Large areas of the Marcellus Shale play not only have state oversight and regulation of drilling, but also oversight from two quasi-governmental organizations: the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). Wells drilled in an area covered by the SRBC must go through an approval process with the SRBC first. The SRBC gets to oversee major industrial activities (not just gas drilling) anywhere in the region of tributaries—creeks and rivers—that flow into the Susquehanna River that starts near Cooperstown and flows all the way to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
The SRBC meets regularly, considers requests for drilling and water withdrawals from rivers and streams, and acts on those requests in a timely manner. Not so with the DRBC.
Rebecca Bench, a landowner in Belmont County, Ohio is representing herself in a lawsuit she has brought against Hess. The lawsuit alleges that Mason Dixon Energy, whom she signed a lease with (that lease was eventually purchased by Hess) had no legal standing to conduct business in Ohio at the time they convinced Rebecca and her husband Kevin Bench to sign a lease in 2008 for $100 per acre. By comparison, recent lease agreements for Utica Shale leases in the county have gone as high as $5,200 per acre.
Three gas wells drilled in Nicholas County, WV last year began flaring gas, or burning it at the wellhead, on August 28, 2011. They’re still flaring and those who live close enough to see the orange glow at night have had enough. WV state law limits gas flaring to 30 days per year for each well, but the driller, Bluescape Resources Co. (BRC), says with no pipelines in the area it has been necessary to continue the flaring. They also say the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) knew about their flaring plans and told BRC no special permits would be needed for extended flaring. The DEP has given BRC until May 31st to end the flaring. The DEP has also assessed a $50,000 fine.
The commodity price of natural gas continues to hover near it’s 10-year low. That’s great news for consumers whose heating bills are lower, but not-so-great news for landowners with leases in the Marcellus Shale. Why? Because low prices mean it’s not profitable for drillers to go after shale gas. They are in it to make money, and if you lose money in mining natural gas, well, you stop doing it. And that’s what is happening in many Marcellus areas. Drilling hasn’t stopped—but it has slowed down.