MDN Weekly Update – Apr 1, 2012: Waterless Fracking

over-the-topThis past week brought a surprise announcement from “stalled at the gate” New York State. A group of landowners in Tioga County, NY (which sits between Binghamton and Elmira, in what is called the Southern Tier region of New York) are signing a lease with eCorp to allow Marcellus drilling using a waterless fracking technology pioneered by the Canadian company GASFRAC (see this MDN story). By using LPG fracking technology, eCorp and the Tioga landowners can move forward with drilling now—they won’t have to wait for New York’s four-year-old moratorium on fracking to be lifted. They can frack now with this waterless technology.

In the article about the Tioga landowner deal, MDN speculated that given most or all of the stated reasons anti-drillers oppose drilling would be gone, they will invent new reasons to not like waterless fracking too. That is, this situation will show the true colors of anti-drillers—that their agenda is really one of not only opposing the recovery of, but also the use of fossil fuels because of a misguided belief/philosophy/worldview that fossil fuels are evil.

Which brings us to this week’s poll question: Will anti-drillers oppose waterless LPG fracking too? I’d like to know what you think. Will those who oppose drilling now get on board? Or is their position so hardened, so unbending, so “over the top” that they will oppose any kind of extraction of natural gas? Head on over to the right side of any page and register your vote.

Last Week’s Poll Results

poll resultsLast week MDN wanted to know if you believe that energy companies are intentionally overstating just how much recoverable gas there is in shale deposits. Here’s the results:

Are drillers overstating recoverable shale gas estimates to increase the stock price and attract investors?

No (55%, 150 Votes)
Yes (26%, 71 Votes)
Not sure (19%, 53 Votes)

Total Voters: 274

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy fracking,
Jim Willis, Editor

P.S. Sales of the new “Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook 2012” continue to be strong—thanks! The Databook is a 116-page comprehensive guide to drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Chock full of maps showing where permits have been issued, including details on drillers, pipelines and regulations, this new publication is indispensable if you have an interest in shale drilling in the Marcellus and Utica. For more details, including sample pages, visit:

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MDN Weekly Update – Mar 25, 2012: Inflated Reserve Estimates

mockingjay pinThe most read story on MDN over the past seven days was about estimates of how much natural gas the Marcellus contains—and for good reason.

Last year the New York Times started a riff about how evil natural gas is. One of themes from the Times has been that the amount of shale gas in general that is recoverable (“proven reserves”) has been vastly overstated by the energy industry (see this MDN story). The Times, and most recently Rolling Stone (see this MDN story), have tried to make the case that shale gas drillers know there’s not as much recoverable shale gas as they state on their balance sheets and that they intentionally overstate how much gas there is to attract more investment and drive up the stock price for their companies. The Times and Rolling Stone claim the situation is akin to a Ponzi scheme, a house of cards that will at some point come tumbling down.

There’s just one small problem with that particular bit of fiction: a glut of new natural gas that’s hit the market and has driven the commodity price of natural gas to 10-year price lows. If the gas really isn’t there, why is there so much of it flooding the market?

Which brings us to this week’s poll question: Are drillers intentionally overstating how much shale gas there is to drive up the value of their companies and attract investors? What’s your opinion? Head on over to the right side of any page and register your vote.

poll resultsLast Week’s Poll Results

Last week MDN wanted to know if you were surprised that the EPA found no water problems caused by fracking in Dimock, PA. And no surprise here: Most MDN readers were not surprised.

Were you surprised the EPA found no water problems from drilling in Dimock?

No (82%, 197 Votes)
Yes (18%, 43 Votes)

Total Voters: 240

Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook 2012

Thank you to the many MDN readers who have already purchased the “Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook 2012.” The Databook is a 116-page comprehensive guide to drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Chock full of maps showing where permits have been issued, including details on drillers, pipelines and regulations, this new publication is indispensable if you have an interest in shale drilling in the Marcellus and Utica. For more details, including sample pages, visit:

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

May the odds be ever in your favor,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Mar 18, 2012: Shell Cracker, Dimock Water

Shell plant locationIt certainly has been an eventful week. Two stories loomed large. The first was Shell’s announcement on Thursday that they have signed a letter of intent with Horsehead Corporation for a zinc processing plant location in Monaca, PA (Beaver County) as the location where they intend to build a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant (see this MDN story). See an aerial photograph of the plant location by clicking the image on the right (courtesy of ShaleNavigator).

Building a petrochemical plant of this size in the Appalachian region is an amazing benefit to the entire northeastern economy and will be for years to come. The only “downside” (if you can call it that) is that construction to build the plant is at least two years away. Still, this is a huge vote of confidence in the Marcellus and Utica Shale and it’s potential. As one commenter pointed out, Shell has run the numbers in their spreadsheets, basing their decision on economics—and their spreadsheets tell them the Marcellus and Utica are winners.

