Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Support Growing for Muskingum Watershed to Sell Water to Shale Gas Developers

From the Times Reporter:
Support is growing for a request that the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District temporarily authorize selling water from its lakes.
Rich Milleson, the economic development coordinator for the village of Cadiz, made one such request to MWCD board members at their meeting Thursday in Salt Fork Lodge near Cambridge.
“It appeared to me that my statements were well-received,” he said afterward. “I’m hopeful that the board will take this under serious consideration.”
During the board meeting, MWCD Chief of Conservation Sean Logan told board members he had just received a fax from The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. The letter from John Stark, Ohio Freshwater Conservation director, expressed the Dublin-based group’s support for the MWCD’s temporary water sales to shale gas exploration firms.
“We believe than an interim policy of a few water withdrawals, carefully considered on a case-by-case basis from MWCD reservoirs are preferable to contractors removing these same volumes of water from many of the MWCD’s streams and the surrounding area, particularly during the low-flow period of late August and September,” he wrote.
Read the rest of the article here.

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Links of the Day: 175,000 Ohio Acres for Lease, Gas Bills Going Up, More Criticism of Gasland, Hypocritical Gas Protesters, Fact Check for Anti-Fracking Celebrities

Encore Energy puts out call for anyone interested in leasing 175,000 acres of Ohio Utica Shale land.

National Fuel customers can expect an increase on their gas bill.

Gasland losing more credibility as time goes by, according to this op-ed.

Chefs for the Marcellus hold fund-raiser to protest gas development and provide a culinary feast which was cooked using...you guessed it, natural gas.

Alec Baldwin and other frack-fighting celebrities are encouraged to check the facts about the technology they are vilifying.

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Lawyers Look at Legal Trends Related to Fracking

From The Legal Intelligencer:
Despite the intense scrutiny and focus on environmental issues relating to hydraulic fracturing in shale gas plays across the United States, the onslaught of anticipated litigation alleging impacts to human health or the environment has been slower to develop than originally anticipated. Since the first complaints were filed in 2009, there have been more than 40 lawsuits filed in state and federal courts alleging some level of harm to person, property or the environment caused by fracking or related activities. The following provides a brief overview of the current state of fracking litigation.

Current Focus: Common Law

The majority of fracking lawsuits filed to date have been filed based on common law theories of liability. The predominant claim by plaintiffs has been that, as a result of fracking of natural gas wells located near plaintiffs' property, plaintiffs have suffered medical issues and their property, including groundwater wells, has become contaminated due to the release of contaminants to the land, water and air during the fracking process. Common-law theories of liability that have been asserted include: (1) public nuisance; (2) private nuisance; (3) trespass; (4) negligence; (5) negligence per se; (6) strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities; (7) fraud; (8) indemnification; and (9) contribution.
While a handful of these lawsuits have been dismissed or settled, most remain unresolved. Courts are just beginning to work through issues such as the factual sufficiency of plaintiffs' claims. For example, in Harris v. Devon Energy Production Co. , E.D. TX Docket No. 4:2010-cv-00708-MHS-ALM, plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that, in approximately April 2008, the defendant's drilling and fracking operations caused the plaintiffs' groundwater to become polluted with gray sediment. The plaintiffs generally alleged in their complaint that groundwater testing revealed the presence of hazardous substances, some of which are contained in bentonite mud used during well drilling. On Jan. 25, 2012, the court dismissed all claims against Devon Energy on the basis that recent testing of the plaintiffs' groundwater wells showed no contamination present at levels that are toxic for human consumption.
Read the rest of this excellent article here.

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Water for Fracking Hard to Come By in Midst of Drought

From CNN Money:
One of the worst droughts in U.S. history is hampering oil production, pitting farmers against oilmen and highlighting just how dependent on water modern U.S. energy development has become. 
Over 60% of the nation is in some form of drought. Areas affected include West Texas, North Dakota, Kansas, Colorado and Pennsylvania, all of which are part of the recent boom in North American energy production. 
That boom is possible partly by hydraulic fracturing. Known as fracking for short, the controversial practice gets oil and natural gas to flow by cracking shale rock with sand, chemicals, pressure and water. 
Lots of water. Each shale well takes between two and 12 million gallons of water to frack. That's 18 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water per well. 
"We're having difficulty acquiring water," said Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Oil and Gas, an oil company with operations in many of the new shale regions including Bakken in North Dakota and Marcellus in Pennsylvania. 
Faulkner said officials in two Pennsylvania counties have stopped issuing permits for oil companies to draw water from rivers, forcing them to go further afield to obtain the crucial resource.
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Conflicting Viewpoints on the Anti-Fracking Rally in DC

The opposing sides of the fracking debate have
dug in their heels
Can fracking supporters and fracking protesters agree on anything?  Obviously, the answer is no.  Both groups share one thing, though:  a stubborn determination to spin everything that happens in a way that supports their existing viewpoint.

