State Health Com. Nirav Shah has Enough of Andy Cuomo, Leaving NY

keep calm and blame the whipping boyApparently Dr. Nirav Shah, State Health Commissioner in New York, is tired of being Andrew Cuomo’s tool–Andy’s whipping boy. For more than a year Cuomo has been able to hide behind an unfinished so-called public health review of proposed new fracking rules, proposed by the state’s Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In what can only be called a conspiracy, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens asked Shah for a review of the SGEIS with an eye to how shale drilling may (or may not) affect this nebulous concept called “the public health.” It’s now obvious that both Martens and Cuomo had set up Shah as the fall guy, requesting (we suspect) that Shah intentionally delay his findings. Shah has been carrying their water for more than a year now. Recently Norse Energy and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York sued Cuomo, Martens and Shah to force them to finish the health review and release the new drilling regs (see D-Day: JLCNY Files Lawsuit Today Against Cuomo, Martens, Shah).

Yesterday Shah announced he is stepping down from his position in June. He’s had enough of this incestuous mess called New York State politics, and enough of the man-child Andy Cuomo–a pathetic politician who can’t make a decision about fracking. The reason we suspect Cuomo asked Shah to delay the results of his “health review” is because a) Shah originally said the review would be done within several weeks, which has turned into more than a year, and b) Shah is leaving to become Chief Operating Officer of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in southern California–at double or triple his current salary. It’s a huge promotion. You think Kaiser would hire a new COO who is inept and can’t complete a simple and straightforward health review? No way–which tells you Shah was delaying at the request of Cuomo and Martens. And he’s now had enough…
Continue reading

PA DEP Says Chevron Blocked Access to Greene County Well Fire

On Feb. 11 Chevron’s Lanco 7H well in Greene County, PA exploded and caught fire. Although it’s not clear what caused the explosion, workers were connecting the well to a gathering pipeline (i.e. welding) and it’s not much of a stretch to connect the dots. One of the workers at the site tragically lost his life (see Remains of Chevron Contractor Found at Greene County Well Site). The fire at Lanco 7H spread to the well next it–Lanco 6H. After five days the twin fires were put out and eventually the wells were capped (see Chevron Well Fire Update: 2nd Well Capped, Work on 7 Wells Stopped).

Both the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Chevron continue to investigate what went wrong. However, three weeks ago the DEP issued a preliminary Notice of Violation about the accident and fires (see it embedded below). The surprising revelation in the NOV is that Chevron blocked DEP personnel from accessing the site for two days while the fire burned. DEP personnel, by law, have carte blanche access to any well anywhere at any time. Chevron was no doubt trying to protect the DEP agents, however, blocking them from the site clearly rankled the agency and will now be part of a fine they eventually assess on Chevron…
Continue reading

The Skeletons Knocking Around in Chesapeake Energy’s Closet

An article on The Motley Fool investors website takes a look at Chesapeake Energy and the potential skeletons that may be hiding in their closet. The purpose of the article is to make the point that potential suitors who may want to buy Chessy may want to reconsider that concept because of Chessy’s skeletons–much to dismay of corporate raider Carl Icahn who has invested a lot of his own money on the gamble that he can hack off entire pieces of Chessy and make it an attractive buy-out option, boosting his own fortune even more (Tolkien’s Smaug sitting atop mountains of ill-gotten gold comes to mind).

So which skeletons do we already know about in Chessy’s closet, and which ones don’t we know about (yet)?…
Continue reading

Silica Dust Exposure Topic A at ShaleSafe Conference in Wheeling

The West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association hosted their inaugural ShaleSafe Conference and Expo at Oglebay Park in Wheeling earlier this week (Monday through Wednesday). What makes the conference interesting and unusual is that the entire event was focused on the topic of safety in shale plays–particularly the Marcellus and Utica. If you hang around with oil and gas people for any length of time, the topic of safety comes up. Contrary to the picture anti-drillers try to paint, the oil and gas industry is laser focused on worker and public safety. And that focus showed at the conference.

