Tag Archives: fracking

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 Over Washington County Methane Leak

Range_Resources_Logo

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday issued notices of violation to Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources over a methane leak last month at a gas well in Washington County.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the “equipment failure” May 14 at the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant Township that spurred a precautionary evacuation of a few dozen residents resulted in the company being issued Thursday with an NOV for failure to operate a well according to regulations, and for hazardous release of a gas into the air.

He said DEP is requiring Range Resources to provide it with a full explanation of what caused the equipment failure, as well as its plan to correct the problem. Additionally, Poister said DEP is requiring the company to provide it with information about the future of the well, which he said was not operational at the time of the leak.

That information is due back to DEP by July 11, he said.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information on the matter.

 

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Why Did Two Top Range Resources Executives Dump More Than Half Their Company Stock?

Ray Walker Jr.

Photo courtesy of Range Resources site

Photo courtesy of Range Resources site

Two of Range Resources’ top executives have sold more than half of the stock they owned in the corporation earlier this month, the Mideast Times has reported.

The executive, Chief Operating Officer Ray Walker Jr., sold 17,322 shares for more than $1.5 million. Walker still owns 15,975 shares of the company’s stock, valued at more than $1.4 million, according to the report.

On the same day, Range Resources Vice President David P. Poole sold 13,864 shares of the company’s stock for just more than $1.2 million, according to the news organization.

Following that sale, Poole now directly owns 8,796 shares in the company, valued at approximately $773,608.

The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is available at this link.

Editor’s Note: Thoughts on the stock sale? Could it have anything to do with all the high-profile litigation in which the company is embroiled? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. -amanda

 

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MarkWest Issues Statement on Fire at Washington County Processing Plant, Evacuation

MarkWest Energy Partners has issued an emailed statement through spokesman Robert McHale – who is on scene –  regarding the fire at the Chartiers Township/Houston, Washington County, Marcellus Shale gas processing plant.

“At approximately 6:00 p.m., during severe weather conditions, MarkWest¹s Houston facility was struck by lightning. All employees and contractors are accounted for and there are no reported injuries. The facility will remain shut down until a thorough inspection is completed.

MarkWest has highly trained personnel on-site working with first responders and will continue to monitor the situation.

First responders have secured a perimeter and out of an abundance of caution, several residents have relocated to a local community center.

MarkWest has an employee at this location and will  work with these residents to ensure that accommodations are made until they can return to their homes.

We thank the first responders for their professionalism and will provide updates as more information becomes available.”

Editor’s Note: The Observer-Reporter and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both reported that those evacuated were told they could return to their homes just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. To read the OR’s report, click here. To read the PG’s report, click here.

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PA State Rep Introduces Law Requiring Full Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals, Mandatory Air Quality Monitoring

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

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

By Amanda Gillooly

A Pennsylvania state representative announced this week that he has introduced two new bills in the state House that he said would help further promote responsible Marcellus Shale drilling operations in local communities.

House Bill 1721, the “Fair Frac Disclosure Act,” would mandate the full disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, including the disclosure of compounds labeled as “proprietary” by drilling company vendors and subcontractors.

White said that when companies dump drilling waste water from multiple sites into open-air waste water impoundments, chemicals from the fracking process can mix, react and release into the air or into groundwater if the impoundments leak.

White said that the Fair Frac Disclosure Act would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to maintain a public database of all compounds used by an applicant before a permit could be issued, thus providing transparency and accountability to Pennsylvania residents.

“Local residents who live near industrial drilling operations at the very least deserve to know what chemicals are being put into the air and water as part of the fracking process,” said White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington. “While I applaud the recent news of hydraulic fracturing supplier Baker Hughes deciding to disclose all of its chemicals, not all companies are following suit. This legislation would simply add another layer of protection for our local communities.”

White’s second bill, House Bill 2172, would mandate that air-quality monitoring systems be placed near all natural-gas compressor stations, processing plants and centralized waste water impoundments.

