Earlier this week Pew Research released the results of an extensive new national poll on several environmental-related issues, fracking among them. The results were not all that surprising, if you’re an MDN reader for any length of time. The poll found a majority favors the increased use of the miracle of hydraulic fracturing. Women are evenly split on whether to frack more—men are definitely in favor of more fracking. Also not surprising, Republicans and Independents favor fracking by wide margins, and Democrats oppose it by wide margins.
In addition to the fracking question, Pew also polled on the XL Keystone oil pipeline from Canada (two-thirds of Americans favor it), and whether or not global warming is real (most Democrats believe global warming hokum, most Republicans don’t). Here’s the detailed results on the fracking question:
We have the next chapter in the ongoing, very sad story of Ben Lupo, the Youngstown, OH man who ordered an employee to dump fracking wastewater down a sewer drain—wastewater that ended up in the Mahoning River (see Youngstown Business Dumped >200K Gal of Untreated Wastewater). The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources promptly closed down both of the companies he owns and controls, D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating (see OH Company Dumping Frack Wastewater in Drain May Appeal Shut-Down). Lupo and his lawyers have been desperately trying to get the “death sentence” for his companies lifted—at least for D&L Energy, a sizable operation with dozens of employees.
Lupo is now trying a new strategy in his attempt to reopen D&L Energy: He’s resigned from both D&L and Hardrock and has turned over ownership and control of the companies to his wife. D&L has officially “severed all ties” with Lupo. Question is, will it work?
In early 2012, Pennsylvania enacted the most sweeping rework of oil and gas laws in the state in decades (see Gov. Corbett Signs New Marcellus Drilling Law). Called Act 13, one of the provisions of the law is an “impact fee” collected on each horizontal shale well drilled. The fee is intended to offset the impacts of drilling in places where drilling happens, hence the name. However, in order to get enough support to pass Act 13, politics were played and 40% of the “fee” got re-allocated to non-impact uses—i.e., 40% of the fee became a tax (see PA’s New Tax on Drilling (er Sorry, Impact Fee)). Once the dust settled and the bugs were worked out of the new fee/tax by the state Public Utility Commission—the agency tasked with calculating and collecting it—the first year raised $204 million in revenue (see PA Impact Fee Raises More Revenue than Expected).
The preliminary estimates are now out for the second year, and the fee/tax for year #2 has gone down—from $204 million to $198 million, according to Gov. Tom Corbett. Why? The price of natural gas was lower in 2012 than it was in 2011, putting the fee collected into a different “bracket” (see this page for the somewhat complicated grid that determines how fees are calculated). Gov. Corbett’s comments about year #2 impact fee revenue:
A volunteer group in Westmoreland County called the Murrysville Stream Monitoring Group tests seven local streams once each month, looking for total dissolved solids. They’ve been testing since September of last year. The group was started and is populated by anti-drillers, people opposed to Marcellus Shale drilling. The locations they’ve selected to test are close to active Marcellus well drilling operations. What have they found so far? Nothing. Each stream has passed every test they’ve done—both upstream close to well drilling and downstream away from drilling. Same result—nothing.
Since they aren’t finding anything in the streams, maybe it’s time for the Murrysville Group to turn their attention to the air. And so they have. But monitoring air is expensive, requiring equipment that costs $3,000 per unit. The group wants three units, and they want taxpayers to fund it:
An article on the Seeking Alpha blog site highlights the (so-far) underperformance, and now potential upside for Gastar Exploration in the Marcellus Shale. The article refers to Gastar as a “rising star” in the Marcellus.
Here’s a brief portion of the article with a map showing Gastar’s “liquids-rich” lease holdings and where they’ve already drilled (in WV):
GreenHunter Water (and others) anxiously await approval from the Coast Guard to allow shipment of fracking wastewater by barge. GreenHunter has a lot riding on the Coast Guard’s decision (see GreenHunter’s Plans to Move Wastewater by Barge Delayed). Anti-drillers are attempting to prevent barge shipments of frack water as a tactic to discourage drilling. They ignore the glaring fact that substances far more toxic than frack water are shipped on river barges each and every day of the week, all done with a sterling safety record.
Reuters is now reporting that the Coast Guard has recommended barge shipments be allowed and has supplied the Obama administration with a draft rule to do it. Reuters also reports the administration is “inching ahead” with plans to approve the rule:
Although there’s a small minority of mouthy people opposed to shale drilling in Pennsylvania (groups like the Sierra Club and PennFuture), most companies and organizations are clamoring to get a piece of the Marcellus drilling industry action in the Keystone State. Case in point: Several years ago the industry-backed Marcellus Shale Coalition was launched, a fabulous organization that promotes Marcellus Shale drilling and ensures certain standards are met by its members. It’s a “carrot” kind of organization—encouraging drillers to join and conform to common-sense rules. A few weeks ago, a new ad hoc group of drillers and environmentalists announced the launch of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, or “CSSD” (see Important: Drillers & Enviros Form New Group, Launch Cert Program). CSSD wants to supplement state regulations with even tougher, more expensive rules. CSSD wants to force drillers to get their certification—a “stick” kind of organization. Not to be outdone, a few days after CSSD launched yet another group unveiled itself, called the Shale Gas Roundtable. They too are crafting “rules to drill by” that will soon be released (see Out of the Shadows: Another New Group Wants to Regulate PA Shale).
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington, PA Observer-Reporter are not quite ready to throw in the towel on what increasingly looks like a vendetta against Range Resources. The two newspapers sued in May 2012 to have court documents unsealed in a settlement between Range and the Hallowich family in Washington County, PA (see Pittsburgh Newspapers Sue to Unseal Drilling Court Case). The newspapers were hoping to find evidence that Range had covered up a case where their drilling (fracking) had led to contamination of the Hallowich’s water well, or perhaps had adversely affected their health. A judge recently unsealed the court documents and guess what? No evidence of water contamination (see Judge Orders Range/Landowner Settlement in PA Made Public).
Not only was there no water contamination, the Hallowich’s signed an affidavit stating there has been no ill health effects as well (see Affidavit in Range PA Settlement Shows No Drilling Health Impacts). Oops. Major egg on the face of the newspapers. Or using a different metaphor, they went fishing and didn’t even get a bite. What to do? We know! Gin up a false controversy that there’s still a missing document from the the mountains of documents the court released. Yeah, that’ll be worth a few more headlines and copies sold. After all, we have to somehow help pay for the lawyers and time we burned on this effort…
The City of Moundsville (Marshall County), WV is clamping down on the number of trailer and camper sites in town. A number of new sites have sprung up recently because of nearby Marcellus Shale drilling: