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A Fresh Look at Oil and Gas Drilling from Europe

By Ted Auch, Kyle Ferrar, and Samantha Rubright with Max Gruenig

Fourteen days is not nearly enough time to fully understand the complex differences between oil and gas drilling issues and policies in the United States and several European Union countries. The EU’s drilling policies, geography, and the industry’s level of activity are quite distinct from those of the States in some cases. Still, as part of the Our Energy Solutions project, four staff from FracTracker Alliance and Ecologic Institute attempted to understand and share as many lessons-learned in Europe as we could in the first two weeks of September. Our interest covered all aspects of oil and gas development, but focused on those relating to the use of stimulation techniques (hydraulic fracturing – fracking) in unconventional reservoirs. Even with significant differences between the US and EU, there is still much to be gleaned in sharing our regulatory approaches, community concerns, and environmental challenges.

“Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered” ― José Saramago, The Double 

London, England Meetings

The House of Commons meeting was held in Parliament, just below London's Big Ben

The House of Commons meeting was held in Parliament, just below London’s Big Ben. Photo by Sam Rubright

Our European tour started in London with Ecologic Institute’s Max Gruenig. The first stop was a meeting with University of Salford Professor of Regeneration and Sustainable Development Erik Bichard outside of The Palace of Westminster. Erik has worked extensively to understand and chronicle common threads that weave together community response(s) to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) proposals. Much of Erik’s research in the UK has focused on the efforts of the leading shale gas extraction company in the EU, Cuadrilla Resources, to employ hydraulic fracturing technologies, as well as local oppositions to this development. The major points of contention are in Lancashire County, Northwest England and Balcombe in West Sussex. Erik pointed to the fact that Cuadrilla admitted their claims that the 4% decline in UK energy cost was a result of Lancashire oil and gas exploitation were significantly overstated. Such manipulative statements appear to be cut directly from North American energy’s playbook.

House of Commons meeting, London

House of Commons meeting, London. Photo by Sam Rubright

We then attended a spirited Fracking with Nature Meeting at The House of Commons hosted by 21st Century Network and convened by MP Cat Smith (photo right). Many, if not all, of the attendees were concerned about the negative impacts of fracking and oil and gas development in general, but perhaps the event’s purpose self-selected for those attendees. We found the conversations to be very advanced considering that the UK has not seen nearly the same level of oil and gas activity as the US. Most questions centered on the potential for fracking to negatively impact ground water, followed by the induction of earthquakes. Air quality was not discussed as often, despite the serious risks that oil and gas air pollutants pose to health, and the frequency and severity of ambient degradation reported in the US. With the UK’s move to cut subsidies for renewables and a push toward fracking, these concerns may soon become a reality.

We later met with one of the speakers at the House of Commons meeting, Damien Short LLB, MA, PhD, Director of the University of London’s Human Rights Consortium[1] and the Extreme Energy Initiative.[2] NGO’s, we learned, are on the forefront of the issue, debating the need to prioritize community health over corporate profits. They have had quite a lot of success on this front, despite Tory projections.[3] The past state of UK politics under the direction of PM David Cameron, was supportive of extractive industries and corporate interests, blocking any attempt to introduce regulations. Even with the defeat of David Cameron’s administration, new “fast-tracking” rules to accelerate permits for fracking passed in August.[4] The overwhelming victory of democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the opposition Labour Party – means that the tenure of the current fracking moratoria in North Yorkshire, as well as in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland[5] could be brief.

Our time in London was filled with several other meetings, including one with Greenpeace UK’s new fracking coordinator, Hannah Martin. During our meeting she indicated that while Greenpeace was sympathetic to the views and tactics of Mr. Corbyn, they were concerned that his election would further divide Labour. In her opinion this change could allow the oil and gas sympathetic – and united – Tories to expedite their vision for fracking in the UK.

Regardless of the similarities between community concerns and industry tactics, however, one difference between the UK and US was crystal clear; no matter their view on the use of fracking, Brits support a substantial Petroleum Revenue Tax (PRT) rate to the tune of 50-60%. The PRT will fall to 35% in January, 2016, however. This latter figure is a sizeable decrease but would still be 40% higher than the average in the US.  California for example, the fourth largest producing state, does not and has never levied a severance tax.[6] Unfortunately, the UK is seeing similar conflict of interest issues and deliberate attempts to de-democratize the rule-making around fracking, as demonstrated in a recent move to prevent a proper parliamentary debate about drilling under protected areas in the UK.

Brussels, Belgium Workshop and Meeting

After the European Commission meeting

Geert, Max, Kyle, and Ted after our meeting with the European Commission in Brussels. Photo by Sam Rubright

The next phase of OES Europe took us to Brussels to host a community workshop and meet with members of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment. Both events brought to light many concerns and questions about drilling’s safety.

The European Commission is currently drafting a best available techniques reference document (BREF) regarding hydrocarbon extraction for the European Union to consider in December 2015. The recommendations will build upon the “Minimum Principles,” published in January, 2014.[7] Representatives from the European Commission asked us about a variety of concerns that have arisen from drilling in the US, and how Europe might have similar or different experiences. The Commission was most interested in environmental health risks and research focused on exposure to air pollutants, as well as other degraded environmental media (drinking water, soil, etc.). We also shared figures about water consumption, land use, and waste management. It was immediately apparent that the lack of high quality publicly accessible data in the US is making it very difficult for the Commission to make well-informed decisions or policy recommendations. This meeting was arranged by Geert De Cock, of Food and Water Europe, and – interestingly – was one of the first times that the European Commission met with non-industry representatives. (Several major oil and gas players have offices near the European Commission’s in Brussels.)

Rotenburg (Wümme), Germany Workshop

Presentations during Rotenburg Germany workshop, Sept 2015. Photo by Kyle Ferrar

Max presenting during the Rotenburg Germany workshop, Sept 2015. Photo by Kyle Ferrar

Our next stop in Germany was Rotenburg. Lower Saxony also has a long lineage of drilling, with the first well drilled in 1953 and the majority of natural gas development dating back to the mid 1980’s. Currently, this is an area were unconventional oil and gas drilling (fracking) is being heavily proposed and lobbied.

This workshop was by far the most well attended event. A variety of groups and stakeholders, including the town’s mayor, were in attendance and extremely well informed about environmental and public health risks that drilling could pose. They’ve been dealing with a series of environmental health concerns for some time, including high mercury levels in drilling waste and cancer clusters of questionable origin. A systematic statistical analysis has even suggested that cases of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma are higher in an area heavy with oil and gas wells and development.

See maps below for more information about drilling in Germany and Europe at large.

Unconventional gas production, conventional gas drilling, fracking and test boring in Europe
Map by Gegen Gasbohren (Against Gas Drilling)

View Gegen Gasbohren’s map fullscreen

A dynamic map similar to the one above was created by us to show simply where unconventional drilling is occurring in the UK and Netherlands:
View FracTracker’s map fullscreen

Rotenburg Field Tour

The following morning we set out with a local advocate, Andreas Rathjens, to tour over eight different oil and gas drilling sites and facilities in and around Rotenburg. This area is vey rural and a major agriculture hub, hosting 162k people, 200k cows, and 600k pigs according to our guide.

In recent years Germany has received very positive scores for its environmental policies and shift toward renewables. However, this tour highlighted some of the country’s lingering and poorly-regulated drilling history, which experienced a sharp increase in development here in the 1980’s. The pictures below will give you an idea of the issues that German residents are is still seeing from the country’s older oil and gas drilling operations. Click to enlarge the photos:

Rotenburg, Germany surface water runoff pond on a gas well pad in production

This pit is used to capture rainwater and runoff from the well pad. Since runoff from the pad will carry with it any contaminants spilled on the site, runoff must be quarantined for removal and proper disposal. Unfortunately, these tanks are rarely pumped and drained, and the runoff instead spills into local streams in small watersheds. Such is the case with this tank, with the spillway visible in the lower left corner of the photo.

IMG_0063

This site was recently renovated to improve the drainage off of the wellpad. The drainage leads to an excavated waste pit used as an overflow catchment.[8] In these types of waste pits pollutants evaporate into the air and percolate into groundwater sources. The waste from drilling in this region is known for its high levels of mercury.

