Sullivan County, NY Legislature Wants to Ban Marcellus Drilling for Everyone in the County

Sullivan County, NY landowners have some reason to be concerned. Their county legislature wants a complete moratorium of horizontal gas drilling in the county.

At a recent meeting, the Sullivan County legislature voted to prevent drilling on county-owned lands. Frankly, “So what?” A ban on county-owned land likely does not make a difference for local landowners still interested in leasing. However, according to news reports:

“They [the county legislature] want the whole of Sullivan County off limits, via a moratorium.”*

That is a concern to Sullivan County landowners. It’s likely no more than huff and bluff, however, because New York has “home rule,” meaning if the State allows drilling, and local towns allow it, the county cannot supersede and disallow it.

Some Sullivan County land is considered part of the New York City watershed area—where the City gets its drinking water from. That complicates matters too.

MDN will keep an eye on the developing situation in Sullivan County when drilling finally begins in New York State.

*Mid-Hudson News Network (Mar 19) – Sullivan legislators say ‘no’ to hydrofracking, on county land

Marcellus Driller Funds Water Monitoring Program in Susquehanna River Basin

As Marcellus Drilling News previously noted, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission is in the process of placing 30 monitoring devices to track the effects of Marcellus drilling wastewater that enters area waterways. We now learn the program is being funded by the drilling industry itself:

The commission used a $750,000 grant from natural gas company East Resources Inc. to start the monitoring system. The monitoring stations provide data on factors such as temperature, pH level, depth and clarity. That information is available immediately on the commission’s Web site, and the state Department of Environmental Protection is notified if any problems are found.*

Kudos to East Resources for contributing a significant sum of money to help alleviate concerns that drilling is harming our waterways.

*State College Centre Daily Times, via WaterWorld (Mar 19) – System monitors water quality

Hearing to Determine if PA Public Utility Commission has Right to Regulate Private Pipelines

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) will hold a hearing on April 22 in Harrisburg, PA to discuss a particularly thorny issue: Does the PUC have the jurisdiction to regulate private pipelines?

The PUC has the responsibility of regulating pipelines that conduct oil or gas for compensation. That is, a pipeline owner leases space in the pipeline to third parties. In those cases, the law is clear. But what if an energy company builds and maintains its own pipeline and only conducts its own gas through that pipeline? The law is not clear on that matter. Hence the hearing.

Jennifer Kocher, PUC spokeswoman, said the PUC has regulatory jurisdiction over “public utility pipelines,” defined as pipelines transporting gas or oil within the state for compensation.

“But if a drilling company uses its own pipelines to transport the gas it produces, then there’s a question about our jurisdiction,” Ms. Kocher said. “We’re looking at that issue, at our safety jurisdiction, safety issues and the role of the PUC.”

Matt Benson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, said the industry trade group hasn’t addressed the pipeline regulation issue and is taking a “wait and see position” on PUC regulation. He said the group, along with gas producers, hopes to be offered an opportunity to testify at the hearing.*

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Mar 18) – PUC sets hearing on Marcellus shale pipes

PA Marcellus Shale Coalition Responds to EPA Plan to “Study” Hydraulic Fracturing

The following is a press release issued by the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Coalition in response to the rogue EPA’s announcement that they will study hydraulic fracturing (again):

The Marcellus Shale Coalition today issued the following statement regarding a plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study hydraulic fracturing:

“The members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition develop and drill wells in an environmentally responsible manner, including the use of hydraulic fracturing to complete a well for production. Hydraulic fracturing has been an established and proven practice for 60 years in Pennsylvania and around the country, and has been regulated successfully by state agencies. There have been no identified groundwater contamination incidents due to hydraulic fracturing, as noted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, other state regulators and the U.S. Groundwater Protection Council.

“Similarly, there have not been impacts to surface water sources due to the practice. Water withdrawals in Pennsylvania are highly regulated by state agencies and water commissions, with a typical permitted withdrawal amounting to about one-half of one percent of the average flow of a stream or river.

“The MSC will provide information and participate as appropriate in EPA’s study. Our industry is confident that an objective evaluation of hydraulic fracturing will reach the same conclusion as other studies – that it is a safe and well-regulated process that is essential to the development of natural gas.”*

*PA Marcellus Shale Coalition (Mar 18) – MSC Statement on EPA Study of Hydraulic Fracturing

Encana Holds Leases for 25K Acres in Luzerne County, Claims Every Well Drilled Creates 120 Jobs

An article in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reveals this interesting information about Encana’s activity in Pennsylvania:

Encana Oil and Gas Inc. – has leased 25,000 acres of property in Luzerne County. The land is mainly on the north side of Route 118 in Fairmount, Ross, Lake and Lehman townships.

Encana so far has obtained permits for drilling one well in Lake Township and another in Fairmount Township and is seeking a permit for one in Lehman Township, said company spokesman Doug Hock. Hydrogeological studies are now under way, and officials hope to begin constructing wells by May.

“For every well drilled, that creates about 120 jobs, either directly or indirectly…  The bulk of these jobs as we begin operations are done by subcontractors,” Hock said.*

*Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (Mar 21) – Law, engineering firms will be the first for jobs

Chesapeake Drilled 94 Wells in PA in 2009, Plans to Drill 200 Wells in PA in 2010

An article in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reveals this interesting information about Chesapeake Energy’s activity in Pennsylvania:

Chesapeake Energy has invested significantly in not only leasing land in Pennsylvania, but in doing business with private companies.

With 94 wells drilled in the state in 2009 and more than 200 additional wells planned for this year, the company has paid subcontractors and vendors in Pennsylvania $269 million since January 2009, company spokesman Rory Sweeney said in an e-mail.*

*Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (Mar 21) – Law, engineering firms will be the first for jobs

Marcellus Shale Drilling – Revival for Short-Line Railroads?

You can add short-line railroads to the list of businesses that benefit from drilling in the Marcellus Shale. And it’s all because of sand. Drillers like to use a special kind of sand found in the Midwest. They need railroad cars full of the stuff when drilling. The sand aids in the process of opening or “fracking” horizontally drilled wells. And lots of sand means drillers need a way to get it to the drill site. Enter short-line railroads.

Two years ago Tom Myles purchased the 35-mile Wellsboro & Corning Railroad, not knowing that a drilling boom would be a boom for his company.

In the two years since Myles took over the Wellsboro & Corning line, cargo traffic has nearly tripled, to 849 railcars last year, the most in its modern history. In a recession, Myles has hired 10 people to transfer sand from the cars into trucks.

He anticipates that business will nearly double this year, to 1,600 railcars. Almost all of that is sand used in hydraulic fracturing, the process that shatters the dense Marcellus Shale under high pressure to unlock its stores of natural gas.

“We sold $40 million of sand last year,” O’Neill said. “This is now our primary business.”*

*The Philadelphia Inquirer (Mar 21) – Marcellus Shale sends short-line railroad booming