It appears that ESB Bank (located in the Pittsburgh, PA area) is running a scam on Pennsylvania landowners with Marcellus Shale leases. ESB doesn’t tell landowners with leases looking to finance or refinance a mortgage that they won’t approve the application because of the lease—until after the homeowner has spent $500 to have an appraisal done. Oh, and ESB keeps the $500—sorry, no refunds.
Fortunately, ESB Bank seems to be one of the only banks (if not the only) refusing to finance/refinance properties with Marcellus leases. Here is one Pennsylvanian’s story of being fleeced by ESB Bank:
The Akron Beacon Journal reports there’s a new movement gaining steam in Ohio to return “home rule” to local municipalities when it comes to oil and gas drilling. Home rule, for those unfamiliar, grants municipalities a say in whether, and where, drilling for natural gas and oil can occur within a township. Think of it as zoning, which is precisely what it is. The home rule debate is currently red hot in New York State where, similar to Ohio, the state previously passed a law removing the right of local municipalities to regulate drilling in any way (including bans). It’s also a hot topic in Pennsylvania where zoning provisions in the newly passed Act 13 law are now in PA Supreme Court awaiting a final decision.
Ohio passed a law in 2004 taking the right away from municipalities to regulate drilling. Now, some residents are trying to get the state legislature to reconsider it:
The Columbus Dispatch attempts to gin up anti-fracking sentiment by using a year-old study by the U.S. Geological Survey. The Dispatch’s argument, in a nutshell: A lot of Marcellus Shale wastewater coming from Pennsylvania to Ohio for disposal via deep injection wells is “radioactive” (i.e. dangerous if it should leak onto the ground). The Utica Shale in Ohio is like the Marcellus in Pennsylvania, ergo, fracking shale in the Utica will produce radioactive waste. Conclusion: Don’t frack.
Three companies have formed a joint venture to build a new Utica Shale pipeline from Ohio through Michigan and eventually into Canada, delivering Utica Shale gas to Midwestern markets. The three companies are DTE Energy—a Detroit-based energy company, Enbridge—Canada’s largest natural gas distribution company, and Spectra Energy—one of North America’s largest pipeline companies and a member of the Fortune 500 list. The partners plan an open season to lock in customers for the new pipeline later this year. The pipeline won’t be built and in service until late 2015 at the earliest.
The Harrisburg Patriot-News has an excellent article (well worth your time to read) on the topic, Is there shale gas in the mid-state area of PA? The article’s author, Donald Gilliland, first introduces us to the state geologist, George Love, painting an interesting picture of where he works and what he does. Gilliland then skewers the southeastern Republicans (properly so) for inserting an eleventh-hour moratorium on drilling in their part of the state into the recent state budget (see MDN’s dim view of their action in this article). The moratorium prevents drilling in the South Newark Basin, located around the Philadelphia area, until a study is completed. George Love is the man in charge of that study.
But it is the article’s focus on another nearby shale basin, formed at roughly the same time as the South Newark Basin, that is fascinating to MDN. It’s called the Gettysburg Basin, so-named for the historic place under which part of it lies. Would there, could there be drilling under the hallowed ground at Gettysburg and other mid-state locations like Harrisburg? Mr. Love’s study of the South Newark will also look at other basins in the state and will help answer those questions.
MDN recently reported on the big story that two large health care systems are working together to conduct what is believed to be the first widespread health impact study of residents living in areas where there is active Marcellus drilling (see this MDN story). The two health care systems, Guthrie Health and Geisinger Health System, serving a combined 2.4 million patients, have good intentions. But now comes the word they don’t have the money (yet) to conduct the study. Oops. That’s embarrassing.
Houston-based ION Geophysical GX Technologies recently made a request to Manor Township (Armstrong County, PA) to allow them onto town property to conduct seismic mapping of the Marcellus and other underground structures. The board of supervisors for the town turned them down.
Here’s what ION told the supervisors at a meeting in July about what they hoped to do:
Energy industry consultant and investment analyst Richard Zeits writes on the Seeking Alpha website about the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest natural gas production statistics released on Friday. He observes that natural gas production in May and June for the lower 48 states remained virtually unchanged. Which means the commodity price for natural gas is likely not going up any time soon. Huge quantities of supply with the same demand equals low prices—Econ 101.