Monthly Archives: August 2014

PA Rep. Introduces Bill to Retain Local Impact Fee if Severance Tax is Enacted

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

State Rep. Jesse White on Tuesday introduced legislation that would preserve the Marcellus Shale local impact fee if a severance tax on natural gas production is enacted.

The impact fee, which was enacted in 2012 as part of the state’s natural gas drilling law, Act 13, brought in an estimated $225.7 million in 2013.

The lion’s share of the impact fee goes to municipalities and counties most heavily impacted by drilling to mitigate road and infrastructure damage, and other effects from natural gas development.

White, D-Cecil Township, said that according to current law, if a severance tax is enacted the impact fee will go away by operation of law:

Title 58, Chapter 23: Unconventional Gas Well Fee, § 2318, Expiration:

(a) Notice.–The Secretary of the Commonwealth shall, upon the imposition of a severance tax on unconventional gas wells in this Commonwealth, submit for publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin notice of the imposition.

(b) Date.–This chapter shall expire on the date of the publication of the notice under subsection (a).

White’s legislation, House Bill 2403, would repeal that section of law to ensure any severance tax enacted would not eliminate the local impact fee.

“Like with any industrial operation, local communities and residents feel the impact of natural-gas development, whether it is damage to roads or increased demands placed on emergency-service providers and other resources,” White, whose district includes portions of Allegheny, Beaver and Washington counties. “The Marcellus Shale impact fee is essential for our municipalities dealing with these impacts, and we need to be absolutely certain the impact fee remains available to help lessen those burdens when Pennsylvania finally joins every other gas-producing state by enacting a reasonable severance tax.”

White said that with increased discussion and support from both Republicans and Democrats for a severance tax on natural gas drilling, the only way to be certain the impact fee remains in place is by amending or repealing the language within current law.

“This is a manufactured crisis created by Gov. Corbett and those in Legislature who voted for Act 13, and it must be fixed to ensure the communities impacted by natural gas drilling activity continue to receive the Local Impact Fee,” White said. “Instead of using the threat of losing the Impact Fee as an election year scare tactic, we need to put policy over politics and do the right thing by passing H.B. 2403 without delay.”

“I urge local municipal officials to make sure their voices are heard on this important topic,” White said.

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DEP Issues Notices of Violation to Range Resources for Leaking Yeager Impoundment in Washington County

Impoundments like this are used to store water used in the fracking process.

Impoundments like this are used to store water used in the fracking process.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued notices of violation to Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources over issues at its Yeager centralized waste water impoundment on McAdams Road in Amwell Township, Washington County including holes in the liner and elevated chloride levels.

Range Resources violated sections of the Oil and Gas Act, the Clean Streams Act, the Dam Safety and Encroachment Act, and the Solid Waste Management, Act 35.

In the letter from DEP to Range Resources dated July 24, department Water Quality Specialist Supervisor John M. Carson wrote that during the operation of the centralized impoundment, “flow was often detected at the leak detection zone, but Range did not satisfy the permit’s weekly chlorides testing requirements” for it.

The letter goes on to explain that, in a Mary 14 assessment report Range Resources sent to the department, the company indicated that “a hole penetrated the top and bottom liners of the centralized impoundment” on its northeast side directly to the east of the sump area.

The assessment also detailed “holes found during earlier Range inspections,” according to the letter.

That same report also identified five areas of the impoundment site where there were elevated levels of chlorides.

Carson writes:

“These areas are near where Range found liner holes. Chlorides as reflected in the permit, typically indicate a flowback or frack fluids release to soil. The presence of liner holes and corresponding elected chlorides indicate fluids in the impoundment leaked.”

DEP also said:

  • Range Resources did not monitor chlorides as stated in its application and required by its permit
  • Range Resources did not submit an “as built” plans as required. Those plans would have shown department-approved changes to the original plan.
  • Range Resources violated the Dam Safety and Encroachment Act, which states that owners of dams, water obstructions or encroachments are required to “monitor, operate and maintain the facility in a safe condition.”
  • That centralized impoundment fluids “escaped containment,” which is in violation of the Oil and Gas Act and the Solid Waste Management Act

Range Resources has until Aug. 8 to respond to the NOV, according to the letter.

