PA Gov. Ed Rendell Justifies New Tax on Marcellus Shale Drilling

In a Times-Tribune editorial about Pennsylvania’s impending budget deficit, which is now projected to be $2.3 billion, Gov. Ed Rendell is quoted saying a proposed tax on drilling in the Marcellus Shale won’t be more “severe” than in other states:

The governor is ready to propose a first-time severance tax on natural gas produced at the wells being sunk across the Marcellus Shale formation.

“The industry is used to paying severance taxes,” he said. “Our tax will not be more severe than other places.”

Scranton Times-Tribune: Feds could ease pain for states

PA DEP Advises Venting Water Wells in Dimock Twp, But Source of Gas Still Unknown

Four water wells in Dimock Township, PA have been found to have high levels of natural gas, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is advising area home owners to vent their water wells.

Following an explosion Jan. 1 that shattered an 8-foot cement well cover, four wells with unacceptable levels of natural gas have been taken off-line in the township.

In the past few days, letters and fact sheets were sent to about 20 homeowners south of Montrose, Pa., alerting them to the dangers of gas trapped in wells and encouraging them to vent them, said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Mark Carmon.

Meanwhile, DEP officials are analyzing tests from about 20 homes in the area to determine whether the gas found in the wells is from natural ground conditions or a byproduct of drilling operations by Cabot Oil & Gas. The Houston-based energy company is drilling dozens of wells more than a mile deep to tap the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.

The question is not so much as whether or not there are high levels of natural gas seeping into some area wells so much as why, and from what source is it coming? Terry Engelder, a Penn State University geoscientist says this:

“The rock formations in and around the area carry a lot of fractures with them,” he said. “There is a slim possibility that if a company like Cabot came along, man-made fractures in the Marcellus could connect up with other fractures in more shallow units.”

A more likely scenario, he said, is gas from natural sources has been moving through shallow soils for some time, and residents are now just beginning to notice.

Press & Sun-Bulletin: Natural gas in water wells has N.Y. officials on alert – Pennsylvania homeowners notified of dangers

Former PA Rep Dan Surra Appointed to “Protect Interests” of Non-Landowners in Marcellus Shale Drilling

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has violated his own hiring freeze and appointed an ally, former Democrat State Representative Dan Surra, as senior adviser on the Pennsylvania Wilds to DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. The position pays $95,000 per year and includes “protecting interests” with regard to Marcellus Shale drilling.

In his new position, one of Surra’s responsibilities will be to focus on protecting the interests of recreationists and sportsmen as Marcellus Shale drilling expands.

“The Marcellus Shale gas deposits represent an enormous economic opportunity for the state if done correctly,” [State Rep. Camille “Bud”] George [D-Houtzdale] said. “I think Dan Surra will do a bang-up job in the position. His work with me on the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee dovetails perfectly for this position. He’s a sportsman who is also well versed on mineral extraction.”

And this comment from State Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Oil City:

“I don’t know enough about the PA Wilds to know if this particular job is needed. My understanding from the governor is that Mr. Surra will be doing work regarding the Marcellus Shale natural gas development,” White said. “This is an important economic opportunity for Pennsylvania, so to that end I am hopeful that he is successful in working with all affected parties.”

Courier-Express/Tri-County: Lawmakers react to ex-Rep. Surra’s $95,000/year new job