossil fuel.

A growing number of land owners, former gas industry executives and elected officials are also challenging the notion that gas is as clean as its proponents argue, and questioning whether unconventional gas drilling can be done without threatening drinking water supplies, air quality and the global climate.

Yet the gas industry continues to benefit from lax oversight and several exemptions from existing public health protections, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and parts of the Clean Water Act that apply to other fossil fuel extraction industries. Recent attempts by federal agencies and lawmakers to improve oversight of gas operations have been met with strong resistance from the gas industry and its alliance of front groups and defenders in the media.

The gas industry’s influence in Washington has grown tremendously thanks, in large part, to the rapid consolidation of the gas industry into the hands of the largest oil companies in the past few years. Not long ago, the industry was made up primarily of what its proponents call “mom and pop” companies—small operators that drilled chiefly for conventional gas.

But with recoverable deposits of that relatively ‘easy’ conventional gas dwindling in the Lower 48, larger drillers have turned their focus to the more difficult and expensive unconventional gas plays.

Oil giants such as BP, ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron now dominate the gas industry. The industry’s chief front group, Energy In Depth (EID), goes to great lengths to maintain the “mom and pop” image of the industry, claiming it represents small and independent gas producers.

However, its own documents prove that its early funding – and ongoing financial support – comes from many of the largest oil and gas interests.

EID and other gas lobby groups argue that federal oversight and increased scrutiny and accountability measures would harm the industry’s development and risk jobs. But big oil companies have made that same “economy-killing” argument for decades – a strategy they learned from tobacco companies and the chemical industry – while amassing record profits and enjoying spectacular growth.

Through intensive lobbying, campaign contributions and other forms of influence, these oil and gas companies have successfully thwarted efforts to hold the gas industry accountable for its impacts on health and the environment.

Now the same companies that brought us the Exxon Valdez spill, the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, Chevron’s destruction of the Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador and countless other pollution examples, want the public to blindly trust them – with zero federal oversight – as they pursue drilling for much riskier unconventional gas throughout the country.

The question is, given the oil industry’s track record of environmental and health disasters, can the public trust them to get it right with the more challenging unconventional gas?

This report is designed to shed light on the rapidly changing composition of the gas industry and to raise important questions about whether the rush to exploit unconventional gas may be coming at too high a cost to the environment.

While coal and oil certainly pose their own significant challenges to health and climate, it is important to recognize that unconventional gas is also a dirty fossil fuel and does not belong in any credible definition of “clean energy.”

Given the extensive uncertainties surrounding the impacts potentially connected to the unconventional gas industry’s current drilling practices, it is only prudent at this point to insist on a pause for further evaluation. In fact, as a direct result of the recent Chesapeake gas well blowout in Pennsylvania that spilled drilling chemicals onto nearby properties and waterways, a former gas company executive called for a moratorium on all fracking operations near waterways in Arkansas’s Fayetteville shale region, stating that:

“There is no reason on Earth, if they are going to close it down there, they shouldn’t close it down here.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that the unconventional gas boom is happening too fast, too recklessly and with insufficient concern for the potential cumulative impacts on our most critical resources – clean air, safe drinking water and a stable climate.

DeSmogBlog joins those who are calling for a nationwide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and other troublesome practices in the unconventional gas industry. Until independent scientists and experts conduct further studies, the public simply cannot trust the fossil fuel industry to continue with this dirty energy boom.

See:  http://www.desmogblog.com/fracking-the-future/desmog-fracking-the-future.pdf  for the full 54 page report

Pennsylvania Limits Authority of Oil and Gas Inspectors

Pennsylvania Limits Authority of Oil and Gas Inspectors

And the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote today:
Pennsylvania environment chief now must approve any shale-drilling citations

In an unprecedented policy shift, inspectors in Pennsylvania have been ordered to stop issuing violations against drillers without prior approval from Gov. Corbett’s new environmental chief.

The change, ordered last week in response to complaints by the drilling industry and its supporters in the Pennsylvania legislature, dismayed ground-level staff in the Department of Environmental Protection and drew a chorus of outrage from environmental advocates.

“I could not believe it,” said John Hanger, the last DEP secretary under Gov. Ed Rendell. “It’s extraordinarily unwise. It’s going to cause the public in droves to lose confidence in the inspection process.”  The order applies only to enforcement actions in the Marcellus Shale….

read more: fully story =  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/118971044.html

This outrageous news follows hard on the heels of President Obama’s speech indicating his support for natural gas extraction, which means fracking with all its environmental destruction and harms to public health.  Natural gas stocks rose overnight.  But read this cogent analysis of the President’s “non-plan”:
Protectors, this news is a call to action.
1.  HOLD THE DATE: Saturday April 23rd, “River to River” march here in Philatelphia (Schuylkill to Delaware) to protect our waters — to reclaim our democracy and express our outrage about horizontal hydrofracking and the “Gasocracy” trying blatantly to take over our state.  We the people need clean air, water, earth: we won’t stand for this!
2.  USE TODAY’S NEWS AS AN ORGANIZING TOOL:  don’t “read it and weep,” get angry and organized.  Make your personal plan to get five, fifty, or 500 more people, businesses, and organizations to comment to the DRBC between now and April 12th using our new letter HERE: (Finally, it’s easy)! http://tinyurl.com/46lbsg6
Forward widely!  We will print and HAND DELIVER ALL E-LETTERS directly to the DRBC as long as they come in by April 12th midnight.
We can then galvanize all these letter-writers to speak out in an organized way to protect the whole state and region!
3.  FYI: where POW will be tonight, 7 pm, Drexel: (you can pick up lit. from our table here if you want to do outreach):  http://www.revbilly.com/events/drexel
Closing thought for the day from Protecting Our Waters organizers Gerald Kaufman, a former Pennsylvania legislator himself:
“This is important. Reading this [Obama's non-plan] and the morning Inky regarding the DEP shale inspectors needing to get permission from the Secretary’s office to issue a violation is energizing me. I think back to the 60s and 70s and how we were able to impact the direction of the country because we were so well organized. We had mass involvement in the civil rights, anti war and women’s movements and it was the beginning of the environmental movement. Now we have a country ruled by the oligarchs and the only movement involving large numbers is the Tea Party. So instead of feeling depressed I feel energized and and am happy to be part of a larger movement that POW represents. I think the DEP article today is a great organizing tool.”   –Gerald Kaufman


Iris Marie Bloom
Director, Protecting Our Waters
www.protectingourwaters.com

c (215) 840-6489
protectingourwaters@gmail.com

Lancaster Online : State geologist discusses Marcellus Shale in talk here

Lancaster Online : State geologist discusses Marcellus Shale in talk here.

State geologist discusses Marcellus Shale in talk here
Posted:  03/10/2011 11:17 PM
Caption: “In this file photo, a natural gas drill sits atop a ridge near Knoxville, Pa.”Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania will not be denied, predicts the man responsible for natural gas leases in state forests and state parks. 

“The reason Pennsylvania is hot, hot, hot is because we potentially have the largest gas field on planet Earth in Pennsylvania, situated in the middle of the largest integrated gas market on planet Earth. Transportation costs are virtually nil. You couldn’t ask for any better situation,” said Teddy Borawski, chief oil and gas geologist for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“This thing is going to go on for 50 years,” Borawski said, adding that Marcellus natural gas from Pennsylvania alone could supply all the country’s needs for 20 to 25 years.

Controversy swirls around aspects of the just-taking-hold natural gas boom in Pennsylvania. But Borawski predicts the northern and western portions of the state will become pocked with gas wells over the next five decades.

Specifically, he said, the number of wells to be drilled on both public and private land will increase from about 6,400 wells today to 120,000 wells, perhaps even 180,000.

He said he thinks that can be done safely, with constant vigilance.

And the manager of subsurface programs for the state Bureau of Forestry made some other bold predictions, such as Williamsport rivaling Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as an economic hub in the state.

Also, he said, the extent of the Marcellus Shale reservoir of gas, and other untapped formations here and in other states, will move the United States to a natural gas-driven economy.

“Because it’s there and it’s going to be cheap and plentiful,” he said.

Borawski gave an hour-plus rundown on Marcellus Shale on Thursday in Neffsville before about 50 attentive members of the Pennsylvania Dutch Chapter of the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters Society.

Among the audience were at least two representatives of out-of-state energy companies currently operating Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania.

Borawski’s former boss, former DCNR secretary John Quigley, said last August that the 2.2-million-acre state forestlands couldn’t withstand any more gas pads without environmental damage.

Asked about that, Borawski replied, “I have no comment I can make.”

But referring to a de facto hold on additional gas leases on public land that former Gov. Ed Rendell made in the last few months of his administration, Borawski said Rendell “wanted to push companies as hard as he could” in seeking a severance tax on gas drilling.

Gov. Tom Corbett has removed those roadblocks, is opposed to a severance tax, and wants to get gas extraction running full-tilt.

Borawski did say he hoped Corbett doesn’t seek “wholesale leasing” of gas on state forests. There is room for expansion and to generate revenue for state coffers, he said. “We can do that, but let us do that on our own terms. But we’re subject to what the governor tells us to do.”

Borawski, who has been involved with oil drilling on the Gulf Coast, was asked about the recent documentary “Gasland,” an Academy Award-nominated documentary made partially in Pennsylvania that portrays drilling as harmful to the environment and residents.

“Joseph Goebbels would have been proud,” Borawski replied. “He would have given him the Nazi Award. That, in my opinion, was a beautiful piece of propaganda.”

Borawski also was asked about a recent New York Times series of stories that painted a picture of lax environmental laws and enforcement in Pennsylvania regarding Marcellus Shale drilling.

“It confused the situation and was very poorly written technically,” Borawski said.

But he said the story raised legitimate issues about water concerns.

Water needed for gas drilling will not cause water shortages anywhere and currently uses much less than the state’s golf courses, he said.

But, he added, “Where we have a problem is where you are taking it from and when you are taking it. And flowback being treated.”

He said state regulators will have to remain vigilant in protecting the state’s water resources because if unguarded there always will be companies looking to take shortcuts.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is doing a study on the impacts of hydraulic fracking and will use Bradford and Susquehanna counties as study areas.

acrable@lnpnews.com

By: AD CRABLE

Department of Energy Foresees Solar, Wind Power as Cheap as Fossil Fuels – CleanTechnica: Cleantech innovation news and views

Department of Energy Foresees Solar, Wind Power as Cheap as Fossil Fuels – CleanTechnica: Cleantech innovation news and views.

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