Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Fri, Dec 20, 2013

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading:

New York

Team Cuomo Set to Decide Fate of Cayuga Lake Coal Plant — Sunset or Switch?
NY Shale Gas Now!
This past Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo moved decisively to score some rare points with ordinary people in Western New York, taking credit for saving the coal-fired electricity plant at Dunkirk, by greasing the bureaucratic wheels to re-power it with cleaner and cheaper natural gas. Out that way, most power consumers, skilled workers, taxpayers, and local government people really liked the plan. Media reports indicate the governor was honored in person with cheerleaders, a band, and banners of gratitude. New York environmentalists didn’t like the plan. In fact, this group was faced with a seemingly once-in-a-lifetime choice between doing away with the old, proven horrors of acid rain (and many other kinds of air pollution) from coal, and coming to terms instead with the new, unproven horrors of fracking from the production of natural gas. They advocated instead for a Plan C — alternative ideas, some involving renewables, and some involving adjustments to the overhead power line grid. But they lost.


Utica shale development driving sales tax increases for Ohio counties
Columbus Business First
Development in the Utica shale play is driving up sales tax revenue for counties in eastern Ohio, helping lift local economies that have struggled for decades. That’s the take I came away with after reading a new analysis by Shawn Bennett, director of Energy in Depth Ohio, an oil and gas education and advocacy group. Bennett examined data on the Ohio Department of Taxation’s sales tax distribution website. What he found were some eye-popping increases for five counties in the heart of the Utica shale play. For example, Harrison County has seen its sales tax apportionment rise from just under $1 million in 2011 to $3.1 million through October of this year. The rural county, whose population stood at 15,830 in 2012, is the site for major natural gas processing projects by MarkWest Energy Partners LP and Utica East Ohio and is second in the state for drilling permits for Utica wells.

Sales Tax Revenue Continues to Climb in Ohio’s Shale Country
Energy in Depth
Since Utica Shale development took off in 2011, companies have been investing a tremendous amount of capital in eastern Ohio. Billions of dollars are being spent to create much-needed infrastructure, developing well sites, and constructing regional headquarters for service companies. In addition, landowners have benefited from lease payments, businesses have seen an uptick in sales activity, and counties are having their roads improved on behalf of the companies operating in their communities. This kind of investment translates to another often-unappreciated benefit: a significant increase in sales tax revenues. Going through the Ohio Department of Taxation’s sales tax distribution website, the true impact of that increased revenue is revealed: Over the past two years, counties with Utica Shale activity have all experienced remarkable increases in sales tax apportionment.

OH: Board of Engineers and Surveyors Notice
Energy & Environmental Law Blog
The Ohio State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors has a notice that your professional engineers may be interested in. It starts as follows: “With the increased engineering and surveying activity in Ohio related to oil and gas extraction the Board has received several questions concerning the registration process and the requirements for individuals and firms that want to come into Ohio and provide engineering and surveying services to the oil and gas companies. Ohio law requires individuals offering and providing engineering and surveying to be registered in Ohio. Likewise, firms offering and providing engineering and surveying services in Ohio must be registered and obtain a Certificate of Authorization BEFORE offering, contracting or performing engineering or surveying services.” If your a PE working in Ohio, or employ one, read it all.

OH: Facilities Guidelines for Frack Wastewater
Energy & Environmental Law Blog
The Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (DMRM) has published a set of guidelines and related application form for facilities that store, recycle, treat, process, or dispose of brine and other waste substances from production operations (see here). Note, according to the posting: 1. Persons desiring to operate a facility or persons that are currently operating a facility may submit an application to the Chief in order to operate on and after January 1, 2014, or in order to continue to operate on and after January 1, 2014. The application must include information listed below. The Chief will review the application and will issue temporary authorization through a Chief’s Order if the Chief approves the operation. 2. Upon promulgation of the rules required by R.C. 1509.22(C), all facilities operating pursuant to a Chief’s Order will be required to obtain a permit pursuant to the requirements of those rules. Details of the permitting process will be posted to the Division’s website after the rules receive final approval.


