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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Challenge to State's New Marcellus Shale Law Filed

Canon-McMillan Patch

By Amanda Gillooly

A challenge to Act 13—the state’s new Marcellus Shale drilling law—has formally been challenged.
Lawyers for municipalities including Cecil Township, Peters Township, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson Township, South Fayette, two communities in Bucks County, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and a medical doctor filed a complaint and request for injunctive relief in Commonwealth Court Thursday.
Related Topics: Act 13Cecil Township, and Marcellus Shale

A Marcellus Shale Friendly site from Greenville, PA

Marcellus Shale Greenville, Mercer County PA

www.marcellusshalefriendly.c om/
Marcellus Shale Friendly is a copyrighted, trademarked online project. ... repeals redundant regulation concerning Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling in PA State Parks... ofwater trucks for the purpose of hauling Marcellus Shale Clean Frac Water.

From the Anti-Fracking side of the aisle:

On Mar 26, 2012, at 8:01 AM, Gloria Forouzan wrote:

At around 6:30 a.m. today I checked the You Tube video that Jason Bell made of CURE's radio ad, 475 people had viewed it.  An hour later 749 people had viewed it.  That's 300 more people viewing in the early morning hour of 6:30 - 7:30 a.m.

Last night Josh/Gasland 'shared' the ad on Gasland's Facebook page.  As of 7:50 a.m. today it's gotten 181 "likes" and 194 "shares" on Gasland's share.  Many more shares, etc. on other FB pages I've posted it to.

Please keep plugging the ad today, share with all of your networks, I'm not on Twitter, if you are please promote it there.  We are still fund raising so that we can keep the ad on the air for a longer time.

Lind to the ad:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fby5TqYc42c

Thanks Gloria

When people lead, leaders follow.

More drilling doesn't lower gas prices!! Read here. 

Marcellus Shale development puts state on map internationally 

March 20, 2012

In late February, Lou D'Amico found himself making his first trip out of North America, flying to Brussels to speak to the environmental committee of the European Parliament.

Mr. D'Amico is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, and spends his time figuring out how to grow the energy business within his state's borders.

But this trip found him way outside those borders, speaking to a Benetton ad of stakeholders in the shale global economy. Mr. D'Amico's tales of booming shale gas exploration in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale formation sounded like an instructional beacon of hope to some countries' representatives and a cautionary tale to others.
"You had France on one side, which prohibited fracking, and Poland on the other side, which is excited about the impact," said Mr. D'Amico.

He was joined by a professor from Carnegie Mellon University and a Polish engineer from Talisman Energy, the Calgary-based driller with significant acreage in Pennsylvania. While he was in Brussels, Mr. D'Amico received a request for an interview on shale from a Japanese news agency.
It's safe to say the natural gas rush in Pennsylvania is crossing the oceans.

Foreign firms and governments have expressed interest -- or offered investment -- nearly since the first Marcellus Shale rigs went up in 2006, but a stronger worldwide economy and new extraction technology has accelerated the trend in recent years. Major multinational firms like Chevron and Shell Oil have added Pennsylvania acreage to portfolios that include countries on nearly every continent.

The effect can be seen on a more local level as well. Land across Pennsylvania often has multiple owners, including major firms from Norway and India. Foreign firms already home to Pennsylvania are strategizing on how to get in on the game.

And industry groups like Mr. D'Amico's suddenly find themselves cast as the experts on how to build, develop and regulate a natural gas industry that they're still navigating themselves.

"What's going on in the natural gas industry is both a local story, but also part of a global energy story," said Kathryn Z. Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition industry group. "It's evidence and re-enforcement that Pittsburgh is a global hub for innovation."

    Mortgages for Drilling Properties May Face Hurdle

    The Department of Agriculture is considering requiring an extensive environmental review before issuing mortgages to people who have leased their land for oil and gas drilling.

    Last year more than 140,000 families, many of them with low incomes and living in rural areas, received roughly $18 billion in loans or loan guarantees from the department under the Rural Housing Service program. Much of the money went to residents in states that have seen the biggest growth in drilling in recent years, including Pennsylvania, Texas and Louisiana.

    The program is popular because it generally requires no down payment. As its financing has grown and credit markets have tightened in recent years, the program’s loans have roughly quadrupled since 2004.
    The decision, agriculture officials say, would also affect the department’s Rural Business and Cooperative program, which issued more than $1 billion in loans and grants last year to about 15,000 rural businesses.
    Home mortgages and rural business loans from the agency have been allowed to avoid such reviews, except under unusual circumstances.