The other major news from this past week was that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the first round of water test results from their own testing in Dimock, PA and has found the water is safe to drink (see this MDN story). The families suing Cabot Oil & Gas hoping for a big payday are not happy with the EPA results. MDN wondered where Josh Fox and his banjo, and Mark Ruffalo and his “spotless mind” were? They were no place to be found around Dimock—but then Dimock was always just a stage prop for them anyway—a way to gain yet another 15 minutes of national attention.

The EPA test results are not yet all done, but this first round certainly seems to indicate the EPA will perhaps finally butt out of Dimock.

The Dimock situation fosters this week’s poll question: Were you surprised that the EPA found no water problems in Dimock? Not, “Were you happy?” or “Were you distressed?” But, did it surprise you? It would be a surprise if you expected the EPA to find water problems. MDN is interested in knowing what your expectations were with EPA’s testing.

Head on over to the right side of any page and register your vote.

poll resultsLast Week’s Poll Results

Last week MDN asked your opinion on whether or not plans like that being promoted by Gov. John Kasich in Ohio to “spread the wealth” by taxing drilling (one group) to give it to another group via lower taxes, is a good idea. The majority said no, it’s not a good idea.

Is it OK to tax shale drilling and share the proceeds with all citizens via an income tax cut?

No (52%, 135 Votes)
Yes (40%, 105 Votes)
Not sure (8%, 22 Votes)

Total Voters: 262

Coming This Week – MDN’s First Paid Publication

MDN editor Jim Willis is super excited to announce MDN’s first paid publication will become available this week. It’s called “Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook 2012.” The Databook is a 116-page comprehensive guide to drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Chock full of maps showing where permits have been issued, including details on drillers, pipelines and regulations, I believe you will find this new publication indispensable if you have an interest in shale drilling in the Marcellus and Utica. Watch the MDN site this week for a special announcement!

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Mar 11, 2012: Taxed to Death

born free taxed to deathThis past week brought the news that Ohio Gov. John Kasich will this week unveil a plan to assess a new tax on shale gas drilling (see this MDN story). Unlike Pennsylvania’s recently passed tax (oops, impact fee) where 60 percent stays in the local community to offset the effects of where drilling actually happens and “only” 40 percent goes to Harrisburg for politicians to play with, it appears that 100 percent of this new Ohio tax will go to the general revenue fund so that Kasich can give all residents an Ohio state income tax cut.

MDN has been accused of having Tea Party views when it comes to taxes. Guilty as charged. As we pointed out in a second story this week, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association also agrees with MDN’s view that the proposed new tax essentially “spreads the wealth” unfairly from those who own the resource (landowners) and those who work hard to produce it (drillers) to those who have had nothing to do with it. But, it seems, such is the world we’ve come to live in. What’s yours is mine and if you don’t like it, well, we’ll elect people who will forcibly take it from you and give it to me! Welcome to Ameritopia where we’re born free and then taxed to death.

But MDN wonders, is this the price we must pay to develop this natural resource? Do we have to “buy off” the population at large? Would such a strategy work in New York too? If you take a certain percentage of the proceeds from drilling and just hand it out, as Alaska does with oil tax money to its citizens—would that change public opinion toward shale oil and gas drilling? The sad truth is, it might well.

So this week we ask you the question, what do you think? Is it OK to tax shale drilling and share the proceeds with everyone via a personal income tax cut? It will be interesting to see what MDN readers think.

Last Week’s Poll Results

poll resultsLast week MDN asked a question to find out if you personally know people in the shale drilling industry—or if you work in the industry yourself. By a hefty 3 to 2 margin the answer is “yes” you do personally know people working in the industry.

Do you or someone you know (family member, friend, acquaintance) work in the shale gas industry?

Yes (64%, 138 Votes)
No (36%, 77 Votes)

Total Voters: 215

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy “spring forward”,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Mar 4, 2012: Shale Gas Jobs

drill here work nowThe past few weeks there have been a lot of stories about, and interest in, shale industry jobs. When I compile the “top five most viewed stories” for the past week and the past month, I leave out of the list hits on non-article pages, like the Landowner’s directory, which usually receives as many or more reads as some MDN stories in a given week.

One item that caught my attention for this past week was the number of views for a calendar item—the first time I recall a calendar item getting more views than a story! The calendar item as for a job recruitment fair near Pittsburgh held yesterday: PIOGA Job Recruitment Expo – Washington, PA. That little calendar entry on MDN received the second most number of reads in the past seven days (731), although I did not include it in the “top 5” stories list below (I don’t include calendar items in that list, only stories).

I asked myself, why that calendar item? In digging through the web analytics, I found the vast majority of incoming visitors to that page came from Google searches, which says to me there was local media coverage in Pittsburgh for the job fair, and that coverage sent people scrambling to search for more details on the expo. Many people fire up Google to perform a search for information. The number one search phrase people used in Google to find more details for the expo, at least for the ones who came to MDN, was “pioga recruitment expo”. MDN’s calendar item is, as of today, the number two result for that search on Google. PIOGA themselves are the number one result.

