Natural gas pipelines in Lycoming County. Natural gas systems are the second-leading cause of methane emissions, after agriculture according to the Obama administration.
The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a series of initiatives aimed a curbing methane emissions from the nation’s natural gas infrastructure. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It’s released by livestock, landfills, and oil and gas production.
Methane accounts for about 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution, but it’s over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat trapping gas.
Scientists are still working to quantify methane emissions and their sources. A slew of papers has recently been published in academic journals. According to the White House, natural gas systems are the second-leading cause of human-related methane emissions, after agriculture.
Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz called methane both a potent greenhouse gas and a powerful energy resource and says that curbing leaks will be beneficial.
“These benefits include job creation through pipeline and other equipment replacement, cost recovery for infrastructure investments that increase safety and save energy, and opportunities for addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he said in a statement.
The report includes responses from 60 of the coalition’s 288 member companies.
Spigelmyer points out the survey focuses on direct oil and gas jobs and doesn’t capture other employment benefits, like lower natural gas prices making Pennsylvania manufacturing more competitive. He says as drill rigs move elsewhere, job opportunities also shift.
“We’ve seen the job growth occurring primarily in the downstream sector—building out our pipeline infrastructure,” he says.
According to the survey, the share of new jobs going to Pennsylvanians increased slightly last year–up from 57 percent in 2012 to 60 percent in 2013.
A sign protesting a proposed deep injection well sits on the lawn of a home in Brady Township, Clearfield County.
The Government Accountability Office says new risks from underground injections of oil and gas waste could harm drinking water supplies, and the EPA needs to step up both oversight and enforcement. The GAO released a study on Monday detailing the EPA’s role in overseeing the nation’s 172,000 wells, which either dispose of oil and gas waste, use “enhanced” oil and gas production techniques, store fossil fuels for later use, or use diesel fuel to frack for gas or oil. These wells are referred to as “class II” underground injection wells and are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Oversight of these wells vary by state, with some coming under the regulatory authority of the EPA, including the 1,865 class II wells in Pennsylvania. The GAO faults the EPA for inconsistent on-site inspections and guidance that dates back to the 1980′s. Of the more than 1800 class II wells in Pennsylvania, the GAO reports only 33 percent were inspected in 2012. Some states, including California, Colorado and North Dakota, require monthly reporting on injection pressure, volume and content of the fluid.
As more oil and gas wells across the country generate more waste, the GAO highlights three new risks associated with these wells — earthquakes, high pressure in formations that may have reached their disposal limit, and fracking with diesel. Continue Reading →
A natural gas pipeline in Lycoming County. Oklahoma-based Williams Partners is seeking to build 177 miles of new pipeline through 10 Pennsylvania counties in an effort to bring Marcellus Shale gas to markets along the East Coast.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is planning to hold four public meetings throughout Pennsylvania next week to discuss a proposed expansion of the Transco natural gas pipeline system.
Oklahoma-based Williams Partners operates the Transco system, which has over 10,000 miles of exisiting pipeline–moving gas to other businesses, like utility companies and power plants.
As part of a $3 billion project called Atlantic Sunrise, Williams is proposing 177 miles through Pennsylvania of new pipeline to connect Marcellus Shale gas to markets along the East Coast– cities like Baltimore, Washington D.C. and as far south as Alabama.
If approved by FERC, the pipeline would run through 10 Pennsylvania counties, including Columbia, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Clinton and Lycoming.
A drill rig in the Tiadaghton State Forest. Although gas drilling is already occurring in many state forests--including the Loyalsock--environmental groups are fighting a proposed expansion in an ecologically sensitive area of the Loyalsock known as the Clarence Moore lands.
More than a year has passed since DCNR held a contentious public meeting on the issue in Williamsport. Since then, the agency has released very little information publicly.
Nearly 500 people attended that meeting, and everyone who spoke over a three-hour period expressed either opposition or concern. In a response to an open records request from the Pennsylvania Forest Coalition, DCNR said it did not keep a record of the comments.
A DCNR spokeswoman did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story.
The plans unveiled last summer involve 26 well pads and four compressor stations on a 25,000 acre swath of the Loyalsock forest known as the Clarence Moore lands– a popular area for wildlife enthusiasts and hikers.
A hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a fracking) site in Susquehanna County. Fracking is only one phase of shale gas extraction, but the word is often used as a catchall term for the entire process.
A key question during Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom centers on how much damage it’s done to water resources.
According to new information released this week by the state Department of Environmental Protection, water supplies around the commonwealth have been damaged by oil and gas operations 209 times since the end of 2007. This is the first time the agency has released such a tally.
Why did it wait so long?
According to state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, it’s because the agency has been following the letter of the law, but not “the spirit of the law.”
As part of a highly-critical audit of the DEP unveiled Tuesday, DePasquale says he believes state legislators may not have understood the implications of some of the public disclosure language they approved in Act 13– Pennsylvania’s 2012 update of its oil and gas law.
Workers build the Laser pipeline in Susquehanna County, Pa.
Federal regulators announced this week that a controversial pipeline expansion project will undergo an extensive environmental review. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees interstate pipelines, will do an environmental impact statement on the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise Expansion Project.
Oklahoma-based Williams has proposed an expansion to their Transco natural gas pipeline, which would run through parts of north and central Pennsylvania. The pipeline has garnered intense opposition in Lancaster County. As a result, the company has changed part of its original route to avoid nature preserves.
The Transco pipeline system moves natural gas through more than 10,000 miles of existing pipes. The expansion project is part of a larger effort to get Marcellus Shale gas to end users like power plants.
The spreadsheet lists the 209 affected water supplies by county, municipality and the date regulators concluded that activities related to oil or gas extraction were to blame for contaminating or diminishing the flow to a water source.
The document does not disclose property owners’ names or addresses and it does not detail which companies that were deemed responsible for the damage, what caused the disruptions or what pollutants were found in the water.
Protesters outside the DEP's Harrisburg headquarters in April 2013. Auditors criticize the department for communicating poorly with citizens who complained about water issues related to gas development.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection failed to adequately track and respond to public complaints about water quality related to natural gas development, according to a report released today by the state Auditor General’s Office.
Auditors found the department lacking in eight key areas — citing it for sloppy record-keeping, lax oversight of drilling waste and gas well inspections, and poor communication with people who complained gas drilling contaminated their water. In some cases, auditors say it took months or even years for the DEP to log complaints into its internal tracking system.
The report covers DEP operations in the first few years of the gas boom — from January 2009 through December 2012. It’s the result of a campaign pledge by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat and former DEP staffer, who vowed to look into how the department handles water complaints related to gas drilling.
The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation filed suit to halt all drilling in state forests back in 2012. But when Governor Tom Corbett announced earlier this year his plans to lift a moratorium on new forest leases to fill a budget gap, the Environmental Defense Foundation sought an injunction to halt any new drilling.
The group also asked the courts to prevent the Corbett administration from channeling funds from the state’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the general fund, or cover the budget of DCNR.
Leasing the state’s forests to Marcellus Shale drillers began under the Rendell administration, much to the chagrin of DCNR’s leadership and staff. In 2010, just before Rendell left office, he imposed a moratorium on any new forest leases. Continue Reading →
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