9 More Seismic Testing Devices Stolen in SWPA, 6 Were Returned

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Somebody in southwestern Pennsylvania has sticky fingers. In March MDN reported that someone(s) in SWPA had stolen nine seismic testing nodes in Westmoreland County (see Whoops! Stolen Seismic Testing Nodes in SWPA have Tracking Devices). The seismic testing devices were legally placed in various locations by Geokinetics, hired by Huntley & Huntley to map what’s below the surface in preparation for drilling shale wells. Geokinetics let it be known that if the devices were not returned by March 26, the perps would be hunted down and prosecuted. Oh! And did we tell you that each device has a GPS tracker in it, so Geokinetics can locate the devices whenever they want? We now have a second case of sticky fingers. Stupid is as stupid does. Geokinetics reports another nine units were lifted, this time in Monroeville (Allegheny County). Once again the word has gone out: Return them now, by April 16th, or you will be found and prosecuted. Six of nine have already been returned…
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More of the Same at Final DEP Hearing for Shell Ethane Pipeline

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For three nights in a row this week the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted hearings for Shell’s proposed Falcon ethane pipeline–a 97-mile pipeline system with two “legs” that will feed Shell’s mighty ethane cracker plant now under construction in Monaca, PA. We brought you a report from the first session, an eyewitness account from MDN friend Charlie Schliebs (see Shell Ethane Pipeline Hearing Draws Few Supporters, Many Antis). That session was predominantly populated with antis attempting to paint nightmare scenarios if the pipeline (and cracker) gets built. Last night was the third and final session–in Sewickley. Once again we have an eyewitness account, this time from MDN friend Katie Klaber, former president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and currently managing partner at The Klaber Group and a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Pittsburgh branch). Katie is a consummate environmental professional–someone with a lifelong career in environment compliance and someone who served on the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee of the DEP for more than a decade. She knows a thing or two about projects like the Falcon because she’s seen a thing or two (to borrow from the Farmers Insurance commercials). When the audience realized that Katie was supporting the project (the only one of the first 18 speakers to do so), the hissing started. She and the next few speakers who supported the project were hissed by bad-behaving antis in the crowd, with some Mother F…ers thrown in by an especially outspoken attendee. Nice people, those antis…
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Monroeville Continues to Block Seismic Testing to Prevent Drilling

Monroeville, PA (Allegheny County, suburb of Pittsburgh) is hostile toward the shale industry. In September, Monroeville Council voted to enact a super-restrictive seismic testing ordinance (see Monroeville, PA Passes Restrictive Seismic Testing Ordinance). The ordinance is meant to hassle Huntley & Huntley (H&H), which wants to conduct seismic testing in two rural areas of the municipality (for potential drilling in a neighboring municipality). In October, the contractor hired to do the seismic work for H&H, Geokinetics, took Monroeville Council to court over their punitive seismic ordinance (see Monroeville Seismic Testing Ordinance Challenged in Court). Both sides compromised and in November settled the case, which Monroeville Council voted to accept in December (see Monroeville Council Approves Seismic Testing Court Settlement). That should be the end of the story, right? Wrong. Monroeville has continued their harassment by asking a court to immediately suspend the testing because (they claim) Geokinetics did not give proper notification to residents that the testing was happening. This is nothing more than a transparent attempt to prevent future drilling by slowing, or stopping, H&H’s ability to get an accurate picture of the best places are to drill a Marcellus well. Fortunately Geokinetics just finished the testing, so Monroeville’s pathetic attempt to stop it is now moot…
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Monroeville Back from Edge of Insanity, Allows Some Fracking

