Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Marcellus Production Led U.S. Gas Fields in 2013, EIA Says

By Jon Hurdle

The Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania and West Virginia produced far more natural gas in 2013 than any other field in the United States, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Friday.

A natural gas well in Lycoming County. Wells like this are helping to make the Marcellus Shale the biggest gas-production field in the U.S.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

A natural gas well in Lycoming County. Wells like this are helping to make the Marcellus Shale the biggest gas-production field in the U.S.

The EIA report said that Marcellus operators produced 2.86 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in 2013, sharply higher than the Barnett Shale of Texas, with 1.95 tcf, which was the most-productive field the last time the survey was conducted in 2009.

The Marcellus, which underlies about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and most of West Virginia, also contains many more gas reserves than the Barnett field, the EIA said, citing an earlier report in which it estimated the Marcellus had 64.9 tcf at the end of 2013 compared with 26.0 tcf in the Texas field. Continue Reading

Activist fined $1,000 for violating order to stay off gas sites

Vera Scroggins

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

A court fined Vera Scroggins $1,000 for getting too close to a Cabot Oil & Gas site. "It's basically what happens when you have an industry that takes over a county," she says.

A Susquehanna County judge has fined anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins $1,000 for getting too close to a natural gas site earlier this year. The money will cover part of the legal fees incurred by the region’s biggest gas driller– Cabot Oil and Gas. The company has repeatedly sought to have her held in contempt of court for violating an injunction to stay off its property.

At a court hearing Thursday in Montrose, Scroggins maintained her innocence and hopes to appeal the fine.

“[Cabot] had a false witness, who was willing to perjure himself under oath, and the judge found him more credible. I am not willing to pay a fine for something I didn’t do.”

If she doesn’t pay within 45 days, she could go to jail. Judge Kenneth Seamans didn’t seem to mind that possibility.

“If there’s a fine and she doesn’t pay it, she’s going to jail.” he said. “And I’m going on vacation.”

The fine is the latest twist in a protracted court battle between the driller and the activist. The case drew international attention last year, after Cabot got a sweeping injunction against her – effectively barring her from half the county. Last March, the order was modified to be much less restrictive. But she still has to stay 100 feet from Cabot wellpads and access roads.

The company says she repeatedly trespassed and poses a safety risk.

“The defendant violated the law, and the judge enforced this order,” wrote Cabot spokesman George Stark in an email.

Continue Reading

DEP rejects industry pressure to remove some members from oil & gas board

The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday rejected a call by the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association for the removal of four non-voting members from a board that advises officials on oil and gas policy.

Elizabeth Nolan, an attorney for the DEP, said there were no grounds to dismiss the four members, who have been appointed by the DEP’s Acting Secretary, John Quigley.

A natural gas rig in the Tioga State Forest. Rigs like this would be subject to tougher state regulations under DEP proposals.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

A natural gas rig in the Tioga State Forest. Rigs like this would be subject to tougher state regulations under DEP proposals.

Nolan told a meeting of the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board that the 2012 Oil & Gas Act doesn’t contain language that would allow for the removal of the members, and that the department has the authority to select members who have a range of relevant skills outside of the oil & gas industry.

“The department has a responsibility to develop regulations in an open and transparent manner with input from the public,” Nolan said, at a meeting to examine significant changes to oil and gas regulations, as proposed by the DEP.

She said the department is seeking “enhanced public participation” through the appointment of the four non-voting members, who include a professor from Carnegie Mellon University and a senior member of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“The composition of the board has already been set,” Nolan said.

Her comments follow a letter from PIOGA to the other five board members on April 10, arguing that Quigley acted illegally in appointing the four new members, and noting that the state legislature made no changes to the duties or composition of the TAB when it passed the sweeping Act 13 Oil & Gas Act in 2012.

Continue Reading

Obama Administration proposes billions to overhaul energy infrastructure

Vice President Joe Biden, right, accompanied by Mayor Michael Nutter tours the headquarters of PECO energy company in Philadelphia, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. The White House has released a four-year energy plan, Quadrennial Energy Review, designed to fight climate change, modernize power plants and find other ways to ensure the nation a steady supply of safe energy.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Vice President Joe Biden, right, accompanied by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter tours the headquarters of PECO energy company in Philadelphia, Tuesday. The White House has released the Quadrennial Energy Review, designed to modernize the nation's energy infrastructure.

The Obama Administration wants to spend billions of dollars to upgrade the nation’s energy infrastructure. That means replacing pipelines, making the grid more resilient against terrorism or cyber attacks, preparing the systems for rising sea levels, improving data on crude-by-rail, reducing emissions from natural gas infrastructure, and modernizing the electrical grid.

The White House chose to roll out the first ever “Quadrennial Energy Review” in Philadelphia, which has struggled to keep pace with replacing its own aging natural gas pipes, and is trying to position itself as an East Coast “energy hub.”

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz toured a PECO Energy facility in Philadelphia Tuesday before speaking to area business leaders.

PECO received a $200 million dollar federal stimulus grant back in 2009 to upgrade its transmission system. The electric and gas utility serves a six-county area that includes Philadelphia and its suburbs.

This first Quadrennial Energy Review focuses exclusively on infrastructure and is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Continue Reading

PUC instructs Philadelphia Gas Works on how to accelerate pipeline-replacement program

Michael Groves, PGW Senior Pipe Mechanic climbs out of a hole on Van Pelt Street after inspecting a new main gas line in North Philadelphia.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

Michael Groves, PGW Senior Pipe Mechanic climbs out of a hole on Van Pelt Street after inspecting a new main gas line in North Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Gas Works should consider how to raise money to pay for the faster replacement of almost 2,000 miles of ageing cast-iron and unprotected steel mains, which pose an increasing risk to public safety, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission said on Tuesday.

