PA DEP Pushes Back: We Did NOT Undercount Wells for Impact Fee

push back A newly-minted Ph.D. from Penn State, Joel Gehman, got his first teaching job last year as an assistant business professor at the University of Alberta in Canada. He wasted no time in addressing the issue of “publish or perish” in academe. In May of 2012, even before he began his official duties at UA, he co-authored and published a paper titled, “Fracking Patents: The Emergence of Patents as Information Containment Tools in Shale Drilling.” The title itself tells you about Dr. Gehman’s proclivities when it comes to the issue of fracking. (Learn more about his views on his blog). This month Dr. Gehman is back as lead author of a new paper published in the journal Environmental Practice titled, “An Analysis of Unconventional Gas Well Reporting under Pennsylvania’s Act 13 of 2012.”

Dr. Gehman’s new paper makes the strong claim that the DEP did not exploit loopholes in the new Act 13 law to drain every last penny they could via the new impact fee/tax on oil and gas wells, thereby leaving up to $303 million uncollected (see our story Did PA DEP Undercount Act 13 Wells & Forfeit $303M in Revenue?). Michael Krancer, Sec. of the DEP, sent a letter to Gehman on Tuesday with some pretty strong claims of his own…

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Controversy Continues Over PA DEP Water Testing Near Frack Sites

In November, MDN told you about a new controversy that began when PA State Rep. Jesse White (Democrat from the Pittsburgh area) claimed the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection was knowingly covering up water well testing data that may “prove” fracking activities in some cases are contaminating groundwater supplies (see PA DEP Accused of Skewing Water Tests from Wells Near Drilling). The DEP immediately responded that White and those claiming there’s a cover-up are wrong. The Marcellus Shale Coalition also jumped into the debate to shine a light on White’s anti-drilling tendencies (see MSC Responds to Allegations PA DEP Skews Drilling Water Tests). It does appear White has an ongoing blood feud with Range Resources, but in fairness, he contacted MDN to assert he is not anti-drilling.

The latest round in this controversy comes from an article that appears in the Beaver County Times on Tuesday. The article is perhaps the best we’ve seen that outlines what the controversy involves (although the article tends to the anti- side). In brief, it’s all about “Suite Codes” and whether or not the DEP intentionally did not order the appropriate tests in some cases of suspected water contamination—and in other cases did not report back full results from tests done. There are three Suite Codes potentially used by the DEP when ordering and reporting on water testing, as described in the article:

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Marcellus NatGas Production Predicted to Increase 44% by 2014

The perennial topic of conversation around the natural gas water cooler is, “How much supply will there be in the next X timeframe, and how will that affect the price of natural gas?”

Financial advisory firm Raymond James is the latest to weigh in with their thinking on the topic, and it’s no surprise the Marcellus Shale figures big in their thinking about how much supply is coming down the pipeline, and how prices will be affected:

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EQT Midstream 4Q12: Revenue Up 14%, IPO Complete

EQT’s pipeline subsidiary EQT Midstream Partners released their fourth quarter 2012 results today. EQT Midstream has extensive pipeline and compressor plant operations in the Marcellus Shale.

Although the update is largely about the money and intended for investors (revenues are up 14%), the update does contain a few interesting bits about EQT Midstream’s operations in the Marcellus, including information about the recently acquired Sunrise Pipeline, a federally regulated transmission line that runs from Wetzel County, WV to Greene County, PA:

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Chesapeake will Allow EPA Access to Well Site for Fracking Study

The Wall Street Journal reports that Chesapeake Energy has agreed to allow the federal EPA to access one of their drilling sites to be used as a guinea pig for before and after testing of water supplies near a fracked gas well. The EPA is conducting a years-long study, due to be completed in 2014, to evaluate whether or not they can try and claim fracking affects water. If they can make a case that fracking does affect water supplies, they plan to invoke the federal Clean Water Act to start regulating shale drilling via the back door which would, of course, trample on states’ rights as granted under the Constitution.

Apparently Chesapeake is willing to “pull back the kimono” and let the EPA have a peak. Their reasoning appears to be, “Hey, there’s nothing to fear since fracking does not affect water supplies, so why not?” From the WSJ:

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