    The proposal by the Agriculture Department, which has signaled its intention in e-mails to Congress and landowners, reflects a growing concern that lending to owners of properties with drilling leases might violate the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, which requires environmental reviews before federal money is spent. Because that law covers all federal agencies, the department’s move raises questions about litigation risks for other agencies, legal experts said.

    Drilling for gas has become more common using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, which breaks up rock deep underground using water and chemicals under high pressure. The drilling has been an economic boon — creating jobs and reducing dependence on foreign energy. But it has raised concerns about contamination of water wells, air pollution and above-ground spills.

    Over the last year, some banks and federal agencies have started revisiting their lending policies to account for the potential impact of drilling on property values.

    “We will no longer be financing homes with gas leases,” Jennifer Jackson, program director for rural loans in the Agriculture Department’s New York office, wrote in an internal e-mail this month, citing several factors, including the costs of conducting such reviews.

    In e-mails sent to landowners and Congress, agriculture officials said that environmental specialists at the agency believed that the reviews were legally necessary and that leased properties should not be given special exemptions. But when asked about the notice, the Agriculture Department said its secretary, Tom Vilsack, is still reviewing it.

    Legal experts said that the agency’s notice would have broad repercussions.

    The environmental reviews being proposed by the Agriculture Department would give the public a fuller accounting of the potential environmental risks of drilling, the experts said. Such reviews would also help protect the agency from litigation from environmental groups — a cost that would ultimately be borne by taxpayers.

    But the Agriculture Department’s notice would also mean that landowners who had already signed leases to allow drilling on their land would face hurdles if they applied for federally backed mortgages.

    Full environmental reviews from the Agriculture Department or other agencies would also add new wrinkles to President Obama’s plans to expand domestic drilling, the experts said.

    Asked for comment, department officials declined to answer specific questions about the notice or about the e-mails, which were sent in February and March by officials from the Agriculture Department’s regional offices and its headquarters. 

    Other Agriculture Department officials, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to reporters, said that the notice was technically not a policy change but a clarification of existing rules. The notice was being issued partly in response to growing questions from state offices about whether agency loans for properties with drilling leases complied with federal environmental law, they said.

    Officials in some offices, especially in the West, where drilling has been occurring for decades, said they had historically given categorical exclusions to properties with drilling leases. But officials in state offices in the East, where drilling has expanded rapidly in recent years, said they wanted more guidance on whether bypassing environmental reviews was legal. Next month’s clarification from agricultural officials in Washington is meant to settle that dispute.

    Edward Lloyd, an environmental law professor at Columbia, noted that billions of dollars worth of home loans are made directly or underwritten each year by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration. He said those lenders might feel compelled by the Agriculture Department’s decision to study their own policies.

    Readers’ Comments

    Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
    Professor Lloyd and two other legal experts predicted that rather than assessing the impact from each oil and gas lease separately, the Agriculture Department and other federal agencies may instead prepare a blanket environmental review of drilling that applies to all of their lending programs.
    Kevin T. K. Bailey, a Congressional liaison with the Agriculture Department, said in e-mails sent to Representatives Maurice D. Hinchey and Carolyn B. Maloney, both Democrats from New York, that the agency was willing to conduct such a review, but there was no money in the budget for it, so lending would need to stop until the matter was resolved.
    Agriculture officials said the notice was in response to an article in The Times in Octoberthat described how leases often allowed certain activities, like storing hazardous waste on a property, that were expressly forbidden by mortgages because they could harm resale values.
    “There is substantial controversy over the extent, range, and issues associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for gas,” Mr. Bailey wrote in a March 8 e-mail to members of Congress, adding that “for a number of years” the loan program typically had considered its mortgages exempt from environmental review. But the agency notice will clarify that this is not the case for properties with drilling leases.
    Requiring environmental reviews for such properties will be slow but will allow the public to have more say in the matter, he added.
    “Approval of such leases would allow for a number of potential impacts to possibly occur which would need to be analyzed in a NEPA document that would be reviewed by the public for sufficiency,” he wrote.
    “The overall environmental effects of such development have not been addressed in any NEPA document by any federal agency,” he said, adding that allowing people with drilling leases on their properties to qualify automatically for mortgages from the Agriculture Department “places the Agency at risk of NEPA related litigation.

