A battle is heating up over proposed deep injection wells for Marcellus and Utica Shale wastewater in Pennsylvania, specifically in Warren County (northwestern PA). A small conventional natural gas driller, Lyon Energy, owns about 80 natural gas wells in Warren County, some of which are now past their useful life. These are not Marcellus or Utica wells but wells drilled (and fracked) vertically, conventionally. Lyon, through the corporate name of Bear Properties, applied for a permit with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to turn two of its wells into deep injection wells for wastewater.
In a lawsuit to allow active drilling in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in Pennsylvania, a federal judge ruled last Friday that the U.S. Forest Service does not have to end a ban they imposed on drillers who want to use surface water from the ANF for hydraulic fracturing. Drillers have argued that the Forest Service’s actions in banning water withdrawals from the ANF, and in delaying signoff on new drilling permits, have in essence stopped drilling in the ANF—a de facto ban. For a background on the long-running dispute, see this MDN story from last November.
According to a lawsuit filed on Monday, the U.S. government is obstructing legitimate and legal gas drilling in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) in northwestern PA. A court in Eire, PA has been asked to find them in contempt and force them to allow drilling to proceed on a timely basis.
A brief background on the ANF and why the lawsuit was filed:
Under threat of a lawsuit, supervisors in Columbus Township (Warren County, PA) reversed their previous ban on the disposal of fracking fluids in two injection wells in the township (see this previous MDN story about the lawsuit).
Injection wells are deep wells used to dispose of fracking fluid from those drillers who do not recycle all of the fracking fluid used in their drilling operations. The fluid is pumped into the wells under high pressure, forcing it deep into the ground. Ohio has hundreds of such injection wells due to a better underground geography. However, PA currently has only a relative handful of injection wells (less than a dozen?), including the two in Columbus Township.
The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association has filed a lawsuit against Columbus Township in Warren County, PA challenging an ordinance that prohibits disposal of fracking fluids in the township. The fracking fluid ban was passed after the federal EPA approved permits for two underground injection wells to be operated within the township.
New weight restrictions for trucks on roads in Warren County, PA aimed at making Marcellus Shale drillers pay are having unintended consequences for other trucking operators in the county.
Drillers in Pennsylvania who do not recycle 100 percent of the wastewater from hydraulic fracturing for reuse must dispose of that wastewater somewhere. The options are to haul the wastewater, which is mostly salt water but contains a small amount of chemicals, to certified treatment plants that are specially fitted to treat it and release it into waterways, or haul it to an underground injection well. Most of the injection wells PA drillers have been using are located in Ohio. However, two new injections wells are due to come online in Columbus Township (Warren County), PA this fall, giving drillers in PA a new option.
There are 15 (of an original 27) municipal sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania that still accept Marcellus Shale drilling wastewater. That is, until May 19 of this year.
UPDATE: The EPA hearing scheduled for Feb. 23 was postponed because a stenographer was not available to attend and record the meeting. It will be rescheduled “in the next several weeks.”
Application has been made to inject wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations in Pennsylvania into two wells in Warren County, PA.
This one should make every landowner shudder–with anger and fear. The Obama Administration has illegally shut down drilling on private land in Pennsylvania. Landowners who own land in the Allegheny National Forest are now denied access to drill and sell the natural gas under their own land by fiat from the U.S. Forest Service, part of the executive branch of the federal government (i.e., Obama). This naked and forceful grab of individuals’ rights by the federal government cannot go unanswered. Make your voices heard!!
We have to go all the way to an Australian news service for this one folks:
In a petition distributed by the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association (POGAM) and Allegheny Forest Alliance (AFA), nearly 2,000 citizens, and civic and business leaders from Elk, Forest, Warren and McKean counties have called for President Obama and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lift a ban on oil and gas development by the U.S. Forest Service, which effectively has halted drilling on privately owned mineral lands underlying the Allegheny National Forest. The petition was also mailed to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to encourage a greater effort by the Commonwealth to support a critical element of northwestern Pennsylvania’s economy.
In a historically unprecedented action, local and regional managers of the Allegheny National Forest have banned oil and natural gas exploration and barred mineral owners from accessing their property throughout the forest, effectively seizing the development rights to privately owned oil, gas and mineral resources. The ban has shut down oil and natural gas exploration and stymied production in the forest, where the industry has operated for decades in cooperation with the U.S. government. The petition maintains that the ban illegally violates Pennsylvania’s grant of consent to the United States in 1921 to acquire the forest and also violates the protection of private property rights in the federal law, the Weeks Act of 1911, under which it was acquired.
“The behavior by the Forest Service is most irresponsible, and it amounts to the unlawful taking of private property,” said Stephen W. Rhoads, POGAM president. “State records show that fewer than 50 wells, all of them permitted prior to the drilling ban imposed on January 1, have been drilled in the Allegheny National Forest during 2009. The Forest Service has prevented the drilling of between 200-300 wells that would have otherwise occurred. These undrilled wells translate into private investment of nearly $100 million and jeopardize hundreds of good-paying jobs in the region. The action of the Forest Service amounts to a full-scale assault on the economic health of the families and communities living in and around the Allegheny National Forest.”
Private oil and gas development within the Allegheny National Forest accounts for at least 20 percent of Pennsylvania’s oil production and as much as 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s natural gas production. It contributes tens of millions of dollars annually into the regional economy of northwest Pennsylvania and western New York.
For decades, the U.S. Forest Service and the oil and natural gas industry have worked cooperatively to manage oil and gas development. The petition represents a strong consensus among citizens and local community leaders about the importance of this industry and the condemnation of the Forest Services’ current management practices to immobilize the region’s economic recovery and progress.