Andreas showing us the site where he says 80,000 metric tonnes of solid waste from oil and gas drilling was mixed with residential waste and then disposed of in a field on top of a hill. Residents have tested the site and found troubling levels of arsenic and radioactive elements, but to Andreas’ knowledge no governmental or company testing has been done to-date.

Andreas showing us the site where he says 80,000 metric tonnes of solid  drilling waste was mixed with residential waste and then disposed of in a field on a hilltop. Residents have tested the site and found troubling levels of arsenic and radioactive elements, but to Andreas’ knowledge no governmental or company testing has been done to-date.

Andreas and community members all conveyed their support of domestic energy production but said they were disappointed in how the oil and gas industry has conducted itself historically in the region. They are very frustrated with how difficult it is to get their concerns heard, a sentiment echoed in many boomtowns across the US. One local politician even discussed the intentionally misleading statements made by the German state governments around environmental health issues. These residents are dedicated and driven despite the barriers, however. They are investigating and studying the problems directly at times, as well as searching for other technologies that can help improve their methods – such as the use of drones to measure air quality.

Badbergen, Lower Saxony, Germany Workshop

Fracking-freies Artland hosted our next workshop in Badbergen Germany. In addition to our presentation about drilling experiences in the US, these community gatekeepers led a presentation summarizing the work and struggles that have been occurring in their region due to both historic and modern drilling. The level of community engagement and activism here was quite impressive, mirroring that of NY State’s anti-drilling groups. These members help to inform the rest of the community about environmental and drilling issues, as Exxon is now considering fracking here again.[9]

Schoonebeek Tour, Netherlands

Our final border crossing brought us to the Schoonebeek region in the Netherlands. While the Groningen gas field is by far the largest of the fields in this Western European country, Schoonebeek is the only active field being drilled unconventionally in the Netherlands.

OES-Europe-Home

Interestingly, the entire field was recently shut down by NAM Shell/Exxon JV to fix this wastewater pipeline. It was discovered that the pipeline was leaking wastewater in nine places due to corrosion caused by the high sulfur content of the wastewater.

Upon starting our tour we were informed of the fact that the Dutch have an even higher extraction tax than the UK! The Netherlands retains a 50% State Profit Share for revenue and taxes the remaining production at a rate of 20% on the first $225,000 in revenue and “25% on the excess.” In comparison, the highest production tax rate on oil and gas drilling in the US is in Alaska at 35%. Most states have significantly lower severance taxes.[10]

Political support for higher taxes on the extractives industry may be explained by the fact that the state owns all subsurface mineral rights in these European countries. Regardless of other influences on perception, such high taxes disproves the notion here in the US that energy companies “won’t do business in a state [or country] with a newly-enacted punitive severance tax.” What do the states do with this extra revenue? The Netherlands and many Northern European countries have invested these monies for the rainy day when the oil and gas supply is depleted or extraction is no longer justifiable. The best examples are Norway’s $850 billion Government Pension Fund and Netherland’s $440 billion pension fund or $169,000 and $26,000 per capita, respectively.

Additional support for severance taxes is likely due to these countries’ history with oil and gas exploration. They are familiar with the boom-bust cycles that come with the initial expectations and long-term reality on the ground. When the music stops, Europeans are determined not to be the ones left standing.


About the Our Energy Solutions Project

This trip to Europe and our previous expeditions to Florida, North Carolina, Argentina, and Uruguay are part of a larger, collaborative project with Ecologic Institute US called Our Energy Solutions. OES is creating an informed global community of engaged citizens, organizations, businesses, governments, and stakeholders to develop ideas and solutions to keep our society moving forward while preserving our planet for the future. Learn more at: ourenergysolutions.org.

On a more personal note, our sincerest thanks goes out to the many groups and individuals that we met on our Europe tour, including those we did not directly mention in this article. We are forever indebted to all of the people with whom we met on these OES trips for sharing their time and knowledge with us.