Common sense has broken out in Monroeville. Either that, or fear of litigation. Either way, Monroeville (Allegheny County, PA) has rolled back an overly-restrictive zoning ordinance meant to hassle Huntley & Huntley’s plans to drill wells in the township–the very same township where H&H has its headquarters. Last October, Monroeville Council passed a temporary ban on oil and gas well drilling everywhere except for those areas marked M-2 industrial zoning–a big change (see Monroeville, PA Hostile to Shale, Bans Drilling in Most Places). Previously, drilling permits were “conditional use” in Monroeville, meaning each permit was evaluated on its own merits, regardless of which zoning district it was located in. By limiting drilling to M-2, Council severely limited drilling in the municipality–but at least drilling was still allowed. Then in January, Monroeville Council advertised their new zoning ordinance to FURTHER RESTRICT any kind of oil and gas activity–not just drilling, but pipelines, compressor plants, etc.–to a 150-acre parcel located next to the city dump (see Monroeville Pushes Ban on NatGas Activity, Incl. Drilling & Plants). It would be, in essence, a total ban on shale drilling activity throughout the township. Two weeks ago Monroeville Council voted (unanimously) to withdraw the proposed new ordinance, which means the zoning ordinance from last October limiting drilling to M-2 remains the law. Still not good, but better than a total ban…
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Pittsburgh Airport Plans NatGas Microgrid to Attract New Business

Seems like we increasingly see the word “microgrid” popping up. What, exactly, is a microgrid? Microgrids are small electric generating plants, most often powered by natural gas. They usually produce a few megawatts of electricity and are often used for “peaking”–which means they are used during times of high electricity demand. During times of high demand these small microgrids kick on and produce electricity to help meet the demand (see One of Nation’s Largest NatGas Microgrids Coming to Philly Navy Yard). Sometimes microgrids outright replace reliance on the local electric utility. Such is what is being proposed for the Pittsburgh International Airport. You may recall that CONSOL Energy (now CNX Resources) drilled a bunch of wells on Airport property and produces a boatload of natgas every day. The plan is to use some of that gas to power a microgrid to lower the cost of electricity at the airport complex–a complex where officials are attempting to attract businesses to locate. Having super cheap electricity generated by your own natgas helps…
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PA DEP Schedules 3 Hearings for Shell Ethane Pipeline

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In February, MDN told you the Pennsylvania State Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) had caved to pressure from anti-fossil fuelers with regard to Shell’s proposed Falcon Ethane Pipeline project (see PA DEP Caves to Pressure, Extends Comment Period for Shell Pipeline). Shell is working on an ethane “pipeline system” with two “legs” to feed the mighty cracker plant being built in Monaca, Beaver County (see Shell Working on 94-Mile Ethane Pipeline to Feed PA Cracker). The DEP advertised an official comment period for the project on Jan. 20, giving interested parties until Feb. 20 to file their comments–an entire month. However, one month isn’t enough time for anti-drillers to marshal the faithful to try and sink the project. FracTracker Alliance, an anti-fossil fuel organization, colluded with other groups to put the word out to flood the DEP with demands to keep the comment period open. The DEP caved and extended the comment period to April 17th along with three public hearings (circus freak shows), to give the FracTracker faithful time to mount publicity and legal offensives to try and stop the project. The DEP has just announced the dates and locations for the three public hearings…
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Federal EPA Approves Permit for Plum, PA Wastewater Injection Well

Plum, PA

As MDN reported last July, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency in charge of approving oil and gas wastewater injection wells, was actively reviewing an application and plan from Penneco Environmental Solutions (division of Penneco Oil Co.) to convert a plugged gas well into a brine (wastewater) injection well in Plum, PA–in Allegheny County, near Pittsburgh (see New Frack Wastewater Well on the Way in Allegheny County, PA). The good news is that the EPA has given its final approval for the project. However, Penneco has miles to go (a lawsuit & state permits) before they begin retrofitting the well…
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Frac Sand Barge Facility Near Pittsburgh Gets $638K Grant to Expand