There really is no mystery in why people are interested in shale gas jobs. The job-generating power of shale gas can not be overstated. It’s potential is huge. Over the past week we had the release of a study predicting 65,000 new jobs in Ohio from shale gas drilling by 2014—two short years away. New facilities are being built (see this article on Baker Hughes) creating even more jobs. And anecdotally, it seems almost daily in my own personal circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, I hear of someone who now works in the shale industry now. What’s so amazing about that? I live in New York, where there is no drilling! To be fair, I live about 15 miles from the border of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and there is a LOT of drilling happening there—and that’s where my family and friends are finding work. So even though New York is still stuck at the starting gate with respect to drilling, there are some New Yorkers who live near border areas in what is called the Southern Tier of New York who are benefiting from the drilling that happens in PA. Go PA!

With an abundance of new shale jobs, I wonder (and hence this week’s poll question), do either you, or someone you know (friend, family member, acquaintance) work for the shale gas industry? I would like to know how widespread this phenomenon is. Register your vote on the right side of any page on the website.

poll resultsLast Week’s Poll Results

Actually, last week’s poll ran for two weeks. I wanted to know whether or not you have enough land to lease and if you do, if it’s now under lease for drilling. The poll found of those who own enough land to lease, it’s pretty close between those who have signed and those who have not—roughly half and half. Thanks for participating!

For those in the Marcellus/Utica Shale region, is your land:

Leased for drilling (42%, 167 Votes)
Not leased for drilling (48%, 191 Votes)
Does not apply to me (10%, 40 Votes)

Total Voters: 398

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Feb 19, 2012: MDN Predicts Where Cracker Plant Will be Built

poll resultsThis week MDN asks a question about you, our valued reader. Do you live in the Marcellus or Utica Shale region? If so, is your land leased for drilling? Not leased? Or does the question not apply to you—either you don’t own land, or you don’t own enough to be worthwhile for drilling, or maybe you own a house inside of a city or village, or maybe you don’t live in the Marcellus/Utica region. I would like to take the pulse of those who are reading MDN on a regular basis.

Speaking of which, MDN has just passed another major milestone. There are now over 40,000 unique individuals who visit the site each and every month. Some visit more than once (some many times!), so the number of visits on a monthly basis is now 70,000. Thank you!

In addition, some hardcore people subscribe to receive MDN’s daily email alert (subscribe here) that contains the headlines for stories posted that day (Monday through Friday, plus Sunday). That number now stands at 2,300. Again, thank you!

Since there are so many new visitors, I would like to know a bit more about who is reading. One of the best ways of doing that is to find out if your interest lies in leasing your land for drilling. Please take a moment to vote on the right side of any page in the site. It’s completely anonymous.

Last Week’s Cracker Plant Poll & MDN’s Prediction

Last week’s MDN poll asked you to put on your prognosticator’s hat and predict where Shell will decide to build its new billion dollar ethane cracker plant. I asked you to refrain from boosterism and tell me where you think it will be built, not where you want it to be built. The overwhelming majority believe it will be built in Pennsylvania. After that, Ohio, and last, West Virginia. Let me tell you what I think!

MDN must depart from the wisdom of the the crowd and predicts it will be built in West Virginia. Please don’t mistake this prediction for cheerleading or preference. I believe having it built in any of those states is a fine choice. Let me tell you why I think it will be WV.

The plant must be located near the wet gas areas of the Marcellus and Utica Shales. That means either southwest PA, WV or eastern OH. No mystery or great brainpower there. The company building the plant, Shell, also has extensive lease holdings throughout the region for drilling. The plant will be operated by a different division than the drilling, but it’s still the same company. Here’s the relevant things I would consider if I were Shell:

  • In PA, the largest city in the western part of the state is Pittsburgh—arguably the energy capital of the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Pittsburgh has banned drilling and has threatened communities upstream with “toxic trespass” from drilling in their communities—they are very threatening and menacing to their neighbors. They also have a U.S. Senator, Bob Casey, who has introduced federal legislation that would severely limit hydraulic fracturing and make what is a state regulatory issue a federal issue, i.e., it would trample states’ rights. If I were them, I’d find Casey’s incessant cheerleading to land my plant hypocritical to say the least. In PA’s favor, they did just pass new legislation that makes drilling throughout the state a bit less uncertain by limiting local zoning laws that apply to drilling, and their version of a severance tax (called an impact fee) is very reasonable.
  • In Ohio, we have the Utica Shale, and it’s hot. We have a governor, John Kasich, who wants the plant badly and a legislature willing to grant Shell $1.4 billion in incentives to build it—that goes a long way. But Ohio also has a Republican attorney general, Mike DeWine, who seems to want to score political points by going after drillers who he claims are polluting, and he’s trying to deny a wastewater treatment plant a permit to operate previously granted (saying it was granted illegally). Will Mr. DeWine come after Shell in the future? It seems the leaders of Ohio are not all on the same page when it comes to drilling. Still, it has its appeals—that $1.4B is a big incentive!
  • Then there’s West Virginia. This past year they passed new gas drilling legislation in record time. They’ve passed a law saying if Shell invests $2 billion in a plant there, they won’t have to pay any property taxes for 25 years, and taxes on machinery and equipment will be drastically reduced. They’re also willing to install short line railroads, new railroad bridges, and do just about anything else Shell needs to make a site perfect for their needs. And they’ve been courting Shell, nonstop, for more than year. All of their leaders are on the same page, the welcome mat is out, and the panhandle area is smack in the middle of the tri-state region where Shell wants to be. OH on one side, PA on the other.