Centralized impoundments have become a controversial issue in western Pennsylvania, with news earlier this month that there was a “significant leak” at a Range Resources pit in Amwell Township, Washington County. The DEP said hundreds of tons of contaminated soil has already been removed, and a source says thousands of tons more may follow suit. The incident spurred the DEP to issue notices of violation to the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company.

Under this bill, White said such monitoring systems would be required at all current and future sites as a condition of their permitting. The legislation would require that all air-quality levels recorded by monitoring systems be made publicly accessible through a real-time display posted on the Internet.

White pointed to a recent Associated Press report on preliminary data from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project regarding cases in which residents might have experienced problems as a result of living in close proximity to natural gas drilling operations. To date, the project has discovered 27 cases in which residents developed symptoms and illnesses after nearby operations began.

Natural gas drilling in our region is here and here to stay, but that does not mean we should ignore simple and commonsense practices that would promote more transparency and provide for honest, fact-based debate,” White said. “When dealing with the health and well-being of our local communities and residents, the public should have access to the scientific facts and figures surrounding drilling in an unfiltered way, and my legislation offers that – nothing more, nothing less.”

 

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Range Resources Hauling Contaminated Soil to Washington Co. Landfill Using Old Permit, Thousands of Tons More Need Removed

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN)
Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

By Amanda Gillooly

More than 500 tons of contaminated soil has already been trucked out of the John Day impoundment in Washington County and into at least one area landfill on an old permit, the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed late last week.

Sources have said the incident is worse than previously reported in the media, and that thousands of tons of contaminated soil still need to be removed.

DEP spokesman John Poister on Tuesday (April 22) said Range Resources had “removed” 500 tons of soil from the impoundment and had been “stockpiling” it in a contained, secure area locatedat the Amwell Township site. He added the company was using vacuum trucks to ensure any dirt that escaped from the area would be immediately removed.

But Wednesday night, sources told Marcellus Monitor that Range had actually been trucking the soil to area landfills – and that they had seen as many as five tri-axle trucks hauling material out of the impoundment for days.

Reached Thursday (April 24) for clarification on where the soil was being stored or transported, Poister reversed the DEP’s previous statement, saying, “We know now” the company had, in fact, been transporting the soil off site.

He said the soil was trucked to the Arden landfill in Chartiers Township, Washington County.

Poister said it was legal for the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company to use a previous permit – called a Form U – because it was issued earlier this year for the same site.

However, that permit only allowed the company to remove about 100 tons of soil a day.

Poister said Range Resources has applied for a new permit, which would allow them to haul out more soil from the John Day impoundment in Washington County.

While the DEP spokesman could provide no further details related to the pending Form U permit, a source has said it could allow Range Resources to haul out as many as 800 tons of soil each day.

A copy of the old Form U, which contains analysis of the contaminated soil previously permitted to be hauled from the pit to area landfills, was not immediately available. Marcellus Monitor is working to obtain a copy, as well as the soil analysis Range Resources would have had to have submitted in order to obtain the former permit.

Asked if by using the old permit, Range Resources was asserting that the soil effected by the most recent leak contains the same chemicals as the soil removed during the previous incident, Poister said, “I don’t know. I am waiting to get clarification on that.”

While no further information on the permit or the amount of soil needed to be removed from the site was available from DEP, a source told Marcellus Monitor that “thousands” more tons would need to be removed.

While the DEP and Range Resources director of corporate communications Matt Pitzarella has said the leak essentially consisted of “salt water,” the department is still awaiting the a soil analysis from the company, Poister said Thursday afternoon.

The DEP spokesman on Wednesday added that Range Resources had exhausted the amount of tons it was permitted to remove from the site, which necessitated the new permit.

Sources, though, said they observed trucks hauling material out of the impoundment throughout last week – including Thursday and as recently as this Monday morning.

Asked if Range was permitted to haul additional soil out of the impoundment given that DEP indicated the company had “exhausted” the former permit, Poister said, “I don’t know if they shipped” all of the stockpiled soil.

Poister also confirmed last week that Range Resources – which has two crews working at the John Day impoundment, one to remove soil and the other to place plastic tarps over the impoundment to prevent rainwater from pushing what they have said is salt water further into the ground – was having difficulty getting the plastic to stay put.

