A complete list of all FracTracker posts.

Do you want to be trained to use FracTracker?

If you would like to know how to navigate the FracTracker system, upload and download data, and visualize that data into snapshots and charts, please contact us: malone@fractracker.org. There is no charge to attend or request our training sessions. They typically last 2 hours and can be conducted for groups of 10 to 50 people. Venues must have internet access so that participants can access the blog and DataTool online, of course.

You can request a training in your area by contacting me: malone@fractracker.org (Email requests preferred.)

Want to know more about FracTracker?  Read | Demo and Tutorials

Earthworks says, Gas leasing: if you’re going to do it, do it right

Reposted with permission from Nadia Steinzor, Earthworks, OGAP

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When the landman comes knocking, it’s tempting to open the door wide. The promises made can be beguiling: fast cash, payments for years to come, and hardly any change on your property. Just sign up now…

But harsh reality can set in fast. Maybe it’s a road built right behind the house or through a crop field. Or barrels of toxic chemicals stored next to a drinking well. Perhaps the wastewater pond wasn’t fenced, so thirsty livestock got sick. And when the royalty check arrives, it’s far smaller than expected.

Across the Marcellus Shale region and beyond, there’s abundant evidence that a rush to drill without strong regulations causes environmental and health problems. Less well-known is how the rush to lease in the absence of information, legal advice, and safeguards is harming many landowners, as well as their neighbors and communities.

For more than a decade, OGAP has worked to inform property owners about their rights and what to consider before signing a lease — most recently at landowner workshops in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Citizens turned out to hear how leases can contain legally binding guidelines for precisely how and where gas development occurs. They learned from OGAP staff about what’s happening across the Marcellus region and nationwide. Attorney and leasing expert Bob Miller detailed what protective leases can look like, and why we all benefit when they exist. Petroleum accountant Mary Ellen Denomy explained the “fine print” of gas payments and how to make sure that companies pay landowners what they deserve. These presentations provide key information for anyone considering leasing or interested in leasing practices.

OGAP is all too aware of the many problems wrought by oil and gas development—and works much too hard to prevent and solve them—to be in the business of encouraging leasing. But we also know that because many people make the choice to lease, it’s far preferable to have it done in a way that protects land, water and air quality, and health, and which doesn’t leave impacted landowners financially high and dry.

Let’s face it—gas companies rarely do the right thing voluntarily on their own. They usually have to be pushed (and pushed) by policymakers, landowners, and the public to drill responsibly. This is the only way to keep citizens in the driver’s seat, ready to put on the brakes, as the gas development train rushes down the tracks.


If you would like to contribute a blog post like this to FracTracker, please contact us at malone@fractracker.org, 412-624-9379.

 

Featured Upcoming Event – A Community and University Symposium

 

Marcellus Shale and a Sustainable Future: Balancing Energy, the Economy, and the Environment

November 2-5, 2010

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Locations: Indiana University of PA Student Union (the HUB); Eberly Auditorium; and the Indiana Theater – Downtown Indiana, PA
CHEC Speaker: Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH – “Marcellus Shale Extraction, the Fracking Process, and Potential Well Water Contamination” and “Using the FracTracker Website”

The gains from natural gas from Marcellus Shale are well known — jobs, energy, and economic gains for secondary business and industry. A four-day symposium, “Marcellus Shale and a Sustainable Future: Balancing Energy, the Economy, and the Environment,” explores the lesser-known aspects, such as the historical, social-environmental, legal, political, and health issues related to gas extraction. The conference includes a balanced series of topics, with speakers and panelists from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Duquesne University, and SUNY–Oneonta, plus University of Pittsburgh faculty, other regional scholars, state-elected and agency officials, corporate executives, and representatives from statewide environmental groups, as well as community members and students.

Free admission to all events. One of the speakers will be Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities. Learn more [link removed]

New Violation Datasets at our DataTool

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Three new datasets have been added to our DataTool: Utah Oil and Gas Violations, West Virgina Spills, County by Year, and West Virginia Spills Data.

The Utah dataset contains information including violation type, and oil and gas related injury and fatality records.  The West Virgina Spills, County by Year dataset is a set up to be easy to visualize, however, those interested in analyzing the West Virginia data itself will want to look at the West Virginia Spills Data dataset.