At this point I don't think any more evidence is really even needed to show that this is true, but nonetheless, the anti-fracking rally in Washington D.C. last week provides further proof.

Ask the fracktivists about the event, and they'll tell you that it was a stirring show of the overwhelming anger and public concern over fracking.  They'll tell you that 5,000 or more concerned citizens showed up, representing the grassroots movement against fossil fuels and the gas industry.  They'll marvel over the...umm..."facts" presented about fracking, such as the claims that it causes anything from breast cancer (despite the fact that this claim has already been debunked) to contaminated water (despite the fact that the EPA just clearly stated that testing shows no contamination from drilling in the fracktivist-established ground zero of Dimock, PA) to climate change (despite the fact that the U.S. is leading the world in annual percentage decrease of carbon dioxide emissions, largely due to increased use of natural gas) to tornadoes (not sure where this one originated).

Ask the industry about the event, and they'll tell you that police estimated that there were actually about 1,500 people there, not 5,000.  They'll tell you that the pictures make it look like even less showed up.  They'll chuckle at the fact that the rally featured mostly anti-fracking celebrities like Josh Fox and people from New York, where no shale development is taking place, gathering in Washington D.C., where no shale development is taking place.  They'll focus in on the arguments that they can fight with scientific research and studies while downplaying the emotional stories of people who claim that fracking has caused horrible things in their life.  They'll liken the gathering to hippie festivals, and laugh at guys like this:

Both sides will continue to spin everything.  Everyone else - all of the people who just want to know the reality of fracking and find the balance between fear-mongering and promises of economic rejuvenation that has no ill side effects - just have to sit back and watch.

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Fracktivists Don't Have Much to Say About Dimock in Wake of Final EPA Report

Maybe the EPA should also have tested the doctored jugs
of dirty water that litigants in Dimock like to carry around?
From Forbes:
“Look what’s happening in Dimock, PA” has been a rallying cry for anti-fracturing forces over the last few years. A scene from the anti-natural gas propaganda film Gasland purported to show a Dimock resident lighting their tap water on fire. Just like scenes of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River burning in 1969 inspired Congress to pass the Clean Water Act, activists hoped that this image would ignite a national movement against fracturing.
But science has gotten in the way. EPA announced June 25 that extensivetesting of Dimock wells revealed that “there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.” This confirms earlier EPA and Pennsylvania environmental officials’ tests, whose results were denied and decried by natural gas opponents.
The silence from these activists on EPA’s latest announcement so far has been deafening. No doubt their public media demonization campaign, described so well in a recent Washington Legal Foundation publication (Misinformation Campaign Targets Hydraulic Fracturing) will march on. We won’t be surprised if natural gas’s critics dismiss EPA’s test results as flawed or politically motivated, or if they simply ignore this development and keep flacking the water pollution claim.
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Canton Regional Chamber Primed for Shale Boom

Downtown Canton, Ohio
From EID Ohio:
The Canton business community is both curious and excited about the opportunities that will develop through the exploration of the Utica Shale. Here at the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, we have conducted two sellout business development seminars this year through a partnership with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and Shaledirectories.com. The first event attracted just over 140 people, the second nearly 160.
The daylong seminars have featured presentations by companies like Chesapeake EnergySuperior Well Servicesand Baker Hughes that explained the oil and gas exploration and production process to the seminar audience. We also have offered business marketing advice based on successes achieved by small businesses in the Marcellus Shale. We have coached local businesses on the human resources challenges that may face them when the competition for talented workers increases because of oil and gas activity.
We have offered business banking advice, an explanation of the insurance requirements that come with master service agreements, and an explanation of the many safety measures practiced regularly in the oil and gas industry.
Read the rest of the article and view video from one of the seminars here.

