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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Marcellus Shale Information Night In Sewickley Hills, PA 4-14-11

Hey Moon Township Supervisors--where were you this night? This was a very important conversation and you all missed it!!! Moon Township residents should be very upset that OUR supervisors avoid these important meetings. Moon Township's M.S.C. was there!!!

Marcellus Shale Information Night In Sewickley 4-14-11

·      John Walliser, PA Environmental Council-Moderator
·      Alan Eichler, PA DEP
·      John Smith of Smith-Butz, LLC  (A good resource!)
·      Bob Fargo, Geo Resource Group
·      Tom Butz of Smith-Butz, LLC  (A good resource!)
·      Veronica Coptis, Mountain Watershed Association

Alan Eichler:
He works for the DEP Bureau of Oil and Gas Management. The department issues permits for oil and gas exploration within 45 days unless the applicant is deficient in details required in the application. They review well records of wells once drilled, issue violations, answer complaints, examines water quality, and aquatic life, among other duties. There have been 70-80,000 wells permitted in PA over the years.

Under Act 223 (Oil and Gas Act) Chapter 78, and Act 214 and Act 359 in 2005, there were only 5 Marcellus Shale drilling permits issued. By 2010, there have been 3314 permits issued, mostly in Western PA.

A well can be dug as deeply as 6000 feet, and as shallow as 500 feet down. Horizontally a well can go thousands of feet. On one pad, as many as 16 wells can be placed!! A single well can drain 200-400 acres of gas.

Health and Safety:
It is required that there be two blow out preventers on each well, since they are dealing with very volatile natural gas. A Fracking Pond, which holds waste fluids from the drilling and Fracking process is channeled into lined pits measuring 400’ by 400’. A breech in the liner, or over-spill from the pond can cause irreversible damage and harm to ground water, and drinking water wells, as well as vegetation. Typically, the sites are, at least, 5 acres in size. Run-off can leech into streams, creeks, and tributaries. If the site is greater than 5 acres, then a general erosion and sedimentary permit is required. THIS IS THE BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD AND ISSUE THE DEP IS DEALING WITH.

A concern is the pipeline. The gas must require a pipeline, which is laid out to get the gas out of the well and to a storage, and processing station.

A gas well is one pipe inside another. Cement is used to create one pipe inside another pipe. They try to protect an aquifer with such a casing. After the boring is done, cementing the boring hole is done. Then, explosives are sent down into the hole to explode the rock in order to allow the gas to be drawn into the casing.

If an operator ends up poisoning your well, and they are 1000’ from it, they must prove that is was not them who caused it.

The Fracking of the well uses water, and can range between 1 to 6 million gallons of available fresh water. Mr. Eichler said, “We are likely to have enough water for this [industry].” I took from this that there might be NOT be enough water, at some point. When Fracking, an operator can go right up to your property line and suck the gas from under your property legally.
(See the movie, “There Will Be Blood”.)

In the Fracking process, the largest liquid is water mixed with chemicals. In addition, sand is used (5%) to break up the shale. The fluids are pushed up into the shale, yet the water geologist claimed it is unlikely that these chemicals will push up into the ground water or into a drinking water well, since the depth of the drilling is below those sources; although, he did not answer if these chemicals could leech down into deeper water aquifers.

(It has now been written, as of the 4-16-11 article in the NYT, that drilling has poisoned water wells. It can no longer be denied! Read the piece on this blogspot.)

A treatment plant that treats the Fracking fluids and recycled waste fluids are bled back into our watershed.

John Smith—the estate planning expert:

20 acres is most desired for a Fracking Pond and to drill, therefore, there must be enough land to accommodate this industrial site. If the desired site is located around someone else’s private land, then a right-of-way must be negotiated, and graded to access the desired site. The RoW is often made three times the width and then, once finished brought down to the required size. In negotiating this RoW, the landowner needs to lay out the detailed requirements of what is allowed on that right-of-way: size of vehicles, weight of vehicles, etc.

