Blue Bell, PA— Far from the Marcellus Shale fields of southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia region has largely escaped some of the direct impacts from the exploration, drilling, transportation and waste handling from natural gas operations—commonly referred to as fracking. However, a proposal of an energy hub in Philadelphia and new pipelines headed to the region may bring it closer to home.
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) Philadelphia will hold a program at Montgomery County Community College on March 11 at 7 p.m. to review the different operations of fracking, the risks of harm to health, and the exponentially higher releases of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The program, which is free of change and open to the public, will be held in MCCC’s Science Center Theater, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.
PSR is a public health, non-profit organization that provides education, training and direct services and advocacy on issues that threaten health and that medicine cannot cure. Andrea Thomas, MCCC alumna and current graduate student in Arcadia University’s Public Health and Medical Science program and PSR intern, will help participants gain a clear understanding of the ways fracking operations can impact health and the environment.
The program is sponsored by MCCC’s Division of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in collaboration with MCCC Diversity Faculty Fellow Natasha Patterson. For information, call 215-641-6445. To learn more about Physicians for Social Responsibility, visit http://www.psr.org.
Sunlight spilled through a window into Pat West’s darkened kitchen as she filled a glass with water.
“It smells fine. It looks fine,” said West, 70, holding the etched glass to her nose and peering at it. “I still drink the water, but my kids won’t.”
West and her husband, Don, raised 13 children in their two-story house in Millsboro, a hamlet in East Bethlehem, Washington County.
Theirs is one of four houses on Harmony Avenue, where the Wests have lived since 1959. Between them and the Monongahela River is Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority, which is under orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection to reduce potentially carcinogenic chemicals in the water it pumps to homes.
Since the Marcellus Shale drilling boom started in 2008, seven natural gas wells have been drilled in and around Luzerne and Lackawanna counties.
Six of them were plugged when they failed to produce enough gas to market.
This week, the seventh — WPX Energy’s Martin well on state Route 487 in Sugarloaf Township, Columbia County, between Ricketts Glen and Benton — will also be shut down for good.
“From what I understand, we’re the last well to be plugged,” WPX Energy spokeswoman Susan Oliver said.
Contractors involved in natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania and West Virginia must pay nearly $4.5 million in back wages to more than 5,000 workers, following a two-year U.S. Department of Labor investigation.
“An ongoing multi-year enforcement initiative conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division offices in Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh from 2012 to 2014 found significant violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which resulted in employers agreeing to pay $4,498,547 in back wages to 5,310 employees,” read a Labor Department statement released on Tuesday.
“It’s part of an ongoing initiative, a multi-year initiative,” said Labor Department spokeswoman Leni Fortson of the Philadelphia office. “These are the findings from the first three years.”
A list of the violating companies can be found attached to this story at http://www.timesleader.com.
Lue Ann Pawlick never envisioned companies connected with oil and gas beating a path to Alta Vista Business Park when it broke ground in tiny Fallowfield, Washington County, in 2001.
Today, three of the five companies in Alta Vista work in the industry. An energy company is set to start construction in the spring, and at least one more is close to signing a deal to locate there.
“We’re trying to keep it a mixed-use business park, but we have to recognize the oil and gas industry is the biggest game in town right now,” said Pawlick, executive director of the Middle Monongahela Industrial Development Association. “They are the ones driving demand.”
Ten years ago, Fort Worth-based Range Resources Corp. drilled the first Marcellus shale well in Washington County. Now the county — which dubs itself “Energy Capital of the East” — is home to about 1,000 wells, the most in Pennsylvania.
Chesapeake Energy continued its sell-off of gas drilling operations in the Marcellus and Utica shales Thursday with its biggest withdrawal from Appalachia.
Pennsylvania’s biggest shale gas producer agreed to sell 435 shale wells, 1,100 conventional wells and the rights to drill in more than 400,000 acres to Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. for $5.375 billion.
“I certainly think this is consistent with what we’ve seen from Chesapeake,” said Scott Hanold, an energy analyst at RBC Capital Markets.