McKees Rocks barge facility

While we don’t (yet) have hard numbers for how many shale wells were drilled in the Marcellus/Utica in 2017 versus 2016 and 2015, we’re pretty sure the 2017 number went up–a lot. Why do we think so? Because frac sand use went through the roof in 2017. Yes, drillers are using more sand to frack each well, so the numbers could reflect drilling the same number of wells using more sand–but we don’t think that explains it all. Not this much sand. McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises operates a barge/transloading facility on the Ohio River in McKees Rocks (Allegheny County), PA. Jim Lind, operator of the facility, says sand shipments soared 200% in 2017 over previous years. Put another way, sand shipments doubled–at just this one facility! Sand is barged in to the facility from the Midwest, then loaded onto trucks and rail cars for delivery to Marcellus/Utica well sites throughout the region. Business is good. The barge facility needs to expand. Pennsylvania recognizes the facility’s value to the shale industry, so the state has just made a $638,015 grant to allow McKees Rocks to handle more barges at the same time at the 100-acre facility. That’s good for the Marcellus/Utica, and it’s good for the regional Pittsburgh economy…
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Monroeville, PA Antis Want 100% Ban on Fracking, Pipelines

Limiting fracking to an impossibly small 150 acres (out of 12,620 acres) that make up Monroeville–a mere 1% of the acreage–is not enough of a ban for radical antis in the municipality of Monroeville (suburb of Pittsburgh). They want it all banned–every single centimeter. The only problem with that is the Act 13 law, passed in 2012, requires each municipality to allow drilling in at least one zoned area. But hey, disobeying the law isn’t a problem for antis–they do it all the time. They are anarchists by nature. Last October, Monroeville Council passed a temporary ban on oil and gas well drilling everywhere except for those areas marked M-2 industrial zoning–a big change (see Monroeville, PA Hostile to Shale, Bans Drilling in Most Places). Previously, drilling permits were “conditional use” in Monroeville, meaning each permit was evaluated on its own merits, regardless of which zoning district it was located in. By limiting drilling to M-2, Council effectively banned drilling in the municipality. They passed the temporary ban until they could pass a new zoning ordinance that would set the frack ban policy in concrete. In January, Monroeville Council advertised their new zoning ordinance to FURTHER RESTRICT any kind of oil and gas activity–not just drilling, but pipelines, compressor plants, etc.–to a 150-acre parcel located next to the city dump (see Monroeville Pushes Ban on NatGas Activity, Incl. Drilling & Plants). Fantastically, unbelievably, antis in Monroeville aren’t happy with that 150-acre parcel exception–an old dump! They want drilling at the dump banned too…
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Compromise Allows Drilling to Begin in Pittsburgh Suburb of Plum

In October 2017, local officials in Plum, PA (Allegheny County) approved a plan by Huntley & Huntley (H&H) to drill a series of Marcellus wells on a single well pad in their municipality (see Plum, PA Gives Huntley & Huntley Green Light for Shale Drilling). Plum’s leaders got blowback from some residents (antis) over the decision to conditionally approve H&H’s request. In Plum, fracking is (or rather was) allowed in any zone if a conditional use is granted. That’s what happened in October–the Plum Council issued a conditional use exception for H&H to drill on 92 acres near Coxcomb Hill Road in Plum. To avoid dealing with more such conditional cases, Plum Council drafted proposed changes to their zoning ordinances (ordinances which haven’t been updated since 1993) that will only allow fracking in rural residential and industrial zones (see Plum, PA Officials Hold Hearing on New Restrictions for Fracking). H&H originally said the changes would be too restrictive. However, they later adopted a “half a loaf is better than no loaf” philosophy, opting to support the new rules. A compromise. In December, Plum Council moved ahead and adopted the new rules, and antis predictably blew a gasket (see Plum, PA Passes Ordinance to Allow Fracking – Antis Livid). How and why did Plum adopt such an ordinance? Especially given so many surrounding towns in Allegheny Township are outright hostile to drilling? Let’s pull the curtain back and probe the thought process Plum used to arrive at a compromise that appears to work for both sides…
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PA Supremes to Consider EQT Request to Drill Well in Jefferson Hills