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11 New Drilling Permits for Carroll County in June

Carroll County still the eye of
the Utica Shale activity
From Columbus Business First:
Carroll County continued to be Ohio’s hot spot for shale drilling, with the state issuing 11 new permits there in June, according to the Hannah Report.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued 36 new permits in all for horizontal drilling in the state’s shale play last month, the news service reported. The second-most popular location for drilling permits was Columbiana County, with seven, and Harrison County, with five.
Those counties have been among the leaders in the current shale boom playing out in eastern Ohio. Click here to see the top 10 Ohio counties for Utica shale activity.
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Monday, July 30, 2012

Are Fracking Proponents Buying All of the Academic Research That Declares Fracking Safe?

From The Atlantic:
Last week the University of Texas provost announced he would re-examine a report by a UT professor that said fracking was safe for groundwater after the revelation that the professor pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Texas natural gas developer. It's the latest fusillade in the ongoing battle over the basic facts of fracking in America.
Texans aren't the only ones having their fracking conversations shaped by industry-funded research. Ohioans got their first taste last week of the latest public-relations campaign by the energy policy wing of the US Chamber of Commerce. It's called "Shale Works for US," and it aims to spend millions on advertising and public events to sell Ohioans on the idea that fracking is a surefire way to yank the state out of recession.
The campaign is loaded with rosy employment statistics, which trace to an April report authored by professors at three major Ohio universities and funded by, you guessed it, the natural gas industry. The report paints a bright future for fracking in Ohio as a job-creator.
One co-author of the study, Robert Chase, is poised at such a high-traffic crossroads of that state's natural gas universe that his case was recently taken up by the Ohio Ethics Commission, whose chairman called him "more than a passing participant in the operations of the Ohio oil and gas industry," and questioned his potential conflicts of interest. As landowners in a suite of natural gas-rich states like Texas and Ohio struggle to to decipher conflicting reports about the safety of fracking, Chase is a piece in what environmental and academic watchdogs call a growing puzzle of industry-funded fracking research with poor disclosure and dubious objectivity.
"It's hard to find someone who's truly independant and doesn't have at least one iron in the fire," said Ohio oil and gas lease attorney Mark F. Okey. "It's a good ol' boys network and they like to take care of their own."
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The Frack Attack on DC Gets More Coverage

From the Washington Free Beacon:
Fracking has brought economic benefits to states such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania, while states where fracking is banned, such as California and New York, are suffering economically, according to Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal.
“To be against hydraulic fracturing is like being against a cure for cancer,” Moore told the Free Beacon.
Fracking represents “the most important revolution in the oil sector in decades,” according to a study by Harvard Research Fellow Leonardo Maugeri.
“The protest will be full of Hollywood celebrities and emotions,” said pro-fracking filmmaker Phelim McAleer. “You’ll see Manhattan’s finest, D.C.’s finest, but you won’t see farmers from upstate New York.”
D.C. police on the scene of the rally estimated that about a quarter of the 1,500 protestors were from various Occupy movements.
Todd Stefansky, an Occupier from Manhattan, was among the anti-fracking protestors who walked from the west lawn of the Capitol building to Franklin Square.
“They just pulled up a bus at Zuccotti [Park] this morning and I got on, it’s crazy,” said Stefansky.
Stefansky claimed that fracking “poisons our water,” but was unable to name any harmful chemicals used in the fracking process.
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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Expresses Optimism Over Ohio's Utica Shale Prospects