That’s how I would think about the decision before Shell, and why I predict it will be West Virginia. Of course there are other key considerations, like a suitable site that can be obtained at the right price, major highways and railways nearby, close to the river. But if all of those factors are about the same, I think Shell will favor WV for the reasons I’ve stated.

Caveat: I have absolutely no insider knowledge. No tips from anyone. I have not spoken to Shell. I make my prediction based purely on speculation and reading, widely, about the issue. That’s it. So if it’s one of the other states, oh well! I’ll eat some humble pie. The bottom line here is, no matter where it’s built, it’s a huge win for everyone in the entire northeast.

Poll results: Where will Shell build its new cracker plant?

Pennsylvania (42%, 144 Votes)
Ohio (31%, 106 Votes)
West Virginia (27%, 93 Votes)

Total Voters: 343

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Feb 12, 2012: Shell’s Cracker Plant

poll resultsThis week MDN asks the poll question, “Where will Shell build its new cracker plant?” MDN reported some three weeks ago that the timing for Shell’s announcement had changed from January to February (see this MDN story). Unless the timeline changes again, which is not beyond the realm of possibility, we should find out very soon where Shell has decided to build a plant.

Since there are new MDN readers each week, a very brief petrochemical lesson in case you’re not quite sure what a cracker plant is, and why it’s important. When natural gas is drilled, the primary chemical compound that comes out of the bore hole is methane, what you typically think of as “natural gas.” But other chemical compounds come out as well, along with the methane. The second largest chemical component by volume is a chemical called ethane (one of the natural gas liquids, see this MDN story for more on NGLs). Anywhere from one to six percent of what is mined is ethane. All of the gas that is mined needs processing to separate it into its components. What happens with ethane?

Ethane can be further processed, or chemically “cracked” into ethylene, which is a raw material used to make plastics. When Shell builds its $1.5-$2.0 billion ethane cracker plant, it means that dozens, perhaps hundreds of other businesses that manufacture plastics will locate around the plant like satellites orbiting a planet. All of sudden, what is a great opportunity—two billion dollars of investments and thousands of jobs—becomes 15 to 20 billion dollars of economic activity, tens of thousands of jobs, and billions in new tax revenue. It is truly a mind-blowing opportunity for the state that lands the cracker plant.

So now you have an inkling why West Virginia voted to eliminate property tax for any plant that invests at least $2 billion. And why Ohio is offering $1.4 billion in incentives. And why the governors of both WV and OH have flown to Houston to meet with Shell to try and convince them to select their state (see this MDN story).  Lately, Pennsylvania is also getting in on the action, with Sen. Bob Casey calling and issuing press releases every other day (see this MDN story). And as everyone knows, PA has a pro-drilling governor, Tom Corbett.

So where will it go? It’s truly anyone’s guess. We know this much: It will be built in either West Virginia, Ohio or Pennsylvania. Shell has stated they have certain requirements, like easy access to a river and railroad lines. WV has all but promised to build new short line railroads and bridges if necessary. All of the states are “bidding” to get the plant by offering various deals.

What do you think? Not, “what do you hope.” From reading various accounts of who’s trying the hardest to attract the plant, where do you think Shell will end up building it? Register your vote along the right side of any page on the site. Let’s have some fun and see if the MDN readership can accurately guess the outcome.

Last Week’s Poll

Last week’s MDN poll asked your opinion of the documentary file Gasland. A sizable number, nearly one quarter, have not yet seen it. Of those who have watched it, a majority of MDN readers believe Josh Fox is not playing fair with his viewers. MDN doesn’t think so either. Here are the results:

Is the documentary Gasland:

Mostly inaccurate/propaganda (56%, 132 Votes)
Haven’t watched it (23%, 53 Votes)
Mostly accurate/truthful (21%, 49 Votes)

Total Voters: 234

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Feb 5, 2012: Josh Fox – Truth-teller or Propagandist?

poll resultsLast week’s MDN poll asked whether or not you believe that President Obama is now genuinely a supporter of hydraulic fracturing and shale gas drilling. Seems there are quite a few skeptics in the MDN audience. Here are the results:

Concerning President Obama’s statements supporting fracking & shale gas drilling, is he:

Genuine/Now in Favor (20%, 53 Votes)
Fake/Election Year Stunt (70%, 187 Votes)
I’m Not Sure (10%, 26 Votes)

Total Voters: 266

This Week’s Poll: Is Gasland a truthful documentary, or propaganda?

