One month ago Pennsylvania got the sad news that the state Supreme Court struck down important (and large) sections of the 2012 Act 13 Marcellus Shale drilling law (see PA Supreme Court Rules Against State/Drillers in Act 13 Case). The disappointing aspect of the decision is that Chief Justice Ron Castille, a Republican, joined three Democrats on the bench in deciding to use, for the first time, PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment to create new rights that didn’t exist before (drunk on their own power?). In fact the basis on which Castille made his poor judgment was based on his admitted prejudiced view that drilling and fracking is inherently harmful to the environment–which of course is not the case (see Industry Vet Points Out Error in PA Supreme Court Act 13 Ruling).
One of the biggest problems with the PA Supreme Court decision is that the four justices agreeing to strike down zoning (and other) provisions in Act 13 could not agree on their reasons for doing so, weakening the decision’s usefulness in future cases. They also sent portions of the original case back to a lower court that, if those decisions go the wrong way, will totally wipe out the Act 13 law, sending PA back to the drilling stone ages again, without important environmental protections provided for under the law. Last week Penn State University law professor Ross Pifer analyzed the high court’s poor decision on a webinar call…
Let’s frame this up so you have a proper understanding for the source of this information: A postdoctoral research associate dude at Duke University (a really smart student) teamed up with another smart student getting her master’s degree in environmental management at Duke, to study how much wastewater is produced by both conventional (or traditional) natural gas wells and unconventional horizontally-drilled shale wells in Pennsylvania. In essence they researched and wrote a term paper on the topic which will be published in the February issue of the journal Water Resources Research (see below). The postdoctoral dude has since left Duke and is now an assistant professor of biogeochemistry at Kent State. Hence, we have a “new study issued by Kent State and Duke University.” We’re not denigrating their accomplishments! Just giving you a proper understanding for how these “studies” are sometimes researched and how they’re reported about in the media.
Anywho, the research from our two intrepid students shows that overall, because there are so many shale wells in PA, and because it takes a lot more water to frack a shale well than a conventional well, that (surprise!) shale wells produce more wastewater that conventional wells. The interesting aspect of their research–the finding that is worthy of putting their names in academic lights over–is that per unit of gas recovered, shale wells produce only 1/3 as much wastewater as conventional wells. Let’s put this startling discovery another way: If irrational anti-drillers banned all horizontal fracking of shale wells tomorrow in PA (whoops, the PA Democrat Party is trying to do just that!), and we went back to the days of only mining gas by conventional wells, in order to produce as much gas as we now produce today, we would produce three times as much wastewater to get it from conventional wells. We’d also have to sink way more holes in the ground to get it…
Last Friday Rice Energy, a company devoted to drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale, floated their initial public offering (IPO). In plain language, they started to trade shares of stock on the New York Stock Exchange. So how did they do? Not bad, especially since the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped like a rock on Friday–down 318 points (2%). The Rice Energy stock was priced by the underwriters at $21 per share. By the closing bell it was trading at $21.90, a 4% jump. It’s certainly not as impressive as the recent Antero Resources IPO (see Antero’s Stock Climbs 18% on First Day of Trading). However, Rice is a much smaller company, so it’s not really fair to compare. The Rice IPO infused the company with $924 million in new revenue (selling 44 million shares). That’s 10% more than the $840 million they were hoping for–so we would term their IPO a huge success (see Rice Energy Launches IPO, Hopes to Raise $840M). The company now has a market capitalization (value) of $2.8 billion. Nicely done!
Some reaction and analysis of Rice’s stock debut last Friday by energy investment advisory firm Renaissance Capital:
The fear-mongering continues by those who oppose shale drilling. One of the scare tactics used by anti-drillers is to say that frack wastewater and drill cuttings (leftover rock and dirt) are loaded with radiation and by disposing of it in landfills and via wastewater recycling facilities we’ll all end up irradiated, dying long slow deaths from cancer. Or worse yet, we’ll all become radioactive zombies. Hey, maybe someone could make a movie about that! (Unbelievably, they already have: see Friday Foibles: The Scientific Link Between Fracking and Zombies.)
The Ohio EPA and Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) is not much impressed by all these radioactivity claims. Neither are we. One of the favorite drive-by media claims is that drill cuttings are setting off radiation alarms at landfills in record numbers (“hundreds” of times a year). Thing is, those same alarms go off when medical waste is hauled in too–they’re that sensitive that even radioactive dyes are picked up by them. It proves NOTHING. Yet you see that argument often used–fracking dirt contains radition! Whatever. Here’s the latest drive-by attempt to scare people with radioactive waste concerns, this one emitted by the Columbus Dispatch…
Every now and again the truth pokes through–even in publications like the Philadelphia Inquirer. We read with interest an op-ed in today’s Philly Inquirer that tells the truth about how the Marcellus Shale is responsible for creating 290,000 jobs in Pennsylvania over the past few years–a state with an unemployment rate stuck above 7%. Some 28,000 of those jobs are “core” industry jobs that pay on average $83,000 per year or more. The op-ed says the Marcellus has given Pennsylvania families a reason to be optimistic about their financial future.
The fascinating thing to MDN is that the op-ed is written by Democrat consultant Mike Butler, current executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance (Mid-Atlantic section). Mike is a former political consultant for Democrat Bob Casey for U.S. Senate (who sadly won), Dan Onorato for PA governor (who happily lost to Tom Corbett), and on the staff of former Democrat Congressman Jason Altmire. Huh. A Democrat singing the praises of the Marcellus shale, and at the close of his comments he warns the leaders of his party that the statewide moratorium they say they will enact if they regain political power in the state should be “avoided.” We’d use stronger words, but we’re happy to see at least one Democrat in the entire state hasn’t lost all of his marbles…
An irony of ironies…The anti-drilling lobby in New Jersey is very strong. Even though there’s no recoverable Marcellus Shale gas in NJ, so-called environmentalists continually agitate for a statewide ban on fracking. A number of them also cross the border to make trouble in PA too, showing up for protest rallies. Even though they hate natural gas that comes from fracked Marcellus Shale–the very same protesters burn it to heat their homes and cook their meals. Some of them even use it to power natural gas vehicles.
So it strikes us as a tad ironic that those same anti-drillers will see yet another huge rebate on their next gas bill from Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), NJ’s largest gas and electric utility. Why? Because PSE&G has been wisely buying cheap Marcellus Shale gas produced in PA, and by law they have to pass along the savings to their customers. So in February their bills will be chopped by 24%, thanks to the same Marcellus gas groups like the Sierra Club are protesting…
The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: