Breaking News: The fight over fracking in New York is about to go very local—down to the township level. The New York Times is reporting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will soon announce a plan that will allow hydraulic fracturing in a few select counties in New York, most of them along or near the border with Pennsylvania. His plan will limit hydraulic fracturing to only those counties AND townships within those counties that actually want drilling—at least for “the next several years.”
Why limit it? To “reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.” And because he’s trying to placate both sides of the fracking debate. His environmentalist supporters are going to abandon him if he doesn’t at least make some moves to appease them.
Fait accompli. The anti-drillers will not view this as a victory, but it is—for them. This plan buys anti-drillers another two years or more to continue agitating and demagoguing the issue of hydraulic fracturing and mount wave after wave of protests at town board meetings. It’s about to be an interesting couple of years for those of us who live in New York and support drilling (not that the past four long years have been boring).
A federal appeals court has cleared the way for the construction of the MARC 1 Marcellus Shale pipeline to be built in northeastern Pennsylvania. The court released a decision yesterday rejecting claims by “environmental” groups to stop the pipeline. Part of their argument revolved around “the broader impacts” caused by natural gas drilling—that is, pipelines make more drilling likely and that’s not a good thing (according to them). The court rejected that argument.
There’s no doubt that Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling creates jobs. But one of the criticisms often leveled is that jobs directly related to drilling are given to people from other states, like Texas and Louisiana and Oklahoma—states with experienced oil and gas workers who don’t need extensive training.
Recent employment numbers from West Virginia seem to lend credence to those concerns. The unemployment rate has risen slightly in WV, but more telling, employment of West Virginians who work directly in the oil and gas sector dropped slightly from 2010 to 2011. However, indirect jobs in other industries—like hotels, restaurants and retail businesses—have gone up due to drilling. It seems to be a mixed picture, at least in WV, with respect to job creation.
The Western Energy Alliance says new fracking rules recently issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which will regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal public lands will cost around $1.5 billion to implement, and the Alliance is asking Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to suspend the new rules.
New numbers released by IHS CERA show how far coal has fallen as the fuel of choice to generate electricity in the U.S., and how high natural gas has risen to take its place. Here are some interesting statistics:
A husband and wife in Brooke County, West Virginia are suing to have their 5 year-old lease, which is now expired and up for renewal, nullified so Chesapeake (now the owner of the lease) cannot automatically renew it as they are attempting to do.
Increasingly landowners who signed leases that are now expiring after a customary 5 year period face the same issue—and drillers are trying to lock them in under the terms of lease for a new period of time.
The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission appointed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to “study” natural gas drilling and produce a set of “best practices” for hydraulic fracturing needs more time. An initial draft report was due this August, but the good governor has extended the deadline to the end of the year instead. (yawn)
Smart Sand Inc., headquartered in Fairless Hills, PA, is a supplier of industrial sand, primarily serving customers in the oil and gas industry including drillers in the Marcellus and Utica Shale region. Sand—the right kind of sand which is crystalline—is a critical part of the hydraulic fracturing process. Most of the frack sand mined in the U.S. comes from the Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Smart Sand owns and operates a facility in Oakdale, WI.
What’s the big deal about Smart Sand? They’ve just landed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as a new board member, raising their visibility in the industry considerably. You may recall that Pawlenty ran for the Republican nomination for president not all that long ago.