While he said the issue was under control as of last week, sources say the plastic could be seen blowing into the yards of neighboring farms – and that the plastic tarps remain an issue this week, as well.

It was still unclear when the DEP would issue a notice of violation to Range Resources, although Poister said Thursday it was still in the process of being drawn up.

Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process. Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process. Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.

Pitzarella did not immediately return emails seeking further information.

Editor’s Note: Poister said Monday morning that there was no new information on the leak or cleanup efforts at the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township.

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DEP: 500 Tons of Contaminated Soil Removed From Range Resources Impoundment Following Washington County Leak

By Amanda Gillooly

 

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) The John Day Impoundment

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN)
The John Day Impoundment

Crews have removed 500 tons of contaminated soil from a Range Resources centralized impoundment located in Amwell Township, Washington County – the site where the state Department of Environmental Protection last week said was a “significant leak.”

Although Matt Pitzarella, the Marcellus Shale drilling company’s director of corporate communications, disputed there was, in fact, a “leak” at the site, DEP’s spokesman John Poister on Tuesday morning was clear: Yes, there was a “significant leak” at the impoundment – one that will require even more soil to be removed.

Poister indicated that a DEP inspector was on scene Tuesday, and said two crews are working at the John Day imundment to remediate the area. One crew is removing soil, he said, while the other is using plastic to cover the ground in an effort to shield it from rainfall.

Rain, Poister said, would “just push the salt further into the ground.”

Poister said the DEP was not aware of where the soil is being transported, but confirmed that Range Resources is in the process of having its contents analyzed.

The DEP, he said, has not yet received a form from Range Resources that shows what chemicals are in the soil. Such a form is required by the state before contaminated soil can be dumped into a landfill.

Poister said DEP also did not know how much soil would potentially need to be removed from the John Day impoundment. However, a confidential source has said a significant amount of soil still needs to be removed.

The spokesman said DEP officials are in the process of drawing up a notice of violation, but could not say when it would be finalized and sent to Range Resources.

“We’re moving pretty fast on this, but we’re still collecting information,” Poister said.

Poister could not provide further details about whether the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township had been used to store fresh water or waste water, but said there “is not distinction” and could have been permitted either way.

He did say, however, that he did not believe the impoundment was being actively used when the leak was reported last week.

Further details on the nature of the leak were not immediately available Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how 500 tons of soil was contaminated following a leak from what Pitzarella told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was an empty impoundment.

Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.

Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.

A spokesman from Range Resources’ media relations department did not immediately return a voice mail seeking more information.

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DEP Issuing Notice of Violation to Range Resources for ‘Significant Leak’ at Washington County Impoundment

marcellus monitor

(Impoundments are used to store the water utilized during the fracking process)

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister on Thursday afternoon confirmed that a notice of violation would be issued to Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources for what he said was a “significant leak” at the John Day Impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County.

Poister said Range Reported reported the spill Wednesday, and that the company hired a consultant to help determine what remediation steps are necessary. A DEP inspector is also on scene.

Poister said the notice of violation would go out “very soon” for the leak, which Range Resources officials told DEP was detected during an inspection. Salt was found in the soil, Poister indicated.

He said Range Resources would have to remove a “significant amount of soil” because of the leak.

The DEP will be working with the Southpointe-based company, he said, to ensure the site is completely remediated, and to ensure corrections are made to prevent similar incidents in the future.

He said the notice of violation will also include a civil penalty.

“I can’t tell you right now what the extent of that penalty would be,” Poister said Thursday.

A Range Resources public relations spokeswoman did not immediately return a voice mail seeking more information on the leak.

Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.

Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.

 

 

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Marcellus Shale Coalition, PIOGA Petition Court to Intervene in Act 13 Case

marcellus monitor

The Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association on Wednesday filed a petition again asking the Commonwealth Court to allow them to intervene in the ongoing court case revolving around Act 13, the state’s law governing Marcellus Shale drilling activity.