    Guide to DCNR: The Agency Balancing Drilling and Conservation Interests

    The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­ural Resources admin­is­ters Pennsylvania’s state parks and  forests.
    1.5 mil­lion acres of for­est sit atop the Mar­cel­lus Shale for­ma­tion, and DCNR has leased out 700,000 acres of it for drilling. (130,000 of those acres were auc­tioned off dur­ing Gov­er­nor Ed Rendell’s admin­is­tra­tion, before the Demo­c­rat insti­tuted a mora­to­rium on future leas­ing in the last year of his tenure.) A 2010 DCNR esti­mate pre­dicts forests may host up to 1,000 well pads and 10,000 wells, once drilling is up to full capacity.

    61 state parks are also located within the Mar­cel­lus Shale. Unlike the forests, Penn­syl­va­nia does not own the min­eral rights for the vast major­ity of land under­neath state parks. That means if the pri­vate landown­ers want to lease out their land for drilling, DCNR is required to pro­vide “rea­son­able access” to energy com­pa­nies. (Sur­face and min­eral rights are sold sep­a­rately under Penn­syl­va­nia law.)

    Drilling in state forests is reg­u­lated by DCNR guide­lines, in order to min­i­mize dam­age to wildlife and intru­sion on recre­ational hik­ing and camping.

    Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Tom Cor­bett has over­turned a Rendell-era exec­u­tive order against leas­ing out more park land to drillers. He has said he’s against the state for­est mora­to­rium, but has yet to reverse it yet. A DCNR study put together in 2010 con­cludes the state can’t lease out any more land, with­out harm­ing vul­ner­a­ble or wild sec­tions of state forests.

    DCNR is headed by Sec­re­tary Richard Allen, who was con­firmed by a unan­i­mous state Sen­ate vote in June 2011.

    Allegheny Front Examines Drilling’s Impact On Forests

    How would expanded nat­ural gas drilling impact Pennsylvania’s state forests? The Allegheny Front’s Reid Fra­zier took a flight to find out. StateIm­pact aired a sim­i­lar report last month.

    Burning Question: What Marcellus Shale Well is Closest to Philadelphia?

    This blog post is part of StateImpact’s on-going, reader-submitted burn­ing ques­tions about nat­ural gas drilling.  So far, we have tack­led water test­ing, whether or not frack­ing can lead to earth­quakes, the sta­tus of the state’s deep injec­tion wells, all things water and the fate of a quar­an­tined herd of beef cat­tle. Today’s ques­tion comes from Kris­ten Mos­brucker. Mos­brucker wants to know where the […]

    Corbett Administration Still “Considering” Additional Forest Leasing

    Ear­lier this month, we took a look at drilling in state forests, and whether or not the Cor­bett Admin­is­tra­tion would expand drilling’s foot­print beyond the 700,000 acres of state-owned land already leased out for nat­ural gas explo­ration. In today’s Tribune-Review, a spokesman for the Gov­er­nor Cor­bett says the Repub­li­can is still weigh­ing the idea. Gov. Tom […]

    Can Pennsylvania’s State Forests Survive Additional Marcellus Shale Drilling?

    Penn­syl­va­nia is strapped for cash. The state has run bil­lion dollar-plus deficits for three straight years. But since 2009, roy­al­ties and bonus pay­ments from Mar­cel­lus Shale drilling in state forests have brought in hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.  Some offi­cials say addi­tional drilling is the solu­tion to the commonwealth’s finan­cial prob­lems. That’s rais­ing the ire of […


    Pipelines: A Snowmobilers’ Delight

    Sev­eral weeks ago we broad­cast a story about an emerg­ing bat­tle­ground over gas drilling in Penn­syl­va­nia — pipelines. But not every­one who enjoys the great out­doors sees pipeline expan­sion as an imped­i­ment to their use of the for­est. Snow­mo­bil­ers love pipelines, almost as much as deer and elk. Bob Kirch­ner is a past pres­i­dent of the […]

    Corbett Official Wants To See More Drilling In State Forests

    Gov­er­nor Corbett’s Sec­re­tary of Eco­nomic and Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment, Alan Walker, pre­dicts increased drilling in Pennsylvania’s state forests could bring in “close to $60 bil­lion” over the next three decades. ““That allows us to solve just about every eco­nomic prob­lem we have that is hang­ing out there, includ­ing un-funded pen­sion lia­bil­ity, infra­struc­ture prob­lems,” he told Capitolwire […]

    Corbett In A Kayak

    Gov­er­nor Cor­bett has repeat­edly vowed to pro­tect Pennsylvania’s water and envi­ron­ment, as he pushes to grow the commonwealth’s nat­ural gas drilling indus­try. “ I will not let them poi­son the water,” the Repub­li­can told a crowd of town­ship super­vi­sors in April, after a heck­ler inter­rupted his speech about drilling devel­op­ment. “We need to pro­tect the water. […]