Endnotes and References

  1. Dr. Short is currently advising local anti-fracking groups in the UK and county councils on the human rights implications of unconventional (extreme) energy extraction processes such as fracking.
  2. Dr. Short and collaborators were recently granted an opportunity to put fracking on trial at hearings to be held by The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) in the UK and the US.
  3. Much of the ammunition used by the anti- or undecided fracking community in the UK – and the EU writ large – is coming from proofs of concept in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and North Dakota.
  4. Gosden, Emily. 8/13/15. Fracking: new powers for ministers to bypass local councils. The Telegraph. Accessed 10/25/15.
  5. Strachan, Peter. Russell, Alex. Gordon, Robert. 10/15/15. UK government’s delusional energy policy and implications for Scotland. OilVoice. Accessed 10/25/15.
  6. California, instead, imposes a statewide assessment fee.
  7. European Commission. 1/22/14. Fracking: minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons using high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Eur-Lex. Accessed 10/26/15.
  8. A practice that is supposedly now being investigated for soil contamination issues.
  9. Exxon originally wrote in the local/regional paper that there was to be no unconventional shale drilling (fracking), but now the company is reconsidering.
  10. Please note that the cited article was last updated in 2012. Some tax rates have changed since the time that the article was published, but the table still adequately represents an estimation of production taxes by state.
Politics and Campaign Financing

O&G Politics & Campaign Financing

By Ted Auch, OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Anyone who has been paying attention to the domestic shale gas conversation knows the issue is fraught with controversy and political leanings. The debate is made only more complicated by the extensive lobbying to promote drilling and related activities. It would be nice to look at shale gas through a purely analytical lens, but it is impossible to decouple the role of politicians and those that fund their campaigns from the myriad socioeconomic, health, and environmental costs/benefits.

As such, this article covers two issues:

  1. Who Gets Funded: the distribution of oil and gas (O&G) funds across the two primary parties in the US, as well as the limited funds awarded to third parties, and
  2. Funding Allocation to a Specialized Committee: industry financing to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology1 the primary house committee responsible for:

…all matters relating to energy research, development, and demonstration projects therefor; commercial application of energy technology; Department of Energy research, development, and demonstration programs; Department of Energy laboratories; Department of Energy science activities; energy supply activities; nuclear, solar, and renewable energy, and other advanced energy technologies; uranium supply and enrichment, and Department of Energy waste management; fossil energy research and development; clean coal technology; energy conservation research and development, including building performance, alternate fuels, distributed power systems, and industrial process improvements; pipeline research, development, and demonstration projects; energy standards; other appropriate matters as referred by the Chairman; and relevant oversight.

Politics and Campaign Financing

Fig. 1. Relevant Oil & Gas PACs, Institutes, and Think Tanks – as well as Koch Industries and subsidiaries offices (Orange). Click to explore

1. Letting the Numbers Speak

“When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

The above quote has been attributed to a variety of sources from sports figures to economists, but nowhere is it more relevant than the politics of shale gas. The figures below present campaign financing from O&G industry to the men and women that represent us in Washington, DC.

Data Analysis Process

To follow the shale money path, FracTracker has analyzed data from the: a) total contributions and b) average per representative across Democrats and Republicans. Our Third Party analysis included five Independents in the Senate as well as one Green, one Unaffiliated, one Libertarian, and two Independents in the House.

Results

Annual Senate compensation relative to average US Income Per Capita

Fig. 3. US Senate Salary (Late 18th Century to 2014) & Average American Salary (1967-2013).

There are sizable inter-party differences across both branches of congress (See Figures 2a-b). In total, Democratic and Republican senators have received $18.1 and $48.6 million from the O&G industry since data collection began in 1990. Meanwhile, Third Party senators have received a total of $385,632 in O&G campaign finance. It stands to reason that the US House would receive more money in total than the senate, given that it contains 435 representatives to the Senate’s 100, and this is indeed the case; Democratic members of the House received $28.9 million to date vs. $104.9 million allocated to the House’ GOP members – or a 3.6 fold difference. Third Party members of the House have received the smallest allotment of O&G political largesse, coming in at $197,145 in total.

To put this into perspective, your average Democratic and Republican senator has seen the gap increase between his/her salary and the average American from $27,536 in 1967 to $145,171 in 2013 (Figure 3).