In a 23-page court filing, attorneys for the industry groups – two attorneys from K&L Gates firm – argue that their clients have a “unique and compelling interest” in the case.

The state Supreme Court in December upheld a Commonwealth Court ruling that declared portions of Act 13 as unconstitutional – specifically, the portions that pre-empted local zoning ordinances.

But the Supreme Court also remanded several issues, such as medical gag orders, back to the lower court.

Both industry parties had petitioned the Commonwealth Court in April of 2012 to intervene in the case. They were denied. The industry groups also petitioned the Supreme Court to allow them to intervene. The Supreme Court also denied their request.

In Wednesday’s filing, attorneys wrote:

“The industry parties have…unique, compelling and legally enforceable interests in the outcome of this case.”

The attorneys argue that the industry’s interests can no longer be soundly represented by Commonwealth parties involved in the case.

They write:

When the issue before this court was the constitutionality of Act 13 in its entirety, this court concluded that those interests were adequately represented by the Commonwealth parties. Now, however, there are several issues before this court related to the interpretation and application of the Supreme Court majority decision and, more importantly for purposes of this petition in respect to the new issues presented, the industry parties are neither necessarily aligned with nor adequately represented by Commonwealth parties.”

They later add:

“Rather, the parties are potentially directly adverse to the Commonwealth parties.”

The petition also suggests that industry parties should be permitted to intervene in the case on remand because of the substantial impact the eventual outcome will have on them.

“The industry parties have a substantial and unrepresented interest in how the underlying issues are addressed and how pending questions are resolved. Act 13 contains a myriad of regulatory provisions including…the payment of impact fees; the content of permit applications, well site construction (and more).

No current party to this case must actually plan for, finance and comply with Act 13’s extensive list of regulatory requirements. Thus, no party has the same interests as the industry parties.”

Reached Wednesday afternoon, John Smith, one of the lead attorneys who spearheaded the Act 13 challenge on behalf of a handful of communities such as Cecil and Peters townships, a nonprofit and a medical doctor, said:

“In our review, it’s the same argument they have raised and lost in the same court.”

A status conference in the case has been set for Monday in Harrisburg.

Application for Relief[2]

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UPDATED: PA Supreme Court Denies Request to Reconsider Act 13 Decision

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 6:03 p.m. Friday to add quotes from two lead attorneys who challenged Act 13.

By Amanda Gillooly
Editor

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday announced that it will not reconsider its decision that Act 13 – the state’s set of laws regulating the Marcellus Shale gas drilling activities – is unconstitutional.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission last month requested the court reconsider the case following its Dec. 19 decision, which declared key provisions of Act 13 as unconstitutional, including portions that would have taken zoning control out of the hands of local government bodies.

The DEP and PUC hired an outside law firm, Conrad O’Brien, P.C., to handle the filing. One of the partners of the firm is Christopher Carusone, who joined the firm after leaving his position as Gov. Tom Corbett’s chief of staff in July.

John Smith, one of the lead attorneys representing the handful of municipalities such as Cecil and Peters township, a non-profit and medical doctor, said he was pleased with the decision.
Reached Friday, Smith said:
“We are extremely pleased the court acted as justly and swiftly in denying this unprecedented request to reconsider. We look forward to litigating the injustices that the Supreme Court remanded back to the Commonwealth Court.”
One of those issues, he said, relates to gag orders on medical doctors.

Jordan Yeager, one of the lead attorneys on the case stated, “The Corbett Administration wanted a ‘do-over.’ The Supreme Court said ‘no.’ Act 13 violated our fundamental constitutional rights. The court’s landmark ruling stands and we are all safer as a result.”

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the original petitioners in the case said, “The State has heard the final word on Act 13 from the highest authority. Once again the primary rights of clean air, water, and a healthy environment for the people of the Commonwealth have been reiterated. We hope the Governor and his administration can now finally accept that they were wrong in their attempt to undo the Court’s deliberations. The governor should listen to what the Court has said and realize that the Court’s thoughtful, extensive set of opinions instructs all levels of government to fully adhere to their ruling. This is a great day for Pennsylvania”.

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