SCOTT DETROW / STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA
An abandoned, unplugged well near the Allegheny National Forest
Pennsylvania environmental regulators are embarking on a project to map about 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells that are currently unaccounted for in state records, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Abandoned wells provide pathways for methane gas to seep to the surface, where it can, under the right settings, trigger explosions. However, as StateImpact Pennsylvania has reported, finding and plugging them has been a difficult task for the state’s underfunded Abandoned and Orphaned Well Program.
The current mapping effort is being spurred by proposed state regulations for modern oil and gas drilling that would require companies to locate any old wells before fracking their new well.
More from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
While some companies have submitted historical maps to DEP, including valuable archives kept by EQT Corp. and Peoples Natural Gas, other companies have been reluctant to participate in the effort, citing cost, time and a host of thorny legal issues.
Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania
Drilling waste at a site in Tioga County.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers have under-reported the amount of waste they send to landfills.
The paper analyzed records of nine landfills in the southwestern part of the state and found they reported three to four times the amount of waste that drillers claimed to have dropped off.
The paper found EQT Corp. reported 21 tons of drill cuttings in 2013, while six landfills in southwestern Pennsylvania reported receiving 95,000 tons.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is looking into the discrepancies.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
Ray Kemble of Dimock, Pa. displays a jug of what he identifies as his contaminated well water in this August 2013 file photo.
For the first time, Pennsylvania environmental regulators are publicly releasing documents about cases when natural gas operations have damaged private water supplies.
A list of 248 incidents is now available on the Department of Environmental Protection’s website with links to the letters sent to homeowners when the agency determined their water well was impacted by gas development.
The DEP provided an early copy of the list to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in July, which showed 209 cases. The updated tally is the result of a more thorough search of paper records in regional offices, said spokesman Eric Shirk.
“As we do get more information, we will keep this list updated,” he said.
Workers keep an eye on well heads during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. oil well, near Mead, Colo.
A new study out this month reveals unconventional oil and natural gas workers could be exposed to dangerous levels of benzene, putting them at a higher risk for blood cancers like leukemia. Benzene is a known carcinogen that is present in fracking flowback water. It’s also found in gasoline, cigarette smoke and in chemical manufacturing. As a known carcinogen, benzene exposures in the workplace are limited by federal regulations under OSHA. But some oil and gas production activities are exempt from those standards.
The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) worked with industry to measure chemical exposures of workers who monitor flowback fluid at well sites in Colorado and Wyoming. A summary of the peer-reviewed article was published online this month on a CDC website. In several cases benzene exposures were found to be above safe levels.
The study is unusual in that it did not simply rely on air samples. The researchers also took urine samples from workers, linking the exposure to absorption of the toxin in their bodies. One of the limits of the study includes the small sample size, only six sites in two states. Continue Reading
AP Photo/Marc Levy, file
In this 2014 file photo, Attorney General Kathleen Kane speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is reportedly widening her investigation into complaints of fraud from gas royalty owners.
So far, the allegations have centered on the state’s biggest gas driller, Chesapeake Energy. Now sources tell Capotolwire that Kane’s office has issued subpoenas “throughout the energy industry” in Pennsylvania.
It could suggest investigators are looking for background information or that the probe also includes complaints about the payment practices of other companies.
Kane spokesman J.J. Abbott and a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the state’s top drilling trade group, declined to comment.
Jackie Root, President of the National Association of Royalty Owners’ Pennsylvania chapter, welcomed the news.
“We know that the issues that are out there were not solely Chesapeake,” said Root, who noted the organization has heard from numerous members who have been interviewed by state investigators.