Earlier, we posted a separate WV Marcellus and O&G Violation by County dataset. I suspect that the West Virginia data is incomplete, due to the relatively small number of records.  There are 463 records of spills and 259 other violations since January 1, 2000, for a total of 722 offenses.  Compare that to the dataset from Pennsylvania, where there are over 9,300 violations recorded, and those are all since January 1, 2007.

Prezi Presentation – Origins and Purpose of FracTracker

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Are you interested in knowing why we at CHEC started this hairbrained project with the Foundation for PA Watersheds and Rhiza Labs to develop FracTracker? Check out the presentation below to learn more:

If you’re having trouble viewing the presentation, click play at the bottom of the screen twice. Prezi will move you from one “slide” to the next. And if you’re still having trouble, visit Prezi to learn more.

Come visit the FracTracker Forum

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We have posted a new FracTracker Forum to help encourage participation from the community of our readers here at fractracker.org. While it is possible to leave comments on this site and at the DataTool, we haven’t been getting very many. We want to hear your feedback, but more than that, we want to hear your stories, questions, and concerns related to the natural gas industry. The FracTracker Forum is an informal setting where you can tell us what is on your mind.

You can answer polls, make one of your own, or post links to websites that you want to share. There are other features, too, so go check it out and let us know what you think.

Upcoming WV FracTracker Training!

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On behalf of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, you are invited to participate in a FracTracker training on Monday, October 25, 2010 in Morgantown, WV.

During this training, CHEC will introduce participants to FracTracker, a combination of an interactive blog (http://stg.fractracker.org) and the DataTool [link removed] , that is serving as a vital data-sharing tool in the Marcellus Shale play and beyond. Click here to learn more about CHEC and this project.

Meeting Details:

  • October 25, 2010 – 1pm – 4pm
  • Morgantown, WV
  • Free to attend. Parking is free. Permits will be provided upon arrival.
  • The agenda and additional meeting specifics will be sent to registered attendees prior to the training.

Important — In order to fully interact with FracTracker’s DataTool during the training, you must be registered with the DataTool. It is free to register, but please do this online as soon as possible. If you run into problems registering for the tool please contact: malone@fractracker.org.

In addition to registering for the DataTool online, please also register to attend the training by emailing me at malone@fractracker.org as soon as possible. We have limited space in the present venue, so don’t delay! In that email, please let me know whether CHEC can distribute your contact information to all attendees of the training for networking purposes. Once we receive your RSVP we will send you a confirmation email with more details about the training.


Previous Trainings

To give you some background on our previous trainings and the use of FracTracker, to-date we have held four trainings across PA and NY:

  1. Bedford Springs (20 attended)
  2. Pittsburgh, PA (20 attended)
  3. Danville, PA (30 attended)
  4. Ithaca, NY (36 attended)

The previous meetings we held were all-day affairs with two purposes. The first was to get groups together so that we could talk and network. Because drilling is occurring across a large geographic area, it is important to bring together stakeholders to improve communication and decision-making. The second purpose was to introduce the availability of FracTracker and provide a training on it. For the WV meeting, we decided that three hours is plenty of time in order to train attendees to load datasets, visualize geo-located data, and share snapshots. If a significant number of people (e.g. more than 50 people) express an interest in participating in this training, we will likely host another training in WV some time down the road.

Interesting User Statistics

FracTracker was launched on June 29, 2010. In less than 3 months, we have had almost 33,638 visits to the DataTool from 69 countries (even though we’ve only had trainings in 2 states so far.) Most of those users come from the U.S. (32,418), but there have been visitors from other countries including (in decreasing order): Canada, India, and the United Kingdom. Of the visitors from the U.S., most come from PA (20,064) where the most training has occurred, but we have had significant interest from people in NY, and somewhat less from (in decreasing order) Texas, California, Ohio, New Jersey, DC, and Louisiana.

As of today, we have 919 registered user on the DataTool. FracTracker just eclipsed the 100 mark for the number of datasets available for download!