From Shale Daily:
The Columbiana County Recorder's Office has been packed with oil and gas company representatives searching out property deeds and mineral rights for months, and the county has issued 55 drilling permits, according to Youngstown's WFMJ-TV.
The Columbiana County Port Authority (CCPA) recently approved a memorandum of understanding to sell a portion of an industrial park in Wellsville, OH, to Marathon Petroleum Corp., which plans to use the property as a staging area for trucks transporting oil and gas collected from area shale wells, according to East Liverpool, OH's Review. The acreage is adjacent to a Marathon storage facility. The CCPA also agreed to lease acreage at the industrial park to Arrowhead Utica Pipelines, which plans to build a transfer facility on the site, the Review reported.
Last month the county's Board of Commissioners approved a three-year gas and oil lease agreement with DPS Penn for 548 acres at $5,850/acre (see Shale Daily, June 25). The $3.2 million deal came less than a year after the commissioners voted to a approve a letter of intent to sign a lease proposed by DPS that would have fetched $2,700/acre; however, that lease was never signed.
In September Rex Energy Corp. said it had acquired the rights to lease about 11,000 net acres in neighboring Carroll County for about $3,600 per acre, plus 20% royalties with no deductions (see Shale Daily, Sept. 12, 2011). The village council of Carrollton, the county seat of Carroll County, this week voted in favor of a nondevelopmental oil and natural gas lease agreement with Rex that was valued at $938,000 (see related story). Chesapeake last year paid a reported $2,250 per acre plus 17.5% in royalties for about 75,000 acres in eight Ohio counties (see Shale Daily, May 11, 2011).
Chesapeake Energy Corp., M3 Midstream LLC and EV Energy Partners LP are developing what they claim will be the largest integrated midstream service complex in eastern Ohio to serve Utica Shale production in Columbiana County (see Shale Daily, March 16). Engineering and procurement has begun for the project, with the first cryogenic processing and fractionation plants scheduled to be in service by the second quarter of 2013, according to Chesapeake.
Read the rest of the article here.

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McDonald, Ohio May Soon See New Factory From Shale Boom

From WYTV 33 News:

There soon could be a new factory in McDonald.  

There are plans to purchase a piece of property on an access road at the bottom of Ohio Avenue near McKinley Street for a potential business that would service the shale gas industry. The investors don't want to be named just yet, but they confirmed that they have an option to purchase 212 acres.

They said their intentions are to build a mid-stream processing plant to service the shale gas industry, but so far they don't have a company lined up and are continuing to search for one. A mid-stream processing plant is where gas and oil products are processed after being pumped out of the ground.  
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Carroll County Continues to Lead the Way in Shale Drilling Permits

From Business First:
The latest report from ODNR has Jefferson County in third place in the number of horizontal wells in the Utica play to have received drilling permits from the state. It has 26 of those but faces a steep climb to catch up to the current front runner, Carroll County, which also leads in the “completed” category. Completed wells are ones that have been drilled and fracked, the controversial drilling method used to extract oil and gas from shale formations thousands of feet underground.
Read the rest of the article, which features a slideshow of the top 10 most active Utica Shale counties in Ohio, by clicking here.

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Links of the Day - Former US Steel Property on the Market for Oil & Gas Industry, Kasich's Tax Plan Opposed, Oil Pipeline Crunch, Fracktivists Show Lack of Knowledge, Atwood Resort Job Fair

A couple of local investors have purchased former U.S. Steel property in Trumbull County and they are marketing the land with other assets to the oil and gas industry.

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Companies Writing Down Billions in Shale Gas Assets

From Examiner.com:
On Friday shale gas driller Encana Corporation, the largest natural gas company of Canada announced it had written down more than $1.7 billion in shale gas assets on its books, the majority from its U.S. shale gas operations as it posted its ominous 2nd quarter operating results. Encana Chief Executive Officer Randy Eresman went on record saying to expect his company to have to take additional shale gas asset write downs in the near future. Such asset impairment write downs directly affect the industry’s operating credit lines as reduced value assets on their books results in financial lenders lending the companies less cash going forward.
Encana Corporation is also the focus of a U.S. Department of Justice price collusion investigation regarding the allegation it has conspired with Chesapeake Energy to fix prices for shale gas land lease agreements with state of Michigan landowners. The investigation is ongoing.
Other shale gas development companies also wrote down major assets as continued shale gas industry aggressive claims meet the realities of the tough economics the industry never fully anticipated.
English based BG Group decreased the value of its U.S. shale gas operations by $1.3 billion also this past Friday to reflect a weaken outlook for U.S natural gas prices. Exco Resources Inc. of Texas reported a $276 million write down on its assets. Meanwhile Australian based shale gas driller BHP is embroiled in a decision to write down its U.S. shale gas operations by an estimated $US2.5 billion on the shale gas assets it acquired just last year from Chesapeake Energy for $US4.75 billion, more than half what it paid to Chesapeake Energy.
The popular view is the main culprit is the ongoing price of today’s U.S. price for natural gas of $3.08 per million British Thermal Units (MBTU), a price which dipped as low as $1.90 per MBTU back in April of this year. When the shale drilling boom began, the drillers proclaimed aggressive values for the gas held in ground as calculated in land lease agreements with landowners. Back in early 2008, the price of natural gas at the U.S. Henry Hub was being priced at more than $15.00 per MBTU. As the drilling boom took off unabated and natural gas began appearing into storage, the price the market was willing to pay for it declined month by month.
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New Report Suggests Fracking Connected to Low Birth Weight