Range Resources Corp. will pay the largest state fine levied against a Pennsylvania shale gas driller and close five drilling wastewater impoundments in Washington County because of leaks into soil and groundwater, officials said on Thursday.
The Fort Worth-based company signed an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection that requires paying a $4.15 million fine, closing the troubled facilities and rebuilding two impoundments using what regulators call “next generation” technology.
“There are two messages we are sending today. One is we take these kinds of situations very seriously and there are going to be consequences even when a company is a good corporate neighbor,” department Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo told the Tribune-Review. “And to the citizens, the message is we’re going to handle these matters.”
Davitt Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council said, “I commend Range for coming forward. And it appears DEP has taken this as an opportunity to leverage better standards.”
Energy companies might have another sweet spot for gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
“This opens a new potential for other drillers to follow Shell’s act,” said Tom Gellrich, founder of TopLine Analytics, a manufacturing consultant specializing in shale gas plays.
The energy giant drilled the wells in one of the top-producing Marcellus shale counties, north of Williamsport. But Shell’s Gee and Neal wells are tapping a formation several thousand feet below the better-known Marcellus and were drilled about 100 miles northeast of the closest producing Utica well.
Pennsylvania drillers are pulling record amounts of natural gas from the Marcellus shale even as they bring fewer new wells online, according to state data released on Monday.
About 5,400 shale wells produced nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of gas during the first six months of the year, a 14 percent increase in production over the past six months of 2013, the data from the state Department of Environmental Protection show.
Energy companies accomplished the record despite connecting fewer than 500 new wells during the period. Previous semiannual reports showed an average of 675 new wells every six months.
“We’re seeing the results of technical developments that allow much greater efficiency,” said Kent Moors, executive chair of the global energy symposium at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.
Soon, Iams hopes to ensure the 155 acres in Amwell, which the king of England granted to his ancestors before the American Revolution, remain farmland forever.
“Look around at the changes in this area over the last 50 years, especially in the Washington area. North on Route 19 was all farms,” said Iams, 57, owner of Log Cabin Fence Co., a farming supply business off Interstate 79 in Amity. “Now you’ve got malls and everything else going on but farming.”
Iams awaits approval by a state committee to sell development rights to his farm to Washington County through the county’s Farmland Preservation Program, part of a statewide initiative to make certain that fertile land is used for agriculture.
A survey of elected leaders in Washington and Greene counties found generally positive experiences with the gas exploration industry that has changed the face of their communities.
“They’re starting to see a lot of vitality. There’s physical activity in the communities and new wealth among some property owners. New employees. That’s all very positive,” said Diana Stares, the director of the Center of Energy Policy and Management at Washington & Jefferson College, who oversaw the survey. “Now they’re anxious to draw from that development some long-term results. And some don’t know how to go about that.”
Interactions between drilling companies and local officials are improving as both sides get to know each other, and as money and jobs flow into the region, several people said.
“It was a growing experience, I think, by some of these companies coming in here,” said Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, a Democrat. “But they saw that if you treat people fairly, they’ll respond in a positive way.”
HOUSTON — Oil equals boom — especially in population right now. And Texas, in the midst of a significant energy rush, is seeing its towns and cities burst at the seams.
Three of the nation’s five fastest-growing cities — and seven of the top 15 — are in the Lone Star State, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, part of a trend across the West largely fueled by an oil boom. Most of the cities are West of the Mississippi.
Now these cities need to have enough roads, schools, water and infrastructure to keep up — the growing pains of a surging population. And while it is viewed as opportunity, city planners are frazzled.
Odessa, Texas, smack-dab in the middle of the oil-rich Permian Basin, is No. 11 on the Census Bureau list. People are flooding the oil fields, booming thanks to new hydraulic fracturing technologies that allow drillers access to once out-of-reach resources.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A small portion of Pennsylvania state forest land has been impacted by shale gas drilling, but many questions remain about how to manage the politically sensitive issue that is opposed by many residents, according to a new report.
The 268-page Department of Conservation and Natural Resources report issued this week concluded that “shale-gas production on state forest lands is neither benign nor catastrophic” and that there are clearly impacts and trade-offs.
“The question is what trade-offs are acceptable,” the report said.
The report found that about 1,486 acres of forest have been converted to various types of drilling-related development since 2008, including roads, well pads, and pipelines, out of about 2.2 million acres in the state forest system. That gas development resulted in 191 infrastructure pads and 104 miles of pipelines.
A fire that burned for four days at a gas well in rural Greene County went out by itself, but officials said on Sunday they will approach the site very cautiously to stop the gas leaking from two damaged well heads.
For reasons that were still unclear, the methane gas that was pouring from one of the three wells on the pad decreased in volume and the fire extinguished itself about 3 p.m. Saturday, said Bill Zempolich, manager for asset development out of the Moon office of Chevron, which owns the well in Dunkard.
The fire had been going out intermittently, but the gas kept hitting a superheated crane left on the pad and reigniting. Crews at the site used a laser Saturday to determine the crane cooled and shouldn’t re-ignite the gas, said Scott Perry, deputy secretary for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas Management.
Rodger Kendall says he never wanted to enter politics, but when he did, he waded into one of the biggest political conflicts in Pennsylvania.
Kendall became a supervisor in Robinson, Washington County, in January, less than three weeks since it won a landmark state Supreme Court ruling overturning part of new laws aimed at eliminating local obstacles to shale drilling.
Despite the win, he used his first night in office, Jan. 6, to lead a vote to remove Robinson from the case. Then he made his first official call as a township supervisor to Range Resources Corp.
In one election, voters dumped two of the township’s three supervisors and shifted the township’s position on drilling.
Seneca Resources Corp. has received federal approval to operate a new drilling wastewater injection well in Elk County, and more of those deep injection wells for the disposal of Marcellus and Utica shale gas drilling wastewater are on tap for Pennsylvania.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that it had approved Seneca’s proposal to convert one of its existing vertical gas wells into an injection well that will pump up to 60,000 gallons a day of drilling wastewater and salty brine about 2,400 feet below the surface into the Elk 3 Sandstone formation.
That formation is about 1,700 feet below groundwater aquifers that supply residential water to residents of the area, said Karen Johnson, chief of the EPA Region III groundwater and enforcement branch.
The EPA has permitted 30,000 Class II injection wells for drilling brine and wastewater disposal nationally — about a third of those in Texas — but the Seneca disposal well is just the ninth such well approved in Pennsylvania.
A decommissioned underground pipeline that once carried gasoline across the state and through Lancaster County could see new life from the Marcellus shale gas boom.
Representatives of Sunoco Inc., of Philadelphia, have recently been in West Cocalico and Clay townships doing site surveys and scouting locations for a pumping station needed as part of a statewide retrofit of the pipeline so that it can transport natural gas to a facility in Delaware.
“Mariner East 1 is a project to transport natural gas liquids (NGLs), also called liquefied petroleum gases (LPGs) from the Marcellus and Utica shales in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex on the Pennsylvania/Delaware border,” Sunoco representative Jeff Shields wrote in an email Nov. 20.
The Mariner East 1 project would stretch from a Sunoco facility just outside Houston, Pa., in Chartiers Township, Washington County, to its transportation hub in Marcus Hook, Delaware County, or a distance of about 300 miles.
Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and other shale wells produced more than 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2012, continuing a trend of production growth despite fewer drilling rigs in the field.
New production data reported by natural gas drilling companies and released by the state Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday showed that 1.1 trillion cubic feet of gas flowed from unconventional wells in the state during the second half of 2012.
The wells produced an average of 6.2 billion cubic feet of gas per day between July and December, or enough to fulfill about 9 percent of the nation’s daily natural gas demand. The U.S. consumed about 70 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Geisinger Health System said Monday that the Degenstein Foundation had awarded the money to help underwrite what it called a “large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment” of the drilling.
Most of the money will be used for data-gathering, and some will go toward developing studies of the data. Officials said they expect other funders to come forward.
The study is to look at detailed health histories of hundreds of thousands of patients who live near wells and other facilities that are producing natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation thousands of feet underground.