    Trib: Fish and Boat Commission Leasing 43,000 Acres For Drilling

    Accord­ing to a story in the Pitts­burgh Tribune-Review, Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Com­mis­sion is plan­ning on leas­ing 43,000 acres of water­ways to nat­ural gas drillers, in order to raise rev­enue for dam repairs. The com­mis­sion esti­mates it will need $78 mil­lion to repair the 16 dams, which are clas­si­fied as high risk because they cannot […]


    Natural Born Drillers

    To be a modern Republican in good standing, you have to believe — or pretend to believe — in two miracle cures for whatever ails the economy: more tax cuts for the rich and more drilling for oil. And with prices at the pump on the rise, so is the chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” More and more, Republicans are telling us that gasoline would be cheap and jobs plentiful if only we would stop protecting the environment and let energy companies do whatever they want.

    Thus Mitt Romney claims that gasoline prices are high not because of saber-rattling over Iran, but because President Obama won’t allow unrestricted drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal tells readers that America as a whole could have a jobs boom, just like North Dakota, if only the environmentalists would get out of the way.
    The irony here is that these claims come just as events are confirming what everyone who did the math already knew, namely, that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. For the truth is that we’re already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping. If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither.
    Why the hydrocarbon boom? It’s all about the fracking. The combination of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing of shale and other low-permeability rocks has opened up large reserves of oil and natural gas to production. As a result, U.S. oil production has risen significantly over the past three years, reversing a decline over decades, while natural gas production has exploded.
    Given this expansion, it’s hard to claim that excessive regulation has crippled energy production. Indeed, reporting in The Times makes it clear that U.S. policy has been seriously negligent — that the environmental costs of fracking have been underplayed and ignored
    But, in a way, that’s the point. The reality is that far from being hobbled by eco-freaks, the energy industry has been given a largely free hand to expand domestic oil and gas production, never mind the environment.
    Strange to say, however, while natural gas prices have dropped, rising oil production and a sharp fall in import dependence haven’t stopped gasoline prices from rising toward $4 a gallon. Nor has the oil and gas boom given a noticeable boost to an economic recovery that, despite better news lately, has been very disappointing on the jobs front.
    As I said, this was totally predictable.
    First up, oil prices. Unlike natural gas, which is expensive to ship across oceans, oil is traded on a world market — and the big developments moving prices in that market usually have little to do with events in the United States. Oil prices are up because of rising demand from China and other emerging economies, and more recently because of war scares in the Middle East; these forces easily outweigh any downward pressure on prices from rising U.S. production. And the same thing would happen if Republicans got their way and oil companies were set free to drill freely in the Gulf of Mexico and punch holes in the tundra: the effect on prices at the pump would be negligible.
    Meanwhile, what about jobs? I have to admit that I started laughing when I saw The Wall Street Journal offering North Dakota as a role model. Yes, the oil boom there has pushed unemployment down to 3.2 percent, but that’s only possible because the whole state has fewer residents than metropolitan Albany — so few residents that adding a few thousand jobs in the state’s extractive sector is a really big deal. The comparable-sized fracking boom in Pennsylvania has had hardly any effect on the state’s overall employment picture, because, in the end, not that many jobs are involved.
    And this tells us that giving the oil companies carte blanche isn’t a serious jobs program. Put it this way: Employment in oil and gas extraction has risen more than 50 percent since the middle of the last decade, but that amounts to only 70,000 jobs, around one-twentieth of 1 percent of total U.S. employment. So the idea that drill, baby, drill can cure our jobs deficit is basically a joke.
    Why, then, are Republicans pretending otherwise? Part of the answer is that the party is rewarding its benefactors: the oil and gas industry doesn’t create many jobs, but it does spend a lot of money on lobbying and campaign contributions. The rest of the answer is simply the fact that conservatives have no other job-creation ideas to offer.
    And intellectual bankruptcy, I’m sorry to say, is a problem that no amount of drilling and fracking can solve.
    6 Environmental Groups Decry Passage Of Marcellus Shale Bill

    February 8, 2012

    Clean Water Action, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks, PennEnvironment, and the PA Chapter-Sierra Club decried the lack of concern for communities, health and property in passing Marcellus Shale legislation-- House Bill 1950.             All the groups are outspoken opponents of drilling in the state.  (Note: The 350 member Growing Greener Coalition supports the funding provisions in the bill.)             