In December 2015 MDN told you about EQT’s application to drill a single shale well in Jefferson Hills (Allegheny County), PA (see Jefferson Hills, PA Antis Oppose EQT Well Near Future School Site). The well would be drilled “near” where a new school is due to be built, which generated vigorous local opposition. As part of the a conditional use permit, EQT agreed to (a) not use Borough roads during construction, (b) use a pipeline from a local water company instead of trucks for the water needed to drill and frack, greatly reducing the amount of truck traffic, (c) pledged the project would not impact local streams and wetlands, (d) comply with local lighting regulations, and (e) install sound walls if needed. In other words, EQT bent backwards, forwards, sideways, jumped through numerous hoops and turned itself inside out to comply with requests from the town. The Borough Planning Commission unanimously approved the conditional use permit request. But then the town, bowing to pressure from residents, rejected the request in December 2015, saying the proposed project would endanger local health and the environment. EQT sued and won in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in June 2016. Jefferson Hills appealed and in May 2017, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the EQT verdict saying the town arbitrarily rejected the permit and EQT should be allowed to drill (see PA Appeals Court Clears Way for EQT to Drill Jefferson Hills Well). Jefferson Hills appealed it all the way the PA Supreme Court and on Monday the court agreed to hear the case…
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Supersize Me! Marcellus/Utica Well Pads Now Host Up to 40 Wells

The Marcellus/Utica Shale industry is changing underneath our feet–literally! Last time we checked, most well pads in the Marcellus/Utica sported an average of maybe 3-4 wells–with a dozen wells on a pad being “big.” Something has changed, dramatically, in the gas fields of PA, OH and WV. The “new normal” are supersized well pads–holding as many as (gasp) 40 wells! We hasten to add no such pad yet exists–a pad with 40 wells drilled from it. However, there is an EQT well pad in Allegheny County (near Pittsburgh) with 38 wells permitted (9 of which have been drilled so far). EQT says it now averages drilling 17-18 wells per pad. Antero Resources is drilling an average of 10 wells per pad–up from 3-4 “just a few years ago.” The trend now is more wells per pad, and longer laterals–meaning fewer well pads overall. That’s good for the environment, and good for the bottom line (less money spent pushing dirt around developing pads). Here’s an update on the trend to supersize well pads in the Marcellus/Utica…
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Monroeville Pushes Ban on NatGas Activity, Incl. Drilling & Plants

The dunderhead leaders of Monroeville, PA (Allegheny County, suburb of Pittsburgh) are at it again, acting hostile toward the shale industry, attempting to stymie any kind of shale activity within its borders. In September, Monroeville Council voted to enact a super-restrictive seismic testing ordinance (see Monroeville, PA Passes Restrictive Seismic Testing Ordinance). The ordinance is meant to hassle Huntley & Huntley (H&H), which wants to conduct seismic testing in two rural areas of the municipality. In October, the contractor hired to do the seismic work for H&H, Geokinetics, took Monroeville Council to court over their punitive seismic ordinance. Both sides compromised and in November settled the case (see Monroeville Council Approves Seismic Testing Court Settlement). In October, Monroeville Council passed a temporary ban on oil and gas well drilling everywhere except for those areas marked M-2 industrial zoning–a big change (see Monroeville, PA Hostile to Shale, Bans Drilling in Most Places). Previously drilling permits were “conditional use,” meaning each permit was evaluated on its own merits, regardless of which zoning district it was located in. By limiting drilling to M-2, the Council effectively banned drilling in the municipality. They passed the temporary ban until they could pass a new zoning ordinance that would set the frack ban policy in concrete. That day is now here. Monroeville Council has just advertised a new zoning ordinance to FURTHER RESTRICT any kind of oil and gas activity–not just drilling, but pipelines, compressor plants, etc.–to a 150-acre parcel located next to the city dump. That’s 150 acres out of 12,620 acres that make up Monroeville (1%). In other words, this is a complete and total ban on the shale industry in Monroeville–the Pittsburgh suburb that’s officially “closed for business”…
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Pittsburgh Presbyterians Call for Stop to Shell Cracker Construction