From the Epoch Times:
New research suggests the health of newborn babies is adversely affected in areas close to sites undertaking natural gas extraction by way of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking; the method of obtaining natural gas by blasting shale with a solution of water and chemicals.
“A mother’s exposure to fracking before birth increases the overall prevalence of low birth weight by 25 percent,” said Elaine L. Hill, Cornell University doctoral candidate and author of the working paper, “Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Infant Health: Evidence from Pennsylvania.” Hill also found a 17 percent increase in “small for gestational age” births, and reduced health scores.
She spoke at a fracking forum hosted by Sen. Tony Avella in New York City Wednesday.
Hill’s paper looked at birth measures, including birth weight and premature birth, for those born in Pennsylvania starting in 2003, before fracking began. The study used data through 2010 and focused on those living up to 1.5 miles from gas development sites. Pennsylvania increased its unconventional natural gas wells from 20 in 2007 to 4,272 by the end of 2010.
Read the rest of that article here.

Needless to say, Energy in Depth was quick to respond to this report and pick apart the reasons that one may want to exercise caution in flatly accepting the assertions that Hill makes.  From their article:
Andy Revkin at the New York Times – certainly no shill for the oil and gas industry! — has done a deep dive into the problem of jumping the gun on this kind of research, including the fact that opponents are now using Ms. Hill as some sort of “champion” of their cause. What Revkin uncovered, among many things, is that the activist group New Yorkers Against Fracking hired a PR firm (BerlinRosen Public Affairs) to promote the piece, and the firm sent out a pitch to the media about the paper, stating only that it was written by a “researcher at Cornell” — nothing about peer review, and nothing about the fact that the author is still a graduate student. Revkin asked BerlinRosen about why they were promoting a paper before peer review, to which the firm replied that Ms. Hill’s results raise “critical questions” that “should be discussed.”
Why is this worth noting? Because Ms. Hill herself told Mr. Revkin that her results are “preliminary” (that aspect was ignored by activists, either deliberately or inconveniently) and that she “does not want to rush it” in terms of publication. She also said it’s a “valid” point to suggest that her conclusions not be cited until peer review is complete — completely undermining the PR firm (on behalf of New Yorkers Against Fracking) that tried to do exactly the opposite.
The article goes on to list five reasons that the report, which has not been peer-reviewed, is questionable.  Read it here.

After the jump you can view the actual report.

No Means No, Right? Not if You Say No to Fracking

From the Columbus Dispatch:
Steve Neeley estimates that he has spent more than $500,000 over the past 12 years to build a country estate in southern Portage County.
When a Chesapeake Energy land man approached him months ago with an offer to lease the Utica shale mineral rights beneath his meticulously landscaped 9.5-acre property in eastern Ohio, Neeley declined. That’s when, Neeley says, the land man told him, “We’ll just take it.”
Neeley and 23 of his neighbors are the first group of Ohio landowners forced to take part in Utica-shale drilling under a seldom-used state law. The law lets companies add properties to large “ drilling units” even if leases with landowners haven’t been obtained, to maximize access to deeply buried oil and gas.Even the state isn’t immune from the law. The Chesapeake Energy drilling unit of 959 acres in Portage and Stark counties includes a 4-acre corner of Quail Hollow State Park northeast of Canton. That makes it the first state park in line for “fracking.”
Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials say the “unitization” law guarantees fair compensation, and that the properties of unwilling landowners won’t be damaged.
“We don’t allow the company to occupy any of the surface of the land,” said Rick Simmers, the chief of ODNR’s Oil and Gas Division.The law also ensures that no drilling activities, access roads or pipelines will damage the properties, Simmers said.
In a written statement, Chesapeake Energy said the company tries “numerous times” to obtain voluntary agreements from landowners. “Proper use of unitization allows for oil and gas reserves to be developed in the most efficient and fair manner for all owners and minimizes the use of the surface,” wrote Keith Fuller, Chesapeake’s corporate-development director.
But Neeley described the practice as a type of theft. “It’s like (Chesapeake already has) everything sewed up before they even talk to you,” he said. “You were just going to lose, no matter what.”Oil and gas companies are offering landowners a bonus of as much as $5,000 an acre in some areas to sign Utica-shale mineral-rights leases. Many are eager to sign.
Though industry officials insist it’s safe, some landowners, including Neeley, fear that fracking threatens their land and water. The process involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to fracture the shale.
Ohio’s law lets a drilling company add unwilling landowners’ properties to drilling units as long as the company has leased at least 65 percent of the unit’s acreage.
Read the rest of the article here.