Organizations that have participated in a FracTracker training

Academic and Research Institutions

  • Bucknell University
    • Geology department
  • California State University
    • Northern Appalachian Network
  • Community Science Institute (CSI)
  • Cornell University
    • CaRDI
    • Marcellus Shale Team
    • Natural Resources
    • Department of City and Regional Planning
    • Economics
  • Dickenson University
    • ALLARM
  • Duquesne University
    • Environmental Research and Education
  • Geisinger Center for Health Research
    • Environmental Health
  • Ithaca College
    • School of Journalism & Communications
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    • Environmental Health
  • Kings College
    • Environmental Program
  • Lycoming College
  • Pal. Research Institute
  • Penn State University
    • Agricultural Studies
  • State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry
  • University of Pittsburgh
    • Environmental Health
    • Learning Research and Development
    • Public Health Dynamics Laboratory

Industry

  • EKT Interactive
  • Yes, we’re lacking in participation here. The invitation is open to anyone who would like trained to use FracTracker! Just contact us if you are interested: chec@pitt.edu

Environmental Organizations

  • Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition and Coalition to Protect New York
  • Cayuga Lake Watershed Network
  • CCE Yates
  • Center for Coalfield Justice
  • Chenago-Delaware-Otsego Gas Drilling Opposition (CDOG)
  • Citizens Coal Council
  • Clean Water Action
  • The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes
  • Community Environmental Defense Council
  • Cortland gas drilling group
  • Croton Watershed Clean Watershed Coalition
  • Delaware County Neighbors
  • Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition
  • Eagles Mere Lake Assoc.
  • Earthjustice
  • Earthworks
  • Environmental Management Council
  • Finger Lakes Land Trust
  • Food and Water Watch
  • Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition
  • Group Against Smog and Pollution (G.A.S.P.)
  • Mountain Watershed Association
  • North Central PA Conservancy
  • NY Residents Against Drilling
  • PA Trout Unlimited
  • PennEnvironment
  • People for a Healthy Environment
  • ROUSE & Marcellus Accountability Project for Tompkins County
  • Schulyer Watershed Protection Agency & Planning
  • Scott Conservancy
  • Shaleshock
  • Sierra Club
  • Steuben County Environmental Management Council
  • Sustainable Tompkins
  • Three Rivers Water Keeper
  • TING
  • Tioga Peace and Justice
  • Water Resources Institute
  • Youghiogheny River Keeper
Foundations
  • Bucknell Corporate and Foundation Relations
  • Colcom Foundation
  • Foundation for PA Watersheds
  • Geisinger Foundation
  • Park Foundation
Policy
  • PA Fish and Boat Commission – Policy, Planning and Communication
  • Susquehanna River Basin Commission
  • Institute of Public Policy & Economic Development
  • CCE-Tompkins & Statewide Energy & Climate Change Team
  • Cornell Energy Think Tank

Private Citizens 

 

Public Health
  • University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
  • Tompkins County Department of Health

Public Safety

  • Cornell Environmental Health and Safety
  • Emergency Management Agency, City of Pittsburgh
  • Geisinger EMS
  • PA State Police
  • Tioga County EMS

Regulatory

  • PA Department of Environmental Protection – Southwest Region
  • PA Department of Transportation
  • PA Fish and Boat Commission – Bureau of Policy, Planning and Communication

Local Government

  • City of Cortland Environmental Advisory Committee
  • Community & Economic Vitality, Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Conservation Districts: Fayette County, Somerset County, Washington County
  • Penn State Cooperative Extension of McKean
  • SEDA – Council of Governments
  • Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG)
  • Tompkins County Legislature

Media & Media Relations

  • Blogging: marcelluseffect.blogspot.com
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Pittsburgh Schools of Pubic Health Sciences
  • We’re planning a FracTracker training designed specifically for journalists and media relations personnel soon. Email us to request the details: malone@fractracker.org

Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd Testimony from League of Women Voters Meeting

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Yesterday, October 11th, Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd gave his testimony about some public health concerns associated with Marcellus Shale drilling to an audience of engaged community members.  Click here to read his testimony (PDF).

Pennsylvania Violation Data

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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) responded to our request for oil and gas violation information with a list of 9,370 violations from January 1, 2007 through September 30, 2010. That works out to almost seven oil and gas violations statewide per day. Certainly, the DEP has been taking its job very seriously in trying to regulate the oil and gas industry within the Commonwealth.