These same individuals have also seen their political war chests expand on average by $151,043 and $412,007, respectively. Third Party senators have seen their campaign funds swell by an average of $64,272 since 1990. Meanwhile, the U.S. Capitol’s Democratic and GOP south wing residents have seen their O&G campaign contributions increase by an average of $50,836 and $188,529, respectively, with even Third Partiers seeing a $38,429 spike in O&G generosity.

Figure 2a

Figure 2a. Total funding received by both branches of the US legislative branch

Average funding received by oil and gas industry

Figure 2b. Average funding received by oil and gas industry

Location is a better predictor of whether a politician supports the O&G industry than his/her political affiliation. At the top of the O&G campaign financing league tables are extraction-intensive states such as Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Alaska, California, and Louisiana. (See Figures 4a-h at the bottom of this article for Average Oil & Gas Contributions to US House Representatives and Senators across the US.)

2. Committee on Science, Space and Technology

The second portion of this post covers influences related to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology (CSST). There is no more powerful group in this country when it comes O&G policy construction and stewardship than CSST. The committee is currently made up of 22 Republicans and 18 Democrats from 21 states. Thirty-five percent of the committee hails from either California (6) or Texas (8), with Florida and Illinois each contributing three representatives to the committee. Almost all (94%) of the O&G campaign finance allocated to CSST has gone to its sitting GOP membership.

The top three recipients of O&G generosity are all from Texas, receiving 3.2-3.5 times more money than their party averages – totaling $1.93 million or 37% of the total committee O&G financial support. The next four most beholden members of the committee are Frank Lucas and Michael McCaul (TX, $904,709 combined), Cynthia Marie Lummis (WY, $400,400), and Kevin Cramer (ND, $343,000). The average Democratic member of the CSST committee has received 12.8 times less in O&G funding relative to their GOP counterparts; Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex representatives Marc Veasey and Eddie Bernice Johnson collected a combined $130,350 from industry. Interestingly a member of political royalty, Joe Kennedy III, has collected nearly $50K from the O&G industry, which corresponds to the average for his House Democrat colleagues.

See Figures 5-6 for totals and percentage of party averages of O&G campaign funds contributed to current member of the US House CSST.

Total Oil & Gas campaign funds contributed to current member of the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Figure 5. Totals

Total Oil & Gas campaign funds contributed to current member of the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology as percentage of party averages.

Figure 6. Percentage of party averages

 “Don’t Confuse Me With The Facts”

In addition to current do-nothing politicians beholden to the O&G industry, we have prospects such as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst going so far as to declare that the Koch Brothers various Political Action Committees (PACs) started her trajectory in politics. Promising “ ‘to abolish’ the Environmental Protection Agency, she opposes the Clean Water Act, and in May she downplayed the role that human activities have played in climate change and/or rises in atmospheric CO2.

In Ohio it seems realistic to conjecture that OH Governor John Kasich, bracing for a tough reelection campaign, is wary of biting the PAC hands that feed him. He has also likely seen what happened to his “moderate” colleagues in states like Mississippi and Virginia, and in the age of Citizens United and McCutcheon he knows that the Hydrocarbon Industrial Complex will make him pay for anything that they construe as hostile to fossil fuel business as usual.

Close to the Action

Groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Randolph Foundation, and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)2 are unapologetically wedded to continued production of fossil fuels. Nationally and in OH, politicians appear to be listening more to the talking points and white papers of such groups than they do their own constituents.. Therefore, it is no coincidence that DC and its surrounding Virginia suburbs has been colonized by industry mouthpieces, energy policy and economic academic tanks, philanthropies, and Political Action Committees (PACs). See Figure 1 for more information.

Know Your Vote

So when you go to the polls on November 4th, remember that politicians are increasingly beholden not to their constituents but to the larger donors to their campaigns. Nowhere is this more of a concern than US energy policy and our geopolitical linkages to producers and emerging markets. More to the point, when offered an opportunity to engage said officials make sure to bring up their financial links as it relates to how they vote and the types of legislation they write, massage, customize, or outright eliminate. As Plato once said, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Our current selection of politicians at the state and federal level are not evil, but data on O&G politics and campaign financing presented herein do indicate that objectivity with respect to oil and gas legislation has been at the very least compromised.