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Fracking Rally Brings People Out in Washington D.C.

Various outlets reported on the anti-fracking rally in Washington D.C. over the weekend.  The pictures look similar to the ones for similar smaller-scale events in the past, and the rally featured the chants, songs, and statements of unvalidated and in some cases outright bizarre accusations about fracking that anyone should expect by now (fracking causing tornadoes?).

Read an article from PJ Media about the rally by clicking here.  This is an excerpt:
What do you get when you bring hundreds of fervent environmentalists and NIMBYs together on the west lawn of the Capitol to denounce fracking, every single fuel that originates from the ground, and, for old time’s sake, Dick Cheney?
You get enviro banjo tunes, the “Ecological Our Father” at the interfaith prayer service (“Our Father, who art in the forest…”), and more punny protest signs built off the F-bomb than even Joe Biden could dream up.
Do it on a standard hot, humid July day in D.C., and add in the global warming condemnations and simultaneous praises of the solar intensity as an endless wellspring of clean energy.
After the jump you can see some pics that don't seem to show thousands of people, as well as a video made by the fracktivists which celebrates their weekend.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Today's Links: Unions Protesting Again, Alec Baldwin Weighing in on Fracking, Energy in Depth Spinning Away, PA Slaps Down Act 13, Ohio Senate Candidate Writes About Gas Development, Fracking Defended

Union: Oil, Gas Jobs Still Going Mostly to Out-of-Staters

Court throws out state zoning for Marcellus Shale drilling in PA

Despite its poor image, fracking causes little mess or disruption

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Atwood Lake Resort Lease Deal Finalized

From the Free Press Standard:
The I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed on the lease agreement for Atwood Lake Resort and Golf Course. 
Carroll County Commissioners signed the agreement Thursday along with officials from Radius Hospitality, the group selected to operate and develop the facility over the next five years. 
Scott Yaeger, president of Radius Hospitality, told the FPS the “tough part is over and now it is time to move forward.” 
The company is planning an Oct. 1 opening. 
“We have a lot to do to get ready, but we are already in there working,” he said. “The rooms will all have new beds and TVs and will be nice.” 
The company originally announced they planned to open to the oil and gas industry, which Yaeger said is where they expect a lot of their business to come from initially.
Read the rest of the article here.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oil Drilling Taking Center Stage in Presidential Campaign Ads

From Bloomberg:
While polls show the economy as the top concern of voters, a review of political attack ads suggests a different issue dominates: energy.
Americans for Prosperity, an organization backed by oil interests, last week began airing its third television commercial since November, a campaign worth $6.1 million, attacking Obama’s green energy policies.
“Energy is the issue unless the entire economy starts to unwind,” said Stephen Brown, a lobbyist for oil refiner Tesoro Corp. (TSO) of San Antonio, Texas.The latest round brings the group’s total ad buys to $12.5 million this year, compared with a combined $5.7 million total spent on ads of all sorts by Obama and Priorities USA Action, a Washington-based super political action committee supporting him. Priorities on April 24 teamed with the League of Conservation Voters to begin a $1 million commercial run that accuses presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, of being a protector of the oil industry.
That’s not the conclusion of the White House, which includes energy policy in a broader discussion about the economy andjob creation. The ability of oil interest groups, though, to attempt to carve out and elevate their issue is the latest example of how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has changed politics by allowing corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited sums to drive the debate.
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EPA Releases Final Analysis in Dimock - No Water Contamination From Fracking

The EPA's release:

EPA Completes Drinking Water Sampling in Dimock, Pa.

