Exclusive: MDN Interviews PA DEP Sec. Chris Abruzzo

Christopher AbruzzoMDN became aware that newly nominated (and currently Acting) Secretary of the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection, Chris Abruzzo, would be attending Shale Insight 2013. So we requested an interview with the Secretary, and he obliged! To our knowledge, we were the only media interview he granted during a brief walking around the show visit on Wednesday.

MDN editor Jim Willis asked Sec. Abruzzo some tough questions, including his take on the PA Attorney General’s criminal lawsuit against XTO (see PA AG Abuses Her Authority, Files Criminal Charges Against XTO); his biggest challenge since holding the office in April; how he responds to the charge that the DEP is sometimes too cozy with the drilling industry; an update on the DEP’s study of air quality near drilling sites and compressor stations (see DEP Marcellus Air Study in SW PA Extended Extra Half Year); and his response to John Hanger (former Secretary of the DEP) about his remarks that Abruzzo’s appointment was “bizarre and irresponsible”…
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Shale Insight 2013: Final Wrap-Up, The Big Surprise

Shale Insight 2013 closed with a bang. The inimitable Newt Gingrinch gave the closing keynote address on Thursday to a considerably smaller crowd than was assembled on Wednesday, which was the main day of the event. MDN editor Jim Willis heard Mr. Newt and other keynote addresses and will share his insights on Shale Insight below. However, there was one outstanding surprise at this year’s event compared to last year: No protesters. Or at least very few (literally less than a dozen). Although prior to the event the media hyped (hoped for?) the possibility of mass protests at this year’s event–but it just didn’t happen.

The event organizers were certainly prepared for protesters. Jim noticed security at this year’s event was much more prevalent than last year. You could not walk 10 feet without seeing a security person inside the Philadelphia Convention Center–and that’s not an exaggeration. Last year Jim had to “walk the line” and cut through protesters blocking the front doors (one of the few brave souls to do so before the police came to scatter them). This year? Nothing.  Nada. A single sign about water being a “human right” draped on the front steps of a church across the street from the convention center. Jim was disappointed! He came prepared to interview protesters–but there were none to be found when he wandered outside.

What about inside the Convention Center? Inside it was all (shale) business…
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Victory! UGI Nears Completion of New Pipeline Gate Station

It’s a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. The point where two different natural gas transmission pipelines connect–to transfer gas from one to the other–is called a gate station. Utility company UGI wanted to build a gate station near Scranton, PA so it could tap into locally-produced (and very cheap) Marcellus Shale gas from northeast PA. And of course anti-drillers objected, even though there’s been another gate station operating safely in the area for 50 years (see Anti-Drillers Try to Stop Pipeline Connector in NE PA and Back to Kindergarten: UGI Explains NatGas Gate Stations).

In August a judge finally cleared the way for UGI to build their new gate station–and it’s nearly done. Finally! A victory against the anti-drilling Luddites…
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Rex Energy Water Contamination Case Shifts Focus to Water Pipeline

An update on the lingering/ongoing story of a community in western Pennyslvania (in Butler County) who say that nearby drilling by Rex Energy led to contamination of their well water supplies. The last MDN update on this story was in August of last year (see PA Residents Weary of Fight with Rex over Water Contamination). Some families have retained legal help and either have, or intend, to sue Rex. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection, after an extensive investigation, said that Rex’s drilling is not at fault in the situation.

However, for most of the families, the issue has now progressed beyond blame–apparently water quality in the area was never the greatest to begin with. Rex had built a water line in the area to supply water for fracking and expects to turn over control/ownership of that line later this year. That water line can potentially be used to supply fresh water to the affected homes. The debate now: Who will pay to hook up the homes and to maintain the pipes and infrastructure required?
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Pittsburgh Water-Testing Lab’s Certification Pulled, $60K Fine

We don’t know if any Marcellus drillers in Pennsylvania were previously using Pittsburgh-based Microbac Laboratories to test water or soil for drilling purposes–but we do know they aren’t using them now. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) investigated Microbac and found 50 violations at their Baltimore, Maryland lab. Microbac has voluntarily relinquished its accreditation and will pay a $60,000 fine. Ouch. They will also pay to have an independent third-party audit (i.e. someone will come in and tell them what they’re doing wrong)…
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GE’s New Frack Wastewater Technology Uses Old Technology

GE, which has long had an oil and gas division, is stepping into a new arena for the company: Cleaning up frack wastewater. The company has a new “membrane distillation” process/technology that cuts down on the amount of fresh water needed to clean up frack wastewater. It also cuts out transportation (happens on-site) and eliminates the heating and cooling usually required. Oh, and did we mention: It cuts the price in half over traditional treatment methods.

A bit more about GE’s new frack wastewater technology, which “borrows” this new process/technology from an old technology–industrial refrigerators…
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