Figures 4a-h. Average & Total O&G Industry Contributions to US House Representatives and Senators across the US mainland and Alaska

Average Total
Democratic Representatives

Average Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Democratic Representatives

Fig. 4a

Total Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Democratic Representatives

Fig. 4b

Democratic Senators

Average Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Democratic Senators

Fig. 4c

Total Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Democratic Senators

Fig. 4d

Republican Representatives

Average Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Republican Representatives

Fig. 4e

Total Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Republican Representatives

Fig. 4f

Republican Senators

Average Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Republican Senators

Fig. 4g

Total Oil & Gas Industry Contributions to Republican Senators

Fig. 4h


References

  1. This committee’s minority leader Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) recently proposed the H.R.5189 – Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2014 with an as yet to be published summary.
  2. …along with like-minded entities like the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce’s PAC. These PACs and foundations tend to fund and greatly benefit from frackademic shops like Northwestern University’s Northwestern Law Judicial Education Program and George Mason University’s Law and Economics Center.

NY State Hydraulic Fracturing Bans Relative to Population

By Karen Edelstein, NY Program Coordinator

According to industry projections, one of the next big frontiers for Marcellus shale-gas development may be in the New York State Counties bordering northern Pennsylvania. However, after more than four years of discussion, two versions of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), and hundreds of thousands of citizen and professional comments on the SGEIS and regulatory framework, the future for hydrofracturing for natural gas in New York  is still highly contested–both in statewide political and locally-based fora.

This map shows the municipalities, as of July 2013, that have enacted hydrofracking prohibitions, represented relative to the population size of those towns. New York State municipalities began invoking home rule laws as early as 2010 to prohibit high volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Primarily implementing zoning tools, these towns found that while they could not regulate against drilling, outright, they could determine appropriate land uses within the town or village boundaries. In this map, bans are shown as red circles, moratoria are shown as lavender, and movements for bans or moratoria are shown in yellow.

As of June 2013, 61 municipalities have passed permanent bans against HVHF, and 111 municipalities have enacted temporary moratoria while they explore the issue more fully, or draft ban legislation.

Within the area of New York State that overlies the Utica Shale, the major population centers, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Union, Utica, and Albany have all enacted bans or moratoria. This unprecedented movement is the reaction to concerns of residents who do not desire large-scale energy industrialization, and who have been frustrated with the pace at which the New York State government has been finalizing their generic environmental impact statement, health review, and gas extraction regulations. Large urban centers account for more than 13% of the population in the area over the shale-gas formation that have enacted local prohibitions. These municipalities, along with more than 150 more across the region, (accounting for more than 28% of the region’s total population) have taken precautions to protect the air, water, food, and landscape from the potential risks of hydraulic fracturing that other communities in Pennsylvania, Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, and beyond, have experienced.  An additional 88 towns (representing over 8% of the population over the Utica Shale formation) have grassroots movements that are spearheading discussions on the need and desire for bans or moratoria. On a town-by-town basis, population-dense centers, as well as rural towns and villages, are exercising democracy to determine whether or not they will risk living with this form of industrial development.

Florida Gas Drilling Developments and Legislation

By Samir Lakhani, GIS Intern, FracTracker Alliance

Florida Aquifers - Source data and map based off of Alan Baker at Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  Acquired Data from: USGS, USDA, FDEP   Source Link: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/programs/hydrogeology/geographic_info_sys.htm

The Floridian Aquifer: Connectivity, Permeability, and Vulnerability

There have been a significant number of enquiries regarding the status of hydraulic fracturing activity in Florida, enough of which garner a FracTracker post. The short answer is that there is minimal drilling activity occurring in Florida—but not for long. It was only a matter of time until gas companies set their gaze on Florida, and her abundance of energy resources. Preparations to drill are already underway. Permits have been filed, equipment is being shipped, and exploratory drilling will begin any minute now. What makes Florida drilling ominous is the real risk for chemical leakage and groundwater contamination.

Imagine this:

It is just another sunny day in sunny Florida, but on this quiet day, two men ring your doorbell. You answer, of course, and find out that these men are from Total Safety, Inc., a company contracted by the independent oil company Dan A. Hughes Company, from Beeville, Texas. They ask you to provide your contact information and any other emergency contact info, just in case disaster strikes at the drill site operating barely 1000 feet from your house. For most of the citizens of Naples, Florida, this is the first they have ever heard of drilling, in their neighborhood. The citizens of Naples, Florida received quite a scare that day. The outrage in the community was so abundant and uniform that these families decided to act out against this development to preserve their piece of paradise. Read More

What makes drilling in Florida so precarious is that porous limestone shelves make up the majority of rock underlying permitted well sites. If any accident were to happen, the leakage of waste and chemicals would be virtually impossible to contain. It then would seep directly into the Florida aquifer which lies beneath the entirety of the state and large sections of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Maintaining water quality for the Floridan Aquifer is non-negotiable, since it is the primary water source for Savannah, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, and others. An attempt to clean the aquifer thoroughly would be impossible, and not to mention, prohibitively expensive. Another troubling thought is possible contamination and degradation of the beloved Florida Everglades.

Florida is an interesting case right now; the gas game is still very young. Florida lawmakers have an opportunity to draft real preventative measures, rather than legislation after the fact. Hydraulic fracturing is no new phenomenon, and Florida politicians have the prospect of learning from other states, incorporating relevant ideas and taking their own stance on this issue. Currently, a couple of bills are slowly trudging through the state legislature. The idea is to require a list of chemical disclosures from all active gas drilling companies. Environmentalists claim this bill is a sham, for the companies need to list the chemicals used in drilling, but not the quantities of each. It may be just another half-hearted attempt to show real political action, while retaining a good business relationship with drilling companies. It is unlikely more stringent policies will be successful, however, given that some powers currently in office believe climate change to be a fairy tale.

Graphic by Eddie Lobanovskiy

PA Gas-Related Legislation

January 2016 Update

This project has been archived

From PennEnvironment comes a great resource for those who are trying to keep up with the ever-changing political environment in Pennsylvania: a list of PA gas legislation related to unconventional natural gas extraction. Many thanks to Kristen Tobin, Erika Staaf, and colleagues for making this information easily accessible to the public.

The listed will be updated periodically when new information becomes available. If you have any questions or comments regarding this information, please contact Erika. This list is organized alphabetically by the bill name/number. Last updated: June 3, 2013

