Yesterday the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) applied for a 90-day extension to the rulemaking process with respect to new rules for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). As MDN has endlessly chronicled, the DEC faced a deadline of yesterday (Nov. 29) to either release revised new rules, not release them and start the process all over again, or file for a 90-day extension. They opted for Door #3.
As part of filing for the extension the DEC is required to release a “substantially revised” set of proposals which must be opened to public comment for a 30-day period. The DEC posted 11 documents on their website yesterday (see this page) as part of filing for the extension. The AP did some digging (and perhaps knows someone inside at DEC) and provided this brief analysis of the differences in the new rules from the previous draft, changes that are new and public for the first time with this release:
The residents of Avon, NY will have to come up with $50 million if a local driller wins a lawsuit filed earlier this month. Lenape Resources, a small, independent conventional (vertical) natural gas driller in western New York sued Avon, NY and the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) because of a broad-based ban on fracking and natural gas activities in the township passed in June.
Avon, in a misguided attempt to ban fracking, drafted and passed a new zoning law so broad it affected not only unconventional shale drilling but also conventionally drilled (vertical) gas wells. At the time, Lanape’s president John Holko threatened to sue both the town and the DEC if the ban was not rescinded (see this MDN story for background on the ban and Holko’s threat of a lawsuit). The ban stayed, the DEC has refused to enforce a 1981 state law that says only the DEC has the power to regulate drilling, so Holko has sued. He’s asking for compensation to reimburse him for the millions the company has invested in wells and other infrastructure in the township, and for lost revenue because he’s had to shut it all down.
Way to go Avon! Three town board members have just bankrupted your township.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the guise of the Clean Water Act (CWA), is poking it’s unwanted nose into Marcellus Shale gas drilling—again. Yesterday the EPA announced a settlement with PDC Mountaineer for what they say are violations of the CWA at four locations (for two gas wells). The company will pay a fine of $177,500, in addition to paying big bucks to restore problems they created while drilling two wells in Harrison County, West Virginia.
What was PDC’s environmental crime? They drained a one-acre swamp (euphemistically called a “wetland”) without getting permission. Even though PDC has agreed to pay the fine and restore the swamp (if they can), as part of the deal they did not admit to any violations of the CWA.
Included in part of a Gannett story about the New York DEC’s release of revised portions of proposed drilling regulations, we got word of how much New York State is paying three outside “experts” to give an assist to State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah in his review of the DEC’s proposed fracking rules with an eye on their impact on public health.
The hourly amount paid to John Adgate makes me think I’m in the wrong profession:
A few weeks ago MDN told you about a new landowners group in Lordstown, Ohio, formed in response to requests from Halcon Resources who is asking landowners in the area to sign modifications to existing 20-50 year-old leases on their property to allow for Utica Shale drilling (see this MDN story). At the time the new Lordstown Regional Landowners Group represented 5,000 of the 31,000 acres in Trumbull and Mahoning counties (Ohio) Halcon had recently purchased the rights to.
Apparently the movement has picked up steam and Halcon issued a press statement yesterday saying they want to cooperate with landowners to make them money on royalties, but stopped short of saying they would renegotiate leases, which is the aim of the landowners group.
Ergon, Inc., a crude oil processor headquartered in Jackson, MS but with operations in other states, including West Virginia, announced Wednesday there’s enough crude oil flowing from the Marcellus and Utica Shale region that they are investing $78 million to add more refining capacity to their plant in Newell, WV.
With strong headwinds against shale drilling from both Maryland’s Democrat governor, Martin O’Malley, and from Washington, D.C. area Democrat Maryland legislators, the legislators from western Maryland who want to see Marcellus Shale drilling face an uphill climb.
Nevertheless, when the next session of the Maryland legislature meets, western MD reps will make Marcellus drilling their top priority:
Here’s a new one: Chesapeake Energy subsidiary Peake Fuel Solutions has just introduced a new product to the marketplace aimed at trucking firms. It converts diesel engines to run on a mixture of both diesel fuel and natural gas, something they call DNG, or diesel natural gas. The technology converts diesel engines to run on up to 70% natural gas—either compressed or liquefied—meaning the engine runs cleaner and costs a lot less to operate given the low price of natural gas.