It’s always a shame–in fact it grieves us–to see once-great Christian denominations succumb to a worldly rather than spiritual purpose and mission. It’s sad to see the modern day version of a golden calf erected in place of God. It’s happened again–this time with the Presbyterian denomination in Pittsburgh. An “umbrella group for 140 Presbyterian churches” in Allegheny County are calling on Shell to stop construction of their $6 billion ethane cracker plant project about 25 miles from Pittsburgh. That’s right–just stop now, throwing thousands of people out of work (not very Christ-like) and throwing away the $1 billion+ Shell has already spent on the fully vetted, fully permitted, fully discussed (for years) project. Why do the Presbyterians want work on the cracker plant stopped? Because the plant will produce “plastic products that have been linked to the death of animals and the diminishment of fragile natural habitats.” Yep. The Presbyterians are now anti-plastic. The very keyboard they typed up their tripe on is, of course, plastic. As was the computer and monitor they used, the chair they sat in, the clothes on their bodies and sneakers on their feet–all come from the plastics the Shell cracker plant will produce. Just for icing on the global warming cake, the Presbyterians are also demanding their denomination divest any of their considerable investments from companies remotely related to the fossil fuel industry. It seems that the golden calf of global warming has now replaced God in the Pittsburgh Presbyterian denomination. And yes, we do grieve over that…
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Marcellus Wells to be Drilled at Pittsburgh’s Oldest Working Steel Mill

Pittsburgh’s oldest still operating steel mill, U.S. Steel Corp.’s Edgar Thomson steel mill, may soon be home to more than just a foundry. A privately owned oil and gas company headquartered in New Mexico–Merrion Oil & Gas Corp.–has signed a lease with U.S. Steel to drill a series of six (possibly more) shale wells on the Edgar Thomson Works property in Allegheny County. The plan is to drill one Marcellus well to begin with, and after testing, expand that with five more Marcellus wells. However, Merrion is not ruling out deeper wells to tap the Utica. Even though the location for the wells is as industrial as industrial gets–with noisy steel making (and the air pollution that goes along with it), antis are complaining that drilling a few shale wells will turn their lives into a dung heap. Nothing new about their reaction. What is new is Merrion. This is their first entry into the Marcellus/Utica region. Until now, Merrion has concentrated on other regions. According to one biased news outlet, Merrion has “no experience drilling into deep, tight, shale formations like the Marcellus.” Whether or not that’s true, we don’t know (we tend to doubt it). What we do know is that Merrion is a privately owned, family company started in 1960 by a former petroleum engineer. Merrion is not some upstart company that doesn’t know anything about the oil and gas business–quite the opposite. Merrion has already had preliminary meetings with the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection about their plans. An official permit request should be coming any time over the next three months…
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Monroeville Council Approves Seismic Testing Court Settlement

Monroeville, PA (Allegheny County, suburb of Pittsburgh) is hostile toward the shale industry. In September, Monroeville Council voted to enact a super-restrictive seismic testing ordinance (see Monroeville, PA Passes Restrictive Seismic Testing Ordinance). The ordinance is meant to hassle Huntley & Huntley (H&H), which wants to conduct seismic testing in two rural areas of the municipality. In October, the contractor hired to do the seismic work for H&H, Geokinetics, took Monroeville Council to court over their punitive seismic ordinance (see Monroeville Seismic Testing Ordinance Challenged in Court). Both sides compromised and in November settled the case (see Monroeville Seismic Testing Ordinance Court Case Settled). Although the court case was settled, there is a final step required before the thumper trucks can begin their work. Monroeville Council must officially vote to accept the court agreement with the revised regulations. That vote happened last week…
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