    The statement by the six groups said:            

    Tuesday in the Senate and today in the House, the Pennsylvania legislature voted in favor of House Bill 1950, a compromise gas development bill that was hammered out behind closed doors under the heavy hand of Gov. Tom Corbett.             

    Under the guise of providing “impact fees” to municipalities where gas operations occur, the legislature effectively supported a takeover of municipalities by the State and the gas industry by gutting established and effective local planning and zoning rights.            

    (Note: The County Commissioners Association of PA and the PA Association of Township Supervisors supported House Bill 1950.)     
           Through provisions contained in the bill, municipalities will no longer be able to play a central, critical role in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of residents and determining which uses of land are most beneficial.             

    The bill requires that all types of oil and gas operations (except for natural gas processing plants)—unlike any other commercial or industrial business—be allowed in all zoning districts, even in residential neighborhoods and near schools, parks, hospitals, and sensitive natural and cultural resource protection areas. As a result, people could be forced to live only 300 feet away from a gas well, open frack waste pit, or pipeline, despite growing evidence that such development causes pollution, damages health, and lowers property values.             

    The bill also mandates a one-size-fits-all ordinance that supersedes all existing ordinances and prevents municipalities from adopting any zoning provisions that are stricter than the weak, mandated standards.             

    “The PA Legislature has let the gas industry take over, despite the terrible consequences that drilling is having in communities across the Commonwealth. This so-called impact fee bill brings no net fiscal gain to Pennsylvania residents; it robs us of the ability to protect what is most locally valuable—our health, safety, and resources—and gives gas operators the right to run all over our communities. This is unjust and exposes the true allegiances of the Bill’s supporters—self-interested gas developers and their backers,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper.            

    “Today, many legislators and Gov. Corbett told Pennsylvania residents that protecting their health and rights matters far less to them than the gas industry’s demands,” said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer for Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project. “They and other supporters of this bill turned a blind eye on the widespread damage caused by drilling and a deaf ear to calls from citizens for change, while doing the bidding of companies that want to drill anywhere, anytime.”            

    “If legislators were looking to pass a proposal that will allow more gas drilling near people’s homes, and the parks, playgrounds and schools where our children play and spend their days, then ‘Mission Accomplished,’” said Erika Staaf of PennEnvironment. “Sadly, this is just one more case of powerful interests dominating the political process, and the lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle to do anything about it.”            

    “A poorly-regulated gas industry will be able to drill in residential neighborhoods, bringing thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals, thousands of tractor trailers, round the clock noisy, polluting drilling, all as little as a football field away from homes, day care centers, and playgrounds,” said Jeff Schmidt, Director of Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter. “The legislators who voted in favor of HB 1950 have abandoned any pretense that they are acting in the public interest. We will make sure the public knows who sided with the drillers and who sided with citizens when they go to the polls for this year’s elections.”             

    “This bill represents a huge step backwards in protection for Pennsylvania towns and the environment,” said Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action. “The state override of local zoning ordinances will greatly increase the threats to communities from all aspects of gas extraction. Never before has one industry been given full rights to do as they please, without recognizing the needs of other businesses, residents, and our environment. 2012 is an election year, and we will be devoting our energy to ensuring that the voters of Pennsylvania are aware of which legislators voted to give away our control over an industry that has contaminated our air, land, and water.”            

    “The legislators who voted for House Bill 1950 made a short-sighted decision that puts the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s communities at risk,” said Josh McNeil, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. “They voted against the interests of their constituents and should expect those constituents to return the favor in the November election.”
    In addition:
    The bill also mandates a one-size-fits-all ordinance that supersedes all existing ordinances and prevents municipalities from adopting any zoning provisions that are stricter than the weak, mandated standards.  
    Note:  the Bill DOES NOT nullify the Pittsburgh ordinance, the State College home rule charter amendment[Jet Miskis, "This is what we were trying to do in Peters."]   , or the community bill of rights ordinances banning fracking in other communities. They are NOT "zoning" or land use ordinances, but civil rights ordinances protecting inalienable rights, such as the right to community local self-government, the right to clean air, water and a healthy environment.
    Although zoning ordinances supported by many environmental groups would not have protected our communities even without this bill, neither the State, the legislature, the courts, or the PUC have legitimate authority to license drilling corporations with "permits" to violate our fundamental rights. Nor does the legislature have legitimate authority to adopt state laws that strip inalienable rights, or empower third-party corporations to do so.