First criminal case against Marcellus driller gets underway
StateImpact Pennsylvania
A preliminary hearing in Williamsport yesterday marked the beginning of the Pennsylvania’s first criminal case involving a Marcellus Shale driller. In July, the federal Environmental Protection Agency fined XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, for a 2010 spill which involved discharging between 6,300 and 57,373 gallons of waste water into the Susquehanna river system in Penn Township, Lycoming County. The waste water contained high levels of strontium, chloride, bromide, barium, and total dissolved solids and flowed continually for more than two months in the fall of 2010, according to the EPA. In September, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed criminal charges against XTO.

Witnesses Called in XTO Marcellus Spill Case
NGI’s Shale Daily
State prosecutors called six witnesses to the stand on Wednesday in a preliminary hearing at the trial court-level on the unprecedented criminal charges brought against XTO Energy Inc. in September by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who maintains that the company should be held liable for a 2010 wastewater spill at one of its drilling sites in the state. The case represents the first time criminal charges have been filed against an operator in Pennsylvania, and given the fact that XTO — the onshore subsidiary of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company, ExxonMobil Corp. — is involved, both sides have reportedly brought out the legal big guns. XTO is represented by three law firms, while the state has brought to bear its leading lawyers, including the attorney general’s top environmental attorney, Glenn A. Parno.

Washington County knows the benefits of shale drilling
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Allegheny County is wise to explore a non-surface Marcellus Shale lease at Deer Lakes Park (“Park Gas Offer Includes $3.5 Million Bonus,” Dec. 15). In Washington County, under the leadership of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, the same natural gas production company, Range Resources, has successfully drilled nearly 40 horizontal shale wells more than a mile beneath the surface of Cross Creek Park, with minimal impacts. To quote the Dec. 17 editorial, the moniker very much has been “drill, carefully, drill” across Washington County. At the park, highly productive natural gas wells are mostly unnoticeable — tucked away quietly and by design in hillsides, occupying only about 1 percent of the park’s surface. Cross Creek is unusual, because unlike other parks across the commonwealth and the nation, it is state-of-the-art. Thanks to the revenue generated by safe, well-regulated shale development, Washington County parks are thriving with new roads, parking areas, docks and playgrounds. Additionally, the county even worked with Range Resources to enhance the park for wildlife development with new food plots and habitat improvement.

Good Financial News Abounds in the Marcellus Shale
Natural Gas Now
There is tremendous good financial news on multiple fronts in the Marcellus Shale region, at least those parts of it where the natural gas industry is allowed to thrive. Pennsylvania, like neighboring Ohio and many other states, has viewed its oil and gas industry as a valuable resource to be developed for the common good and companies doing business there, companies such as Range Resources, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chief Oil & Gas and Southwest Energy, all have much to celebrate. Unlike New York, where government, media, and special interest groups have mangled the free-market with regulation and politics, it’s been a completely different story in the Commonwealth, at least that part of it outside the Delaware River basin.


Scientists to Gov. Jerry Brown: Fracking Is Safe and Will Benefit California
Energy in Depth
Yesterday, 21 leading scientists, engineers and technical experts submitted a letter* to Governor Jerry Brown endorsing the benefits of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in California. The AP reported: The letter…comes after California adopted regulations requiring oil companies to test groundwater and disclose chemicals used in fracking. The group said the strict new rules, which become permanent in 2015, will ensure fracking is done responsibly. The signers of the letter include Berkeley climate scientist Dr. Richard Muller – who just released a paper explaining why environmentalists should embrace shale development – and Dr. Stephen Holditch, former head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University. Holditch also served as an advisor to President Obama’s Secretary of Energy as a member of the Natural Gas Subcommittee examining the technical elements of shale development. The authors touch on a number of key benefits from shale development, which include jobs, economic growth and lower energy bills for Californians.

New online database charts water quality regulations related to oil and gas development
The Oil & Gas – Water Quality database project is led by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Intermountain Oil and Gas Best Management Practices (BMP) Project in partnership with Temple University’s Public Health Law Research program and its website. The newly launched Oil & Gas – Water Quality dataset (// was created as a comparative tool for examining water quality laws and regulations related to oil and gas activities in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. The database allows policymakers, local governments, industry officials and citizens to study the scope of water quality law in their state or to make comparisons with other states. An interactive map allows for easy navigation across different jurisdictions, and downloadable PDFs are available that document each state’s water quality regulations.