The letter indicates that enforcement action could include civil or criminal proceedings, as well as civil penalties.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further details.

The Yeager impoundment is the second Range Resources pit in Washington County to garner notices of violation. Notices were also sent out for its Jon Day impoundment, also located in Amwell Township, where 15,000 tons of contaminated soil are being removed following a “significant” leak.

Range recently sought to close the Yeager impoundment, which is the subject of several lawsuits as well as a federal probe.

Soil analysis is being conducted at a third Range Resources pit known as Cecil 23 impoundment, formerly known as the Worstell impoundment in Cecil Township. Municipal officials last week hand-delivered letters to nearby residents warning them of potential contamination.

 

 

 

 

 

Cecil Township Warns Residents of Potential Water Contamination Near Frack Pit After DEP Refuses To

worstell

EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: DEP spokesman John Poister emailed me the following statement regarding the Cecil 23 Impoundment:

“DEP was notified of elevated chloride levels in one of its groundwater monitoring wells on July 11.  On July 21st Range did additional sampling on the site.  DEP will have inspectors on site next week to take our own samples from the groundwater monitoring and leak detection system at the impoundment. We do intend to contact property owners who are closest to and down gradient  of the impoundment to determine if they would provide DEP access to their property to conduct sampling of their wells.

Samples will be analyzed for a wide range of inorganic and organics as well as other compounds.  These lab tests generally take between 30 and 45 days to complete.

If DEP determines that groundwater may have been impacted, the DEP will require a comprehensive investigation of the groundwater including an assessment the private water wells with the potential to be impacted.

DEP has not had any complaints from private water well owners in the vicinity of the impoundment.”

 

A controversial Marcellus Shale centralized water impoundment Cecil Township operated by Range Resources and used in the fracking process may have contaminated nearby soil and groundwater, prompting municipal officials there today to hand-deliver letters to about 50 nearby residents.

“The township has come to learn that the impoundment is currently no holding any fluids and was taken out of service in April of this year,” the letter reads. “It is the township’s understanding that the impoundment was taken out of service as part of an investigation to determine whether any fluids entered the groundwater and soils in and around the impoundment site and the source of any fresh water.”

Cecil Township supervisors for more than a year have raised concerns about Cecil 23 impoundment, formerly known as the Worstell impoundment – and the board said in a press release that information it recently received “has furthered those concerns.”

Previously unknown to both the township and the public, is that on July 11 Range Resources notified the DEP that there were elevated chloride levels detected by the ground water monitoring wells at the Cecil 23 waste water impoundment, according to the press release.

In response to repeated inquiries by Cecil Township officials, the DEP confirmed Thursday that they will conduct a limited investigation.

Upon learning this information, Cecil Township called DEP and requested that they notify Cecil Township residents of potential ground water contamination. Unfortunately, the DEP declined to do so initially stating ‘the DEP will not make a general notification to residents, according to Cecil officials.

“Based on recent evidence of water and soil contamination at other Range Resource impoundments in Washington County coupled with concerns raised by Auditor General, DePasquale’s report on DEP performance; we feel that the public has a right to know if it’s safe to live in their neighborhood,” supervisor’s Chairman Andy Schrader said. “Our residents’ safety is our first concern.”

The township intends to closely monitor this investigation and keep residents informed.

The Worstell impoundment made headlines in 2013, when Cecil Township supervisors sought to meet publicly with DEP regarding concerns over the frack pit.

DEP refused to meet in public, and documents obtained through a state Right to Know request showed high-ranking officials making a joke about using a provision in the open records law to keep the gathering in private.

News of possible groundwater and soil contamination at the Cecil 23 Impoundment comes in the wake of a “significant” leak at another Range Resources impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County. That leak necessitated the removal of at least 15,000 tons of soil. DEP issued notices of violation for the leak.

A third frack pit in Amwell run by Range Resources known as the Yeager impoundment – which was the subject of lawsuits and a federal probe – is reportedly in the process of being closed.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking more information.

Editor’s Note: While the township intends to closely monitor this investigation and keep residents informed, concerned citizens should contact both the township at 724-745-2227 and the DEP at 1-866-255-5158 with any questions or concerns.

 

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