    The Community Bill of Rights ordinances specifically challenge the Governor's theory of law, stated in his legal brief to Commonwealth Court on January 31, 2008 (in Corbett vs. East Brunswick Township) that "There is no inalienable right to local self-government." Because they are not regulatory of industry, but are adopted pursuant to the local officials' oath of office in which they swear to "protect the health, safety and welfare" of the community, and because they assert the police powers of the municipality (NOT the delegated regulatory authority allowed by the State legislature), Community Rights laws are not invalidated by the new encroachment on municipal zoning authority.

    Though affecting only already ineffectual municipal zoning authority, this new usurpation of local control is an additional affront (one in a long chain of oppressions) to democracy, government by the people, and consent of the governed. That the County Commissioners Association of PA and the PA Association of Township Supervisors supported the bill suggests that municipal membership in those organizations is not only pointless, but offers legitimacy to front groups pretending to represent local concerns, but actually advocating for top-down State dictatorial power in our communities, on behalf of giant corporations. It is a repeat of their support for Act 38 (ACRE) in 2005, which subsidized agribusiness corporations with State law stripping municipal authority over those corporations in our communities.

    It is time to refocus our energies and solidify a State-wide movement for Community Rights. Squabbling with deaf legislators over picayune concessions in legislative language is not going to protect our natural environment, our families, or future generations from the emotion-driven (greed is surely and emotion) headlong charge into corporate resource colonization of our communities.

    Interested in joining the movement for a People's Constitutional Convention to guarantee community local self-governing rights on all issues with direct local impact? Please contact the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and ask about how you can become part of the Pennsylvania Community Rights Network.

    Ben Price
    Projects Director


    OPINION   | January 06, 2012 NYT
    Dot Earth: On Shale Gas, Warming and Whiplash 