This past week, the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on hydraulic fracturing. Specifically, the Republicans on the committee wanted to challenge the out-of-control Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their attempt, via questionable research, to tie fracking to chemical contamination of well water in Pavillion, Wyoming.

There was plenty of press on hand to cover the hearing. Josh Fox, the filmmaker who created the “documentary” Gasland was there too. No doubt Josh needs some new footage for Gasland Deux. But it seems Josh didn’t have the proper press credentials, so the camera crew working for him, which was properly credentialed, was not allowed to film the proceedings. And Mr. Fox, refusing to leave, was arrested and escorted from the room (see this MDN story). Democrats were “outraged” and tried to pass a resolution letting him stay, and when that didn’t work, pass a resolution suspending the hearing for an entire week to allow Mr. Fox time to do what he should have done in the first place, get the proper credentials.

After the side show with Josh Fox was over, the Republicans got down to business and questioned EPA Regional Administrator James Martin who did some serious backpedalling on the topic of fracking (see this MDN story).

Josh Fox’s arrest may seem like so much hullabaloo, but his arrest is headline-worthy because of his documentary, Gasland. Wait, what? You haven’t watched it? Perhaps now is a good time! I’ve watched it, and I have to say, for all my criticism of Josh Fox, he is a talented filmmaker. The film is very slick, very polished. I won’t run a full critique here and now—I’ll do that in the future. What I would like to know for this week’s poll is whether or not you’ve actually watched the film, and if you have, what do you think? Do you consider it to be mostly trustworthy and accurate, or hogwash? Register your vote in this week’s poll along the right side of any page.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Go Giants!
Jim Willis, Editor

P.S. Watch for more details on the new MDN permits report this week.

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MDN Weekly Update – Jan 29, 2012: Are You Serious Mr. President?

poll resultsLast week’s MDN poll asked about the hot button question of whether or not you think the EPA should have a role in investigating water contamination in Dimock, PA. Although our weekly MDN polls often get criticized by anti-drillers, the MDN audience does not always think the way editor Jim Willis does! This week’s poll is evidence. More of you think the EPA has a role than those of us who don’t think so (including Jim). Here are the results:

Should the federal EPA investigate the Dimock, PA water contamination case?

Yes (52%, 142 Votes)
No (44%, 120 Votes)
Not sure (4%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 273

This Week’s Poll: Is President Obama Now a Fracking Shale Gas Supporter?

Just last week MDN wrote a “rant” about the out-of-control Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their latest attempt to smear hydraulic fracturing by inserting themselves into an investigation at Dimock, PA (see this MDN Weekly Update). EPA wants to control oil and gas drilling in this country, and their illicit ticket to ride is by trying to find at least one case where fracking has resulted in chemical contamination of ground water supplies. They’re looking for just a single case (of out an estimated 19,000 wells that will be fracked this year). Just a single, solitary case out of the hundreds of thousands of wells that have been fracked going back 50 years. Anything! Of course even if the EPA were to find a single case, it would still be statistically zero, but oh what a hatchet job the environmental extremists and media could do with a single case!

So MDN found it amusing, and we’re sure the EPA was apoplectic, when President Obama essentially said in his State of the Union address this past week that fracking is good and will result in 600,000 jobs (see this MDN story). But MDN is also suspicious of election year conversions. Most pro-drilling organizations and landowner coalitions have hailed Obama’s words in his speech, and since, as turning a corner. It’s given new hope to landowners in New York State that perhaps Gov. Andrew Cuomo will now have enough political cover to move forward with lifting the moratorium in that state (“hey, Obama says it’s OK).

MDN remains a hardened skeptic. “Show me the money!” Or in this case, “Show me you’re serious!” How can the President prove he is serious about shale gas drilling and his stated support of fracking? The first thing he can do is tell the EPA to butt out of Dimock. It is his EPA. The EPA, like it or not, is an arm of the presidency. It is an agency in the Executive branch of government. That means Obama is the boss. If he wanted to, he could tell Lisa Jackson to quit fiddling around in Dimock. Second, while he’s at it, he could tell Lisa to end the multi-year study of fracking the EPA is currently conducting. Fracking has been studied to death already—the EPA will learn nothing new. But the not-so-subtle threat is that the EPA will gin up enough suspect data to make a grab at regulating oil and gas drilling through the back door by controlling fracking. And where there’s a threat of government interference, there’s uncertainty, and where’s there’s uncertainty, companies are slow to invest and move forward. And when companies are slow to invest and move forward, less business is done and fewer jobs are created. Fracking is already heavily regulated in the individual states where it’s used. We don’t need the EPA usurping the states and adding yet another layer of regulation, smothering the industry.