At the same time, it makes one wonder what violations occur that the DEP is not aware of.

A Closer Look at the Numbers

The 9,370 violations came from a total of 3,661 wells. Of that total, 2,075 violations are flagged as Marcellus Shale, from 592 distinct wells. And of the Marcellus wells total, there were 1,497 violations from 399 wells that were flagged as horizontal wells. All horizontal wells in this dataset are also Marcellus Shale wells.

That means that for non-Marcellus Shale wells, there were 7,295 violations from 3,069 wells, for a frequency of just 2.38 violations per well. The highest frequency of violations per well was 37, for API# 131-20020, a horizontally drilled Marcellus Shale well in the town of Washington in Wyoming County, PA.

In terms of average violations per well, the reported data indicates 2.38 violations per non-Marcellus well, and 3.51 violations per Marcellus well, for an overall average of 2.56 violations per well.

This graph shows the mean number of violations per well type in
Pennsylvania.  This is based on a list of 9,370 violations provided by the PA
DEP from 1-1-2007 through 9-30-2010.  Please note that this reflects only wells
where violations occurred,not every well of this type within Pennsylvania.

Please keep in mind that all of these values only represent wells that have violations, and therefore it should not be construed that the average Marcellus well will have three and a half DEP violations. This certainly does, however, raise the question of why an offending horizontal Marcellus Shale well would have an average of 1.37 more violations per well than its non-Marcellus counterpart, but it does not provide the answer. Perhaps it reflects that more can go wrong on horizontal Marcellus Shale wells, or that they are more tightly regulated. Perhaps a handful of individual sites like the one in Washington have so many violations that they skew the data in some way. There could be numerous scenarios to explain the discrepancy.

Obtaining Geographic Location Information

To date, the primary means of linking oil and gas data to a geographic location has been using the dataset compiled by PASDA, which includes the information of over 123,000 oil and gas locations within the state. Unfortunately, the PASDA data was insufficient for the violation data, as there were thousands of records that did not match. I have reduced that number significantly to by adding the list of known permits since 2007 (which also includes geographic information) to the PASDA list. This process created duplicate entries, which was worked around by obtaining the average longitude and average latitude of each API number.

This process does not eliminate any errors inherent in the data. In one example that I looked at, there were three listings for one unique well number, one of which was off by 0.3 degrees of latitude, or about 20 miles. In this scenario, it would be tempting to correct the one to conform to the other two, but in reality, it isn’t clear which one is correct. And for that reason, auditing the dataset—which is now over 128,000—for errors is not especially productive. For the moment, it is sufficient to say that there are some errors present in the location data, which are hopefully minimal in scope.

Forced Pooling FAQs

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FracTracker’s blog and DataTool are at their strongest when people contribute to them and comment on the content. In line with that mission, Leslie Avakian of ProtectMyRightsPA has provided the following frequently asked questions on the issue of forced pooling. (Please keep in mind that these are the opinions of ProtectMyRights, not CHEC.) If there are topics or events you would like to see posted on this blog or if you want to share a great snapshot you created on the DataTool, just send us an email with the details.

Q&A — Forced Pooling – Forced Drilling & Use by Right – Zoning Exemptions

ProtectMyRightsPA – September 27, 2010

Why are so many people upset about forced pooling?

Forced pooling would allow natural gas companies to take gas from underneath landowners who have not agreed to it. It would apply in situations where enough of the land around a property is leased. The definition of “enough” is being negotiated. For landowners who choose not to sign a lease, rights to control their property would, in effect, be turned over to their leased neighbors, the State and the gas company. Forced pooling violates the PA Constitution which protects PA citizens’ private property rights. It would be a state law taking control of private property and offering it for sale to a selected industry. Is this not Socialism? These important concerns, coupled with the possibility of legislation being developed without reasonable opportunity for proper public input, gives citizens good reason to be upset.

Is forced pooling necessary?

No. These shale gas plays aren’t free-flowing “pools.” The gas is in the pores of the shale, that’s why it needs to be fractured. Forced pooling in PA’s unconventional shales is a way for gas companies to acquire acreage without landowner consent and without having to make upfront lease payments in areas where they intend to drill, and to expand the acreage they can drill under. It is a way to get around negotiating price with landowners, a way to acquire gas rights at below-market rates, and a way to force people into leases or lease terms they don’t want.