The PUC set out seven alternatives for paying for a pipe-replacement program, which at the 2014 rate would take 66 years because of the extensive nature of the system and its presence in a densely populated urban area.

Among the options, the regulator urged PGW to consider increasing its Distribution System Improvement Charge. Raising the current cap of 5% of a consumer’s bill to 7.5% would raise $11 million and reduce the time needed to replace all hazardous pipe by 14.5 years to 51.5 years from the 2014 level. Continue Reading

More pollution flowing into Chesapeake Bay than expected

Algae blooms (dark colors) flourish in Yorktown, Virginia in 2010.  Torrential rain combined with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees farenheit, and pollution made for ideal algae bloom conditions.

AP Photo/Morgan Heim/iLCP/Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Algae blooms (dark colors) in Yorktown, Virginia in 2010. Torrential rain combined with high temperatures and pollution made for ideal algae bloom conditions.

After decades of work and billions of dollars spent, a massive effort is still underway to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. In 2010, Pennsylvania and other states in the watershed began a new plan to restore the health of the bay—with the goal to fully implement pollution reduction practices by the year 2025.

But new data shows more nitrogen and sediment is running off into the bay than previously expected.

Continue Reading

Air pollution increases at Pennsylvania’s natural gas sites

A Cabot fracking site in Harford Township, Susquehanna County.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

A Cabot fracking site in Harford Township, Susquehanna County.

Sulfur dioxide emissions jumped 57 percent from 2012 to 2013 at the state’s natural gas production sites, according to data released today by the Department of Environmental Protection. Sulfur dioxide contributes to acid rain, and causes respiratory problems including asthma.  Other air pollutants that contribute to public health impacts also increased. These jumps in emissions coincide with the number of well sites reporting.

Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley said in a press release that the results were not a surprise.

“The industry is growing,” said Quigley. “And each year we are expanding the types and number of facilities from which we collect data so that we have a more comprehensive understanding of air quality issues.”

Quigley says overall the state’s air quality is improving, despite the increased emissions from the natural gas sector. Continue Reading

Shale Gas Opponents Shout Down Industry Speaker at Philadelphia LNG Session

Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh hosted a forum on LNG exports at Drexel University.

Emma Lee / Newsworks

Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh hosted a forum on LNG exports at Drexel University.

Anti-fracking protestors late Thursday disrupted a public information session on the possibility of building a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Philadelphia, shouting down speakers from the industry and finally being ejected by security officers.

About half a dozen protestors repeatedly interrupted an opening presentation at Drexel University by Jason French, Director of Government and Public Affairs for Cheniere Energy which is building two LNG export terminals in Louisiana and Texas at a combined cost of $34 billion. Continue Reading

Philadelphia’s mayoral race has candidates talking shale gas

Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the largest oil refining complex on the Eastern seaboard. Half of all Bakken Crude traveling across the country by rail ends up at the PES plant.

Nat Hamilton/WHYY

Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the largest oil refining complex on the Eastern seaboard. Half of all Bakken Crude traveling across the country by rail ends up at the PES plant.

On Thursday evening business leaders and local politicians gathered at Drexel University in Philadelphia to talk about exporting Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas from the Port of Philadelphia, and got an earful from activists. But the export terminal is just one idea inside of a larger vision to turn Philadelphia into an “energy hub,” an issue that continues to come up in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary race.

So, what is an energy hub?

Here’s what the energy hub aims to do in a nut shell.

Take advantage of all that abundant Marcellus Shale gas flowing out of wells in the northeast and southwest parts of the state, places like Susquehanna County, or Washington County. Send all that gas to Philadelphia, instead of spreading it out to places like New York or Canada, or the Gulf Coast.

And once all those billions of molecules of gas get to Philly, turn them into trillions of dollars.

To do that, say the hub’s boosters, simply use cheap gas to power new factories, turn that cheap gas into plastics, or liquefy it and sell it abroad for lots of money.

And yes, create good jobs.

The energy hub’s most powerful advocate is Phil Rinaldi. Rinaldi runs Philadelphia Energy Solutions. That’s the company bringing in all that crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota across the state, inching along the city’s railroad tracks in black tank cars.

Continue Reading

Gas industry urges U.S. to speed approval of LNG export terminals

Liquefied natural gas pipes circulate around the terminal into holding tanks.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Liquefied natural gas pipes circulate around the Cove Point, MD terminal into holding tanks. The former import terminal is now under construction to become an export facility.

The natural gas industry’s leading trade group on Thursday stepped up pressure on the federal government to approve plans for liquefied natural gas export terminals, issuing a white paper which argues that the U.S. risks missing an opportunity to dominate the global market unless it acts quickly.

America’s Natural Gas Alliance said the U.S. could reap economic, environmental and geopolitical benefits if it builds terminals to give abundant domestic supplies of the fuel full access to world markets.

There is also strong overseas demand for natural gas, as shown by Shell’s recent agreement to buy the integrated natural gas company BG Group for $70 billion, ANGA said.

“The United States can become a global energy leader by exporting a share of our abundant natural gas supplies without sacrificing the competitive advantage enjoyed by domestic manufacturers,” the report said. “But we need to act soon.”

ANGA urged the federal government to speed its approval of applications for LNG export terminals such as Cove Point in Maryland — the closest to gas coming out of the Marcellus Shale — which is awaiting final approval by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Continue Reading

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education