Although oil is not natural gas, the two are closely tied together. Fracking has resulted in an unprecedented renaissance of oil drilling in our own country—witness the miracle of the Bakken fields of North Dakota. ND now has the lowest unemployment rate in the country and has had the lowest unemployment for what, going on two years now? Why? Fracking. ND is producing boatloads of oil. One of the ways to get oil from where it’s drilled to where it needs to be processed and sold is via pipeline. Obama effectively killed the Keystone XL pipeline that would have come from Canada, and along the way, would have gone through the Bakken and taken that oil, along with cheap Canadian oil, and transported it to the Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Want to prove your serious about fracking Mr. Obama? Reverse course and grant the permits to allow the Keystone pipeline to be built. That would be a huge way to show you’re serious about fracking and energy production in this country.

Saying something and doing something are two different things. We’ll take Obama’s statements supporting shale gas drilling and fracking, but it would be so much better if his actions backed up his words. Don’t hold your breath.

What do you think? Is Obama now a genuine convert and supporter of fracking and shale gas? Or is this just an election year stunt to get votes? Register your vote in this week’s poll along the right side of any page.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

P.S. MDN is working on a new permits report that will be published soon (in February). Keep watching MDN for details in the coming weeks. This new report is better than the last by orders of magnitude!

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MDN Weekly Update – Jan 22, 2012: Should the EPA Butt Out of Dimock?

poll resultsLast week’s MDN poll asked when you believe shale gas drilling will begin in New York State. An interesting result, with 65% who believe it will begin either this year or next year, but 35% who believe it will never happen. 

When do you think Marcellus Shale drilling in New York State will begin?

2012 (30%, 78 Votes)
2013 (35%, 89 Votes)
Never (35%, 89 Votes)

Total Voters: 256

This Week’s Poll: Does the EPA have a role in investigating the Dimock, PA water contamination case?

Begin rant.

MDN has written numerous times about the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) propensity to stick it’s nose into affairs properly handled by the individual states. Specifically, the EPA wants to regulate oil and gas drilling nationwide, a responsibility that constitutionally belongs to states, not the federal government. But the EPA is not content to leave it alone, so they are looking for ways to insert themselves into the drilling debate by latching onto any excuse.

The latest excuse is Dimock, Pennsylvania. In brief, Cabot Oil & Gas was found by the Pennsylvania DEP to have caused (or made worse) methane migration into the water wells for 19 families in the Dimock area, and ordered to provide water deliveries to those households, install methane mitigation systems, and pay homeowners twice the value of their homes. Eight of the families accepted that settlement, but 11 families have said a) their water is contaminated with more than just methane, they say it also contains chemicals from fracking, and b) they want a LOT more money. It’s payday honey! Let’s soak the drilling company. So those families have refused the settlement, but want Cabot to keep delivering water for as long as it takes to sue them into eternity.

The PA DEP said “enough” and told Cabot they can suspect water deliveries (that have now gone on for years) to those households that refuse the more-than-fair settlement. Cabot did stop the deliveries at the end of November, and the media went into overdrive covering the story of how that nasty Cabot pulled the rug out from under those poor, helpless families that can’t even get a cup o’ water.

Enter the EPA. They have now wedged their fat derrière at the table and have demanded to be part of the “ongoing” investigation. At first they told the families, “the data looks good to us, there is no problem.” Then they said, “wait, there’s missing data in them thar files.” They promised to restart deliveries of water themselves, then welched on the promise within 24 hours. Then said they changed their minds again and would start deliveries of water for four of the families. Whew. Can anyone say “flaky”?

Where we stand now: The EPA is going to conduct their own tests of water wells in Dimock, and in the meantime is supposed to have restarted water deliveries to four families.

The monstrosity that is the EPA was created in 1970 by then-President Richard Nixon. Rue the day. It was created for a noble purpose, “To protect human health and the environment.” The problem is, like with all government agencies, it tends to overstep its bounds. Just because they can throw their considerable weight around, doesn’t mean they should. And it certainly doesn’t mean they can just grab power that constitutionally belongs to the states. But that’s just what they are trying to do.

End rant.

This week’s poll asks, should the EPA investigate the Dimock water contamination case? Register your vote on the right side of any page.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

P.S. MDN is working on a new permits report that will be published soon (in February). Keep watching MDN for details in the coming weeks. This new report is better than the last by orders of magnitude!

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MDN Weekly Update – Jan 15, 2012: Drilling in NY?

poll resultsLast week’s MDN poll asked if it’s now time to force the issue with New York’s DEC by suing the state to force them to release drilling regulations and allow fracking to begin. A surprising number of MDN readers think it is time to sue. 

Is it time for NY landowners & drilling supporters to sue NY state to allow drilling to begin?