    Cornell researchers challenge a colleague who found that the climate impact of natural gas from fracked wells was worst than that from coal. 
    Jan. 19, 4:00 p.m. | Updated below |
    If you scan back you’ll see what’s becoming a pretty long series of headlines here dealing with a phenomenon I’ve noted since 2008 or so — a feeling of whiplash in tracking the flow of climate science and related news coverage. (One example is “On Plankton, Warming and Whiplash.”)
    Here we go again. This time, the issue is the hydraulic fracturing of shale and similar rock to extract natural gas (and oil, as well). This technique, widely known as fracking, has raised environmental concerns while opening a vast new resource that is reshaping energy menus  from the United States to China.
    Newly published research led by Cornell University scientists challenges the core calculations and conclusions of a paper by another Cornell researcher, Robert Howarth, that became a potent talking point for opponents of hydraulic fracturing last year. Here’s a link to the new paper, which was just published in Climatic Change.
    The Howarth paper, “Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations,” had estimated that leakage of gas from hydraulic fracturing operations (given that natural gas is mainly methane, a potent heat-trapping substance) and other factors made the climate impact of gas from such wells substantially worse than that of coal, measured per unit of energy. The abstract was bluntly worded:
    Compared to coal, the [climate] footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.
    That finding cut against the long-established estimate that the greenhouse impact of natural gas was roughly half that of coal. It is this property of natural gas that long made many climate and energy analysts see a shift from coal to gas in electricity generation as a big, cheap and quick early step on the long road to curbing global warming. Howarth acknowledged, behind the headlines, that his conclusions were based on limited data.
    But opponents of hydraulic fracturing spun the study as proving that gas was no “bridge” to a climate-friendly global energy mix. Most news coverage of the Howarth paper played the debate over the findings as a crusading scientist(Howarth is a staunch foe of hydraulic fracturing in the Northeast) beingchallenged by the gas industry, when there were concerns expressed by other climate researchers at the time.
    Last year, Howarth’s findings were questioned by researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, as well. The gas industry, focused mainly on the documentary “Gasland,” had to open a new Howarth front in its failing public relations campaign.
    Howarth’s prime conclusion is now directly challenged in the new paper. Here’s the keystone line from the abstract:
    Using more reasonable leakage rates and bases of comparison, shale gas has a [greenhouse gas] footprint that is half and perhaps a third that of coal.
    Setting aside the fights between environmentalists and industry, the picture emerging in the science is of an initial assertion in an area with inadequate data (largely because of the industry’s proprietary bent) that is — unsurprisingly — being challenged. I encourage you to look back at Gavin Schmidt’s “Fracking Methane” post from last year at Realclimate, which I feel nailed the nuances. I hope he will take a look at the new work, too.
    Unfortunately, when research on tough questions sits under the microscope because of its relevancy to policy fights, the impact on the public can be a severe case of whiplash. Journalists and campaigners succumbing to “single-study syndrome” in search of a hot front-page headline or debating point threaten to alienate readers seeking some sense of reality.
    Here’s the abstract from the new paper, by Lawrence M. Cathles, Larry Brown, Milton Taam and Andrew Hunter (GHG stands for greenhouse gas):
    Natural gas is widely considered to be an environmentally cleaner fuel than coal because it does not produce detrimental by-products such as sulfur, mercury, ash and particulates and because it provides twice the energy per unit of weight with half the carbon footprint during combustion. These points are not in dispute. However, in their recent publication in Climatic Change Letters, Howarth et al. (2011) report that their life-cycle evaluation of shale gas drilling suggests that shale gas has a larger GHG footprint than coal and that this larger footprint “undercuts the logic of its use as a bridging fuel over the coming decades”. We argue here that their analysis is seriously flawed in that they significantly overestimate the fugitive emissions associated with unconventional gas extraction, undervalue the contribution of “green technologies” to reducing those emissions to a level approaching that of conventional gas, base their comparison between gas and coal on heat rather than electricity generation (almost the sole use of coal), and assume a time interval over which to compute the relative climate impact of gas compared to coal that does not capture the contrast between the long residence time of CO2 and the short residence time of methane in the atmosphere. High leakage rates, a short methane GWP, and comparison in terms of heat content are the inappropriate bases upon which Howarth et al. ground their claim that gas could be twice as bad as coal in its greenhouse impact. Using more reasonable leakage rates and bases of comparison, shale gas has a GHG footprint that is half and perhaps a third that of coal.
    I reached out to Howarth today (when I asked his views on an early version of Cathles et al paper, he’d told me he had prepared a formal reply that was to be published in the journal along with the new work. There was some kind of logistical glitch, he said. In the meantime, the journal editors gave him clearance to offer this short reaction for Dot Earth:
    In April 2011, my colleagues Tony Ingraffea, Renee Santoro, and I published the first comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shale gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing, with a focus on methane emissions, in the journal Climatic Change Letters. Our analysis was challenged by Cathles et al. (2012). We were invited by the journal to write a reply, with the understanding that the criticism of Cathles et al. and our reply would be published simultaneously early this year. Unfortunately, a mistake by the publisher apparently resulted in the premature publication of the Cathles et al. piece earlier today. We are still finalizing our reply, but we fully expect to have a reply finished and ready for publication within a few weeks at most, with publication on line following within 1-2 months after that.
    We stand by our approach and findings published last April, and find little of merit in the criticisms by Cathles and colleagues. The latest EPA estimate for methane emissions from shale gas falls within the range of our estimates but not those of Cathles et al, which are substantially lower. Cathles et al. believe the focus should be just on electricity generation, and the global warming potential of methane should be considered only on a 100-year time scale. Our analysis covered both electricity (30% of US usage) and heat generation (the largest usage), and we evaluated both 20- and 100-year integrated time frames for methane. Both time frames are important, but the decadal scale is critical, given the urgent need to avoid climate-system tipping points. We also used the latest available estimates for the global warming potential of methane, while Cathles relied on older and lower values.
    Using all available information and the latest climate science, we conclude that for most uses, the GHG footprint of shale gas is greater than that of other fossil fuels on time scales of up to 100 years. When used to generate electricity, the shale-gas footprint is still significantly greater than that of coal at decadal time scales but is less at the century scale. We reiterate our conclusion from our April 2011 paper that shale gas is not a suitable bridge fuel for the 21st Century.
    Jan. 7, 10:04 p.m. | Updated
    Writing on Saturday, Lawrence M. Cathles of Cornell, the lead author on the new paper, took issue with Howarth’s statement above:
    I have a few quick comments:
    First, the statement of Howarth’s…is incorrect:
    “We also used the latest available estimates for the global warming potential of methane, while Cathles relied on older and lower values.”
    We used the “latest” Shindell GWP values for methane that were used by Howarth et al. (105 and 33).  We did not use the older lower values.
    Second, the argument that substituting natural gas for other fossil fuels will increase warming is false.  I have just submitted a paper that shows no matter how fast the transition, substituting natural gas can bring us 40% of the way to immediately substituting low carbon energy sources.  If you are interested, the draft of that paper is [online here].
    [Jan. 19, 3:50 p.m. | Updated Howarth's rebuttal paper 


    E.P.A. Links Tainted Water in Wyoming to Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas

    DENVER — Chemicals used to hydraulically fracture rocks in drilling for natural gas in a remote valley in central Wyoming are the likely cause of contaminated local water supplies, federal regulators said Thursday.
    The draft report, after a three-year study by the Environmental Protection Agency, represents a new scientific and political skirmish line over whether fracking, as it is more commonly known, poses a threat in the dozens of places around the nation where it is now being used to extract previously unreachable energy resources locked within rock.
    The study, which was prompted by complaints from local residents about the smell and taste of their water, stressed that local conditions were unusual at the site, called the Pavillion field, in that the gas wells were far shallower than in many other drilling areas around the country. The shallow depth means that natural gas itself can seep upward naturally through the rock, and perhaps into aquifers.
    But the suite of chemicals found in two test wells drilled at the site, the report said, could not be explained entirely by natural processes. The agency’s analysis of samples taken from deep monitoring wells in the aquifer indicated the presence of synthetic chemicals, like glycols and alcohols consistent with gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluids, benzene concentrations well above standards in the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards, and high methane levels.
    Also complicating the inquiry is the Pavillion field’s long history. The oldest wells there were drilled 40 years ago or more, and chemicals that might have been used were not required to be listed or reported to anyone.
    The energy industry has long stressed that fracking and water contamination have never been definitively linked.
    “When considered together with other lines of evidence, the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing,” the draft study said. And perhaps just as crucially, the evidence also suggested that seepage of natural gas itself had increased around the drilling sites.
    “Data suggest that enhanced migration of gas has occurred within ground water at depths used for domestic water supply,” said the draft study, which will now be sent for scientific peer review and public comment.
    A spokesman for Encana Oil & Gas (USA), which bought the Pavillion field in 2004 and drilled some of the approximately 169 wells there, said the E.P.A.’s science was inconclusive. Encana’s parent company is based in Calgary.
    “What we have here is not a conclusion, but a probability — and based on the facts, not a good probability,” said Doug Hock, the company’s spokesman. He said that enhanced migration of gas as a result of drilling was unlikely in the Pavillion field, since drilling had reduced pressure in the underlying rock, thus reducing forces that can lead to gas seepage. And finding methane and benzene in two deep test wells drilled for the study, he said, is what you would expect in a gas-rich zone.
    “Encana didn’t put those there, nature did,” he said.
    The governor of Wyoming, Matt Mead, also said in a statement that the E.P.A.’s conclusions were “scientifically questionable” and not based on enough data. Mr. Mead, a Republican, called for more testing by the E.P.A., in conjunction with a state group of residents, state and federal agencies, and Indian tribes already at work looking into questions about Pavillion’s water supply.
    Wyoming, which is dependent on oil and gas drilling, along with coal mining, as anchors of its economy, will also be among the peer reviewers of the E.P.A.’s draft, the governor’s statement said. The chairman of a local Pavillion residents’ group — about 200 people, mostly involved in farming and ranching, who live in proximity to the drilling sites — expressed gratitude to the E.P.A., and perhaps a bit of veiled doubt about the zeal of local and state regulators.
    “This investigation proves the importance of having a federal agency that can protect people and the environment,” said John Fenton, the chairman of Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens. “Those of us who suffer the impacts from the unchecked development in our community are extremely happy the contamination source is being identified.”
    Gas drilling, using both hydraulic fracturing to release gas and horizontal drilling techniques that can snake underground far from the actual bore holes, is now moving into closer proximity to American population centers than in the past.
    From the suburbs of Denver to Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, natural gas reserves, known about but previously unreachable for economic and technological reasons, are being tapped, and anxieties about the hydraulic injection process and its consequences are growing. Wyoming, in 2010, became one of the first states to require petroleum companies or their contractors to disclose the ingredients in their specially formulated fracking fluids. The E.P.A. has also begun a national study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.
    This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
    Correction: December 14, 2011
    An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to the composition of natural gas. It is always composed primarily of methane, not “often.”
    This whistleblower admits that there is no way fracking can be done safely. I’m thinking that is obvious because if they could they would and they aren’t.
    He also admits what those of us living in the Gas Patch have witnessed. If you are new to this, here are two tips to detecting spills at drill sites:
    1. If you see them shoveling dirt or gravel on anything, anywhere, they are covering up a spill.
    2. If you see them power washing the tanks, there has been a spill.

    Is it just me, or do you notice the geology professor having some difficulty spitting that out yarn of bull he delivers?  Ahm, I’m no geologist but I know some pretty sharp ones, and I’m pretty sure that that man deserves this  prize.

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