Can property owners be protected from gas theft without forced pooling?

Certainly. The right answer to the risk of having gas taken from property owners without consent or compensation is not to strip property owner rights and force them to accept drilling under their property and the extraction of all their gas. The right answer is to enact legislation to protect the private property rights expressly granted by the PA Constitution.

There are many possible ideas. For example, legislators could develop protections such as fracturing setback requirements, monitoring and stiff penalties to assist landowners beyond the existing legal remedies for subsurface trespass, property damage and theft of gas through fracturing across mineral rights boundaries. If needed, legislators could protect the mineral rights of neighboring landowners through pro-rata compensation formulas based on the permeability of the shale and the location of the nearest operating gas wells. These formulas could be used to pay landowners who have chosen not to lease, but are having some of their gas drawn out unavoidably by a well in the area. Legislators should open these issues to public dialog for ideas on how to best address these concerns, not simply implement forced pooling.

Why doesn’t forced pooling protect the environment?

Forced pooling is not the same as gas well spacing requirements. Gas well spacing requirements can exist completely independent of forced pooling, and vice-versa. Forced pooling does not protect the environment. And the only spacing requirements publicly suggested so far have been arbitrary distances. They do not help determine appropriate places for gas drilling. They simply spread gas wells evenly throughout all land areas in the state – through neighborhoods, cities, next to schools and shopping centers – as long as they are spaced a minimum distance apart.

Is there precedent for forced pooling in PA?

Not really. The Conservation Law includes forced pooling below the geologic strata called the Onondaga Horizon — this is beneath the Marcellus, Utica and Newark Basin shales. Forced pooling as per the Conservation Law has never been applied and has never been challenged in court, and it expressly excludes all strata above the Onondaga. It also differs in many ways from the forced pooling currently proposed. Furthermore, a key purpose of the Conservation Law is to protect correlative rights when gas or oil is extracted from a common pool. The notion of a common pool does not similarly apply to the Marcellus. Correlative rights can be protected in other ways without violating private property rights.

Why would forced pooling be an illegal taking of property?

The PA Constitution contains no provision that allows for a forced pooling law. Further, Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution states that PA citizens have certain indefeasible rights, including the rights to acquire, possess, and protect property. Forced pooling would be an illegal legislative taking of private property.

Is gas drilling already a “use by right” and exempt from local zoning?

No. Gas drilling is not a “use by right” or exempt from local zoning in PA. This was affirmed in Feb. 2009 by the PA Supreme Court in two landmark decisions (Huntley vs. Oakmont and Range Resources vs. Salem). These rulings clearly articulate that the traditional land use and community planning functions of zoning ordinances are not pre-empted by the Oil and Gas Act and are governed by the PA Municipal Planning Code. Only gas drilling processes and practices are governed by the Oil and Gas Act.

But Beware – industry material widely circulated in Harrisburg and elsewhere has repeatedly and incorrectly stated that drilling is already a use by right and pre-empts all local zoning. This is false – the Gas Act does not supersede local zoning for municipal planning purposes, only for drilling processes and techniques. One industry strategy has been to seek a language adjustment to “clarify” legislative intent – but this is really an attempt to fundamentally change the legislative intent – and should not be implemented.

Why are PA citizens upset about use by right (zoning exemptions) for oil and gas?

Taxpayers in local communities have invested significant time and money developing community plans and zoning ordinances to provide for the orderly growth and development of their communities. Use by right for gas drilling would override local government and make gas drilling a “principal permitted use” in every zoning district in the State of PA. Gas wells are noisy, brightly lit, operate 24/7/365, and require thousands of truck trips for each multi-well pad. It is not an insignificant land use. Municipal planning was developed to manage land use, is not superseded by the Gas Act and should not be compromised.

If use by right (zoning exemption) legislation is passed, or the Gas Act language modified to effectively strip communities of their local powers, it will spur litigation by citizens, this time in the Federal court system on the grounds that it is an abuse of the State’s “police powers” in that it fails to promote/protect the health, safety and welfare of PA citizens and directly interferes with and substantially disturbs PA citizens’ use and enjoyment of their property.