Yes (78%, 233 Votes)
No (17%, 50 Votes)
Not sure (5%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 300

This Week’s Poll: Drilling in NY – When?

Wednesday of this past week saw the “final” deadline to file comments with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on proposed new drilling regulations, called the SGEIS (see this MDN story). According to Joe Martens, Commissioner of the DEC, it will take as much as five months to analyze and respond to the all of the comments received. And he said that about a month ago when there were fewer than 20,000 comments. The final number of comments that were filed by Wednesday midnight turned out to be more than 40,000, including a 26-page critique by none other than the federal EPA (see this story).

In June 2011 MDN conducted a poll asking readers when they thought horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale would begin in New York. At that point, the year 2011 was one of the choices and 19 percent of intrepid MDN readers picked it (see this recap of the voting). Now that the final final final DEC comment period is over (pretty soon we’ll need to use exponents after the word “final” to denote how many times it’s been called final), it’s time to ask readers once again to prognosticate on when they believe drilling will begin. Will it be 2012? 2013? Never? Register your vote on the right-hand side of any page.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus-related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

P.S. MDN is working on a new permits report that will be published soon. Keep watching MDN for details in the coming weeks. This new report is better than the last by orders of magnitude!

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MDN Weekly Update – Jan 8, 2012: Time to Sue in NY?

poll resultsThe most recent MDN poll has been active since Dec. 18th. We wanted to know more about the current audience who visits and reads MDN—thank you for voting! Here’s what we found out about the main purpose for your visits to MDN: 

Which term best describes you and your *primary* reason for visiting MDN?

Landowner (56%, 344 Votes)
Work for energy/related company (16%, 97 Votes)
Other (10%, 62 Votes)
Job seeker (8%, 46 Votes)
Work for non-energy company (6%, 37 Votes)
Environmentalist (3%, 18 Votes)
Work for government (1%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 613

This Week’s Poll: Sue NY?

Word leaked this past week, via the Gannett news service, that new legislation is about to be introduced into the New York Assembly that would further delay the beginning of hydraulic fracturing until June 2013, another year and a half from now (see this MDN story). In case the casual observer thought New York was just being extra careful and doing lots of homework before allowing shale gas drilling, this latest initiative exposes these ongoing delay efforts for what they are: an attempt to stop horizontal drilling, forever. Extremists who oppose drilling will not change their minds—they will only accept no drilling. They aren’t interested in safe drilling. Another delay like this one further helps them marshal and organize to prevent fracking from ever happening in New York.

Also this past week, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo was due to mention fracking in his State of the State speech. It was a short, bland, generic two paragraphs in his prepared remarks. But when he delivered the speech, he chose to leave it out (see this MDN story). A sign of the governor’s caving support for drilling?

MDN said the following at the end of the story on new legislation about to be introduced in the Assembly:

MDN’s view: As a New York resident, I am distressed at the ongoing delays. Fracking is safe when done right, and there’s no reason to further delay its introduction to New York. It’s obvious that Joe Martens, Commissioner of the DEC, is intentionally delaying its introduction so that opposition, like this new legislation, has time to organize and eventually kill drilling outright. Since new drilling rules will not be released any time soon, it’s time for landowners and non-landowners who support drilling to unite and litigate. If it’s going to take years anyway, better to start the process now using the law, which is on our side, to force the state to stop violating our property rights.

What do you think? Humor me here: Assume I am right and that the game plan is to delay drilling in NY long enough to kill it permanently. Should landowners who want to lease their land, and business owners who would see their business revenues increase, and job seekers who would get a job in the drilling industry, and government officials who would see boatloads of new tax revenue, and non-landowners (like MDN) who are tired of their neighbors’ property rights being violated, band together and sue the state to force the issue? Is it now time to litigate? Register your vote on the right-hand side of any page.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update: 2011 in Review, Looking Ahead to 2012

Happy New Year 2012Thank you Marcellus Drilling News readers for making MDN your source for news and information about drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shales in 2011. And welcome to 2012! Last year was quite a ride for MDN, going from occasional posts of new stories prior to January, to daily postings Monday through Friday starting in January. MDN’s audience grew from a few thousand people per month to nearly 30,000 unique people visiting and reading stories on the site each month by the end of the year.

A few statistics to share with you from the MDN website for 2011:

  • 198,720 unique/individual people visited the site in 2011;
  • Those 198,720 people visited the site 354,174 times during the year;
  • When they visited, they viewed a cumulative 823,596 pages;
  • And if you averaged the amount of time they stayed, it was 2 minutes 49 seconds each time they visited.
  • In March, MDN created and offered (for free) a report on drilling permits by geography—it was downloaded 3,134 times.
  • MDN links to source stories we cover (on other websites)—you collectively clicked to view those stories and visit those other websites 57,610 times.
  • MDN’s daily email alert list started the year with a few hundred email addresses on it, and ended the year with 1,956 emails on it—you’re hardcore to read this stuff every day! (And I love you for it!!)