Release Date: 07/25/2012
Contact Information: Terri White white.terri-a@epa.gov (215) 814-5567

PHILADELPHIA (July 25, 2012) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has completed its sampling of private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pa. Data previously supplied to the agency by residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas Exploration had indicated the potential for elevated levels of water contaminants in wells, and following requests by residents EPA took steps to sample water in the area to ensure there were not elevated levels of contaminants. Based on the outcome of that sampling, EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.

“Our goal was to provide the Dimock community with complete and reliable information about the presence of contaminants in their drinking water and to determine whether further action was warranted to protect public health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action. Throughout EPA's work in Dimock, the Agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water.”

EPA visited Dimock, Pa. in late 2011, surveyed residents regarding their private wells and reviewed hundreds of pages of drinking water data supplied to the agency by Dimock residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot. Because data for some homes showed elevated contaminant levels and several residents expressed concern about their drinking water, EPA determined that well sampling was necessary to gather additional data and evaluate whether residents had access to safe drinking water.

Between January and June 2012, EPA sampled private drinking water wells serving 64 homes, including two rounds of sampling at four wells where EPA was delivering temporary water supplies as a precautionary step in response to prior data indicating the well water contained levels of contaminants that pose a health concern. At one of those wells EPA did find an elevated level of manganese in untreated well water. The two residences serviced by the well each have water treatment systems that can reduce manganese to levels that do not present a health concern.

As a result of the two rounds of sampling at these four wells, EPA has determined that it is no longer necessary to provide residents with alternative water. EPA is working with residents on the schedule to disconnect the alternate water sources provided by EPA. 

Overall during the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap. EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.

For more information on the results of sampling, visit: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/states/pa.html 
Energy in Depth was quick to respond to the news.  Click here to view their article.

View the response from Cabot Oil & Gas and the full EPA report after the jump.

Village of Carrollton Approves Lease, Receives Nearly $1 Million

From The Times Reporter:
The village council approved a lease agreement Monday with Rex Energy to lease 268 acres of village land for oil and gas exploration, netting the community about $938,000 in revenue.
The agreement will provide $3,500 per acre in sign-on bonus money, and will pay 20 percent of the gross royalty to the village.
You may recall that Chesapeake Energy had offered $5,800 per acre in bonus money (with the same 20 percent royalty) on 275 acres of land, but withdrew that offer after council delayed in providing a response.  The delay in accepting Chesapeake's offer thus made a difference of $657,000.

The Times Reporter further stated:
Council members Andy Gonda, Mary Ann Miller, Chris Barto and Wilma Lambert voted in favor of the agreement.
Members Luke Grimes and Dan Locke voted no. Both men said the agreement should not have been about money but should have been about protecting the village’s water. Most of those 268 acres are on the village well properties.
Locke said he felt the council should have negotiated this separately and not as a group. “Safeguards for the water should have been built in. It’s not about the money,” said Locke.
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Rex Energy Donates $10,000 to Carroll County Volunteer Fire Department

From the Canton Repository:
State College, Pa.-based Rex Energy Corp. has donated $10,000 to the Carroll County Volunteer Fire Department.

The donation will allow the fire department to purchase six sets of protective “turnout gear,” including new boots, gloves, pants and coats that firefighters wear when responding to emergencies.

“Rex Energy is proud to partner with local organizations and is steadfast in its commitment to safety, the environment and continuous improvement,” said Thomas Stabley, chief executive officer of Rex Energy.

“Partnering with first responders in areas where Rex Energy has operations and ensuring that they are well prepared and equipped to respond to emergencies in the community is a key tenant of our operating principles. We thank these men and women and their families for their service to the community, and we look forward to building upon our commitment to this region as our development activities continue in Carroll County.”
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Today's Links - Science for Sale, India & France Fracking News, FrackNation Director Sounds Off, Bloomberg Still Biased Against Natural Gas, and David Letterman Hates Fracking

Fracking Company Paid Texas Professor Behind Water Contamination Study

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Geologist Reveals the 5 Undebatable Fracking Facts

From Business Insider:
Here are the five settled facts on fracking:
  1. There's definitely some weird stuff in fracking fluid
    • "What is in these fracking fluids? Probably organic chemicals like diesel fuel, antifreeze, soap, things designed to make [the fluid] slipperier. "These things are not things you want to be dumping into drinking water."
  2. But as long as it's done deep enough, the fracking process should not affect sources of drinking water 
    • "The layer of black shale is down in the subsurface several thousand feet. If you can drill down to that level, the hydrofracturing cracks do not extend more than 1000 feet or so; the ends of the cracks are still going to be several thousand feet below the surface [where wells and aquifers sit]."
  3. Natural gas can leak up to the surface, but it's often the result of natural processes
  4. But a lot can still go wrong with the fracking process
    • "There are some real problems. If the shale horizon is too close to surface...it probably shouldn't be hydrofracked so you avoid contaminating water. You also need to make sure you're inspecting well sites, that you don't have middle of night dumping of excess fluid into streams, that retention pits are properly sealed." The process also does cause measurable but small earthquakes, he said.
  5. Bottom line: similar to off-shore drilling for oil, it's possible for something to go wrong, but it's not inherently unsafe. The debate needs to catch up with this reality.
    • "It's worth looking more closely at it. My sense is, you end up with two sides that are pretty far apart and not really listening to each other. The public is overreacting to certain things, but there are other things the industry is underplaying." 
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Josh Fox Responds to AP Article About Bad Science of Fracking Critics

From Josh Fox's Gasland blog comes his response to the AP article that called out fracking critics for basing their claims on bad science.  Fox, in typical fashion, basically just says that the AP article shouldn't be trusted because of the author's bias against fracking, calling out Kevin Bergos for "awful journalism, deliberately trying to skewer important science." Whereas, of course, Josh Fox would never allow his bias against the natural gas industry to influence his viewpoints, statements, and interpretations of scientific studies.

If the facts support Fox's viewpoint, he'd be better served simply stating them and citing his sources.  Accusing others of being invalidated by their bias is more than a little disingenuous when his anti-fracking stance is something he wears as a badge of honor and which clearly influences everything he says.

Anyhow, you can read his response by clicking here.

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Insurance Companies Apprehensive About Coverage for Fracking Areas

Two new articles give more insight into the recent discussion about insurance companies not protecting landowners who enter into leasing agreements with companies who will engage in fracking activities, which kicked into another gear when Nationwide Insurance made it clear that they would not cover fracking-related claims recently.  Oil and gas development can have serious implications for individuals who don't lease land, too.

First, from 24/7 Wall Street:
Shorn of its carefully crafted legalese, the Nationwide Mutual statement is hugely significant for two reasons.
First, it is serving notice on current policy holders that even though the  company will investigate fracking claims for indemnity on a “case-by-case basis,” they are unlikely to succeed.
But, more  importantly, in its comments about “When information and claims  experience are not available to fully understand the scope of a given risk, carriers aren’t able to price protection that would be fair to both the customer and the company,” Nationwide Mutual has discreetly but directly challenged fracking industry claims that the procedure  produces undue risk, a major blow on the companies’ relentless and ongoing PR campaigns to convince people about the process being benign.
Read more: Insurance Companies Start to Decline Fracking Coverage - 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/2012/07/24/insurance-companies-start-to-decline-fracking-coverage/#ixzz21YjhpsqQ
Then, from the Huffington Post:
The leaked internal memo, indicating that Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. had determined risks from the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing were too great to provide coverage for, was interpreted by some as vindication of their concerns and by others as ill-informed betrayal.
But the ensuing brouhaha overshadowed the asymmetric nature of the energy development insurance market -- where lessors and lessees have damage coverage options unavailable to others.
When I recently spoke with Dr. Robert Hartwig, President of the Insurance Information Institute, about why that is, he explained that insurers have no way to control and underwrite actions of a third party. In other words, if you're someone concerned about potential impacts from energy development occurring around you, but aren't in a development contract with an energy company, your only option to receive compensation for something like contamination of your drinking water, is to hire an attorney to pursue your claim through the vagaries (and expense) of the court system -- a poor substitute for the assurance of damage recovery through the force of contract with an insurance provider. Landowners who lease have the opportunity to hitch their horse to a company's insurance wagon.
Hartwig also points out there's nothing new in principle here, because many risks aren't mitigated through typical homeowner policies and therefore require similar legal action on the part of those affected by them. So in that sense, the avenue for pursuing compensation for certain kinds of fracking-related damage is no different.
Read the rest of that article here. 

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