The highlight of the conference–the main focus–was a panel on silica (sand) exposure, which was held yesterday (Wednesday). That panel featured Michael Breitenstein from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Dr. Michael McCawley, chairman of the Department of Occupational & Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University. McCawley, you may remember, has been beating the drum for some time that setbacks for drilling in WV are not enough and that air pollution coming from drilling operations is a serious issue (see WVU Prof Keeps Up Pressure on Improved Air Quality at Drill Sites). Silica dust is a serious issue, and both speakers were there to put the fear of God into the audience about it…
Continue reading

WV Conference Speaker Says PA is Tops with Spill Containment Regs

The main focus for the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association’s ShaleSafe Conference and Expo at Oglebay Park in Wheeling this week was silica dust exposure (see MDN’s related article published today). However, another session was a close second as Topic A–the session on spill containment. The sole presenter on spill containment was Beth Powell from New Pig Energy. Spill containment became a huge topic for everyone in West Virginia after a chemical spill related to coal mining affected the drinking water for 300,000 WV residents earlier this year. In the aftermath of that spill, the WV legislature passed new regulations for chemical storage tanks–regulations that affect not only the coal industry guilty of the spill, but also the shale drilling industry too (see Impact of WV’s New Chemical Tank Law on Marcellus Drillers).

Ms. Powell had some interesting things to say about spill containment–and she should know since well pad containment systems are New Pig’s business. Among her comments, Powell said Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations are far more strict than either West Virginia or Ohio when it comes to spills and spill containment. Now that’s something you don’t hear from anti-drillers in PA who try to paint the DEP as lax, derelict in their duty, and in bed with the drilling industry…
Continue reading

Plastics, Low Electric Rates from Utica/Marcellus Help NE OH Cos.

How can northeastern Ohio, once thought to be the epicenter for Utica Shale drilling but now yesterday’s news, still profit from the shale drilling revolution happening in the southern part of the state? As Dustin Hoffman’s character was told in The Graduate, one word: plastics. Plastics and petrochemicals were the main focus of the “Plastics Products from Utica Energy” event held in Canton, OH on April 7th. Ethane from Utica and Marcellus Shale drilling can be cracked to produce ethylene, the raw material used in making plastics. With two cracker plants planned in the region–one in Beaver County, PA and one in Parkersburg, WV–petrochemical manufacturers in northeastern OH are in a great geography to take advantage of shale drilling, even if it’s not happening where they are located.

However, plastics is not the only thing Ohio manufacturers need. They also need cheap electricity, and natural gas used to fire electric generating plants is lowering the cost of electricity throughout the region (along with lowering pollution), which is very good news for northeastern OH, giving their manufacturers a leg up on other areas…
Continue reading

2 Spineless PA RINOs Join Call for High Marcellus Severance Tax

Several mainstream media outlets are trumpeting that “Republicans join the call for tax on Marcellus drillers.” Of course you have to read the fine print of the story to learn the so-called Republicans, which are really Republicans-In-Name-Only (RINOs), are really just two Republicans from the Philadelphia area where there is no drilling. They both want to stick their fingers into the pockets of landowners and drillers so they have funny money to throw around and buy votes with. Yes, we’re talking to you Gene DiGirolamo (Bucks County) and Tom Murt (Montgomery/Philadelphia counties). Shame on both of you.

The real story is this: Two spineless RINO sellouts from the Philly area “join the call” for obscene taxes on the drilling industry. There is no mass movement among Republicans in Pennsylvania to kill off the drilling industry with high severance taxes being advocated by just about every Democrat legislator and Democrat candidate in the state. We sure hope the people of PA have wised up to the Dem drivel about taxing one industry (shale drilling) to give the Dems (and RINOs) boatloads of money to squander on pet projects–the chief pet project being to put money into the pockets of people who will vote for them…
Continue reading

Oglebay Resort Profits from NE Shale in a Way You’d Never Guess

The Oglebay Resort & Conference Center by all accounts is a spectacular venue and the perfect place to hold a conference. With 1,700 acres near Wheeling, WV, Oglebay offers 271 rooms, 54 standalone cottages, a spa, indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna, top notch cuisine and dining…you get the picture. The West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) chose Oglebay to host its first-ever ShaleSafe Conference & Expo, held earlier this week (see a pair of MDN stories about the event in today’s lineup).

The purpose of this story is to highlight how Oglebay is benefiting (profiting!) from the shale drilling industry. Given their great location, in the middle of shale drilling on all sides (SW PA, WV, OH), it’s no surprise that Oglebay is happy to host a number of shale and oil & gas related events. It’s an important new revenue stream for them. With pristine countryside and unparalleled views, with old-growth trees and wildlife frolicking around the 1,700 acres, you would certainly want to protect and maintain it. But wait, what’s this? Oglebay leased their land for drilling in 2009 (gasp) and they now receive royalty checks too? That’s right–and when you visit Oglebay with its pristine countryside and unparalleled views, you’d never know it unless they told you…
Continue reading