2011 In Review

Because it’s an interesting exercise—and because it’s about the easiest editorial “get” in the book—this week’s weekly update will showcase the top 10 most popular MDN stories from 2011, determined by the number of people who clicked to read the story. I’m also including the list of top 10 commented stories for 2011, determined by the number of comments—so you can see which stories generated the most discussion (and controversy).

There were a number of big stories this past year: New York State’s ongoing moratorium which has now dragged on for 3 1/2 years; Pennsylvania’s impending new drilling rules; West Virginia’s recently enacted new drilling rules; West Virginia’s all-out play for an ethane cracker plant; Morgantown’s fracking ban outside of its borders, which was struck down by a judge (and the subsequent safe fracking that took place). But perhaps the biggest story of 2011, in MDN’s humble opinion (and from analyzing the reading trends on the MDN site), was Chesapeake’s huge discovery of both oil and natural gas in eastern Ohio’s Utica Shale. The Utica Shale is quickly becoming as popular as the Marcellus, at least around the edges of the Marcellus play where the Utica is located and where it’s rich with “wet gas” and oil, in addition to methane. It seems MDN readers could not get enough stories about what’s happening in Ohio.

What’s Ahead for 2012

MDN is now accepting advertising, so you can expect to see more ads appearing on the site. Those ads will be relatively few in number, and all of them will be relevant for MDN readers. We strive to present you with not only the best in editorial, but also the best in advertising as well.

MDN editor Jim Willis will soon make announcements about exciting new developments for MDN—new features and new products coming in 2012.

In the year ahead, I hope to continue earning your trust and continue making MDN worthy of your most precious investment—your time. Your comments and suggestions for how to do that are always welcome. Just email me at: [email protected].

The calendar of events for the next two weeks (sparse as it is) is also included below.

To Your Continued Success in 2012,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Dec 18, 2011: Who are you?

poll resultsLast week’s poll took the pulse of MDN readers to find out whether or not they think all high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing should be banned. It was our second-highest number of votes for any poll, showing a real interest in the topic. The results are in, and by an overwhelming majority, MDN readers to not think fracking should be banned. 

Should all high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing be banned?

No (70%, 295 Votes)
Yes (26%, 109 Votes)
Not sure (4%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 421

This Week’s Poll: What’s your interest in MDN?

MDN will soon make some changes as editor Jim Willis transitions to a new role with his day job. In preparation for those changes, it would be useful to know just who is visiting the MDN site—what your primary purpose is for visiting. Nearly 30,000 unique, different people visit MDN each month. Are you a landowner interested in news about drilling and how it will affect you? Do you work for a drilling or a drilling-related company? Work for government? Etc. Please take a moment to anonymously tell us who you are/what your primary motivator is in visiting the site by voting in the poll on the right side of any page in the site. Thanks!

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus related events for the next two weeks. The calendar is pretty thin! Things are now winding down for the end of year holiday season. Look for this weekly update next Saturday instead of Christmas day (Sunday).

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

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MDN Weekly Update – Dec 11, 2011: Ban Fracking?

poll resultsMDN wanted to see what your attitudes are about government’s role in promoting (or not) renewable energy sources. A even split between those who think government should have no role, and those who believe the government should promote, but not require, use of renewable sources. This poll was one of the least voted on in recent months, meaning either the issue just doesn’t stir up much interest among MDN readers, or (more likely) the poll question could have been written better! Let’s see if we might improve this week’s poll question. 

What should government’s role be with regard to renewable energy sources?

No role in promoting/requiring renewables (41%, 67 Votes)
Promote (not require) renewables (40%, 66 Votes)
Require use of renewables (19%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 163

This Week’s Poll: Ban Fracking?

The latest public relations attempt to turn the word “fracking” into a pejorative—firmly implanting a negative concept in people’s minds—is the release of draft findings from the Environmental Protection Agency from a study they have done in Pavillion, Wyoming that supposedly ties hydraulic fracturing to chemical contamination of local water supplies. That is what the headlines are trumpeting, and that is the impression that will be left with the vast majority of people who don’t read much beyond the headlines. And that’s unfortunate, because, as Paul Harvey used to say, there’s “the rest of the story” in Pavillion (see this MDN story for our initial analysis).

MDN will not repeat what we’ve already said on the topic, but rather for this week’s poll, take the pulse of MDN’s readers on their views as to whether or not high-volume (uses lots of water) horizontal hydraulic fracturing should be banned. Let’s just get it out there on the table. Ban it? Or not? That’s certainly where anti-drillers are headed—they want a complete and total ban. They are not interested in safeguards, and frankly they aren’t interested in allowing any more exploration for fossil fuels on U.S. soil (or offshore). That was abundantly clear at recent New York DEC hearings on proposed new drilling regulations.

What say you? Ban fracking? Or allow it? Please vote now on the right side of any page in the site.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

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