He talked about “Bonus” payment, Royalty payments, “Shut-In” Royalties, “Spud” Fee, Access fees. His question would be to the landowner would be exactly what do you own? Who owns the mineral rights title? Always deal the “end user”.

If you end up making an agreement with an “end user”, put in an “indemnification”, and “agreement of lease” clauses. It was recommended to not put in a “warranty of title” clause. Let the end user/ operator do the warranty of title process and prove that you own the mineral rights.

In the Pugh clause, it says whatever the operator doesn’t use, in regards to the gas, they lose.

The “Depth Severance” clause says that the operator cannot drill a shallow well in order to hold onto the lease. They must drill the true depth and get the gas, otherwise lose it.

There are two types of terms: a primary and secondary. Primary might say the operator has 5 years to drill.

There might be a pooling/utilization term agreement meaning that a number of parties have pooled together for one drill site agreement.

Every company has different lease agreements and negotiating policies. Nearly every well drilled produces; therefore, the question of when is the well site actually finished is a very ambiguous term. Once the site is finished, the operator has 6 months to restore the site, but it might never happen!!! Operators have ways to sidestep this conclusion. Theoretically, a lease runs until the gas is being produced.

The “mineral” owner has the right to access the surface in order to access those minerals.

Refer to the case of Chartiers Block Coal Co. vs. Mellon (1893)

Range Resources builds their compression stations on 96 acre sites

Regulations and PA laws:

Huntley Inc. vs. Borough Council of Oakmont demanded the operator install sound walls to block the noise, bird nets, and other noise control systems, among other protections.

Such problems could very easily negatively affect your property value. And, will your neighbors ask for a decrease in their property value due to a well being next door.

200 feet is the minimum setback and municipalities cannot affect the setback. The state’s minimum setback is ineffective.

Bob Fargo-ground water protection and well water testing

Groundwater exists from the surface to 300 feet down. Groundwater does flow water into bedrock and on into the fractured layered zones. The typical water well is between 50-60 feet, yet can go as deep as 300 feet. A typical well produces around 1-2 gallons of water per minute.

Hydraulic Fracturing:

The impact onto ground water wells—the casings and cementing standards are critical to protecting surface water wells when drilling for Marcellus Shale. Fracking can reach 6000-8000 feet.

Pre-drilling Survey—601.208 (d) (1) of the oil and gas act—pre-drilling survey occurs around 1000 feet or more from the site to sample the water supply.

If a well is presumed to be polluted by the operator, the operator must prove it was not their fault beginning 6 months AFTER the completion of drilling. The question is when does this 6 month timeframe occur, or begin?

A single grab sample is all they do during a pre-drilling survey.

When a Frack Pond leaks the chemicals immediately leak into the ground water. The leech hole cannot exceed 50 times toxic levels!!!!!

If a driller must drill you a new well, he is not required to give you the same standard of well you had prior to the poisoning. He might give you something worse; therefore, in your lease agreement you might be able to write in your demands and standards.

Veronica Coptis—Mountain Watershed Association

She spoke about a watershed stewardship program that her organization offers.  There have been 313 violations issued over the last couple of months. Encroachment violations into streams and wetlands is a concern when the pipeline crosses such spots.

There are groups out there, such as Three Rivers Waterkeepers, Penn Environment, Fayette County Conservation Association.

The Marcellus Citizens Stewardship Project offers the following:
·      Testing training
·      Watch dogging your watershed
·      Citizens alert program, which reports possible violations to the DEP
·      “Fractracker”—ID of “bad actors

A person get trained in visual assessment, water monitoring.

The next training will be:

St. Vincent College: 4-20-11
Bridgeside Point Building, 100 Technology Dr., Pgh on 5-19-11, from 6-9 PM.

“Shale Test” is a non-profit project. They are having a fundraiser on 4-30-11 to offer low income people services around the issues discussed here.


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