Bill Number Sponsor Title/Description Last Action

HB 33 Rep. Kula An Act amending Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for subjects of local taxation and for valuation of property. Legislation Providing for a County Assessment on Oil and Gas. Jan. 9, 2013 – Referred to House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 66 Rep. Sturla An Act amending Title 66 (Public Utilities) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for requirements for natural gas suppliers and for requirements for electric generation suppliers. Legislation to Prohibit Certain Fees by Electric Generation Suppliers and Natural Gas Suppliers. Jan. 10, 2013 – Referred to House Committee of Consumer Affairs
HB 96 Rep. Godshall An Act amending the act of July 11, 2006 (P.L.1134, No.115), known as the Dormant Oil and Gas Act, further providing for purpose, for definitions and for creation of trust for unknown owners. Jan. 14, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 97
Former HB 375
Rep. Godshall An Act amending the act of July 11, 2006 (P.L.1134, No.115), known as the Dormant Oil and Gas Act, providing for oil and gas estate abandonment and for preservation of interests in oil and gas. Jan. 14, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 200 Rep. Vitali An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for distribution of fee and for Statewide initiatives; providing for the PA Sunshine Solar Program; and making a related repeal. Feb. 13, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 268 Rep. White An Act providing for disclosure of certain test results by the Department of Environmental Protection; and imposing a civil penalty. Jan. 23, 2013
-Referred to House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 301 Rep. Saylor An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for a natural gas fleet vehicle tax credit; and imposing penalties. Apr. 24, 2013 – Referred to Senate Committee on Finance
HB 305
Marcellus Works Package
Rep. Denlinger An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for a natural gas corridor tax credit; and imposing penalties.
Feb. 5, 2013 – Referred to Finance
HB 307
Marcellus Works Package
Rep. Evankovich An Act amending the act of January 8, 1960 (1959 P.L.2119, No.787), known as the Air Pollution Control Act, providing for the Clean Vehicles Program. Feb. 5, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 309
Marcellus Works Package
Rep. Grove An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for a natural gas vehicle tax credit. Feb. 5, 2013 – Referred to Finance
HB 351 Rep. Reed An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in general requirements, further providing for well permits. Jan. 29, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 402
Former HB 2320
Rep. Pickett An Act imposing duties on lessees of oil and natural gas leases; and providing for the recording of releases from oil and natural gas leases and of affidavits of termination or cancellation. Jan. 29, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 444 Rep. Causer An Act amending the act of May 17, 1929 (P.L.1798, No.591), referred to as the Forest Reserves Municipal Financial Relief Law, providing for distribution of timber, wood products and gas and oil ground rentals and royalties. Jan. 30, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 495 Rep. Boback An Act providing for the erosion and sedimentation program to be administered by delegation agreements between the Department of Environmental Protection and conservation districts. Co-sponsorship of Legislation – Provides for Erosion & Sedimentation Agreements Between DEP and County Conservation Districts. Feb. 4, 2013 – Referred to House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 661 Rep. Milne An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, in general requirements relating to development, further providing for use of safety devices. “Promoting the Natural Gas Sector by Enhancing Public Safety Communications” (Prior HB2312) Feb. 11, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 800
Formerly HB 230
Rep. Mundy An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for well location restrictions. “Reintroduction of Legislation: Prohibiting hydraulic fracturing or horizontal drilling within 2,500 feet of a primary source of a community water system Feb. 25, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 801
Formerly HB 234
Rep. Mundy An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for definitions and for well location restrictions. “Reintroduction of Legislation: Providing for the tracking of Marcellus Shale wastewater Feb. 25, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 880 Rep. Conklin An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, further providing for well permits. Mar. 11, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 881
Formerly HB 1631
Rep. Conklin An Act amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known as The Administrative Code of 1929, providing for toll-free response telephone number. Legislation Providing for a Telephone Number to Report Suspected Violations of Oil and Gas Laws Mar. 11, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 888 Rep. Millard An Act amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known as The Administrative Code of 1929, in powers and duties of Department of General Services and its departmental administrative and advisory boards and commissions, further providing for State heating system to be fueled by coal or natural gas. State heating system to be fueled by coal or natural gas Mar. 11, 2013 – Referred to House Committee on State Government
HB 904 Rep. Reese An Act providing for certain disclosure statements in easement agreements for certain natural gas pipelines Mar. 11, 2013 – Referred to House Committee on State Government
HB 950 Rep. Vitali An Act providing for a moratorium on leasing lands owned and managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the purposes of oil and natural gas development. Mar. 11, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 986 Rep. Everett An Act requiring well operators to provide complete water analysis results to the Department of Environmental Protection under certain circumstances. Mar. 13, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 994 Rep. Petri An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, further providing for well permits, for general gas storage reservoir operations and for regulations. Mar. 14, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 1015 Rep. M.K Keller An Act amending the act of March 4, 1971 (P.L.6, No.2), known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971, providing for a natural gas farm equipment conversion tax credit. Natural Gas Farm Equipment Conversion Tax Credit. Mar. 18, 2013 – Referred to House Committee on Finance
HB 1188 Rep. Payne An Act amending Title 66 (Public Utilities) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for sliding scale of rates and adjustments and for duties of natural gas distribution companies. Co-sponsorship – Representative Payne – amend Natural Gas Choice and Competition Act. Feb. 25, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HB 1414 Rep. Everett An Act amending the act of July 20, 1979 (P.L.183, No.60), entitled “An act regulating the terms and conditions of certain leases regarding natural gas and oil,” further providing for validity of leases and guaranteeing a royalty; adding definitions; providing for apportionment; further providing for commencement of guaranteed royalty; providing for payment information to interest owners and for accumulation of proceeds from production; and making editorial changes. Transparency of Deductions from Royalty Checks. May 16, 2013 – Referred to House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energyy
HR 106 Rep. Mundy A Resolution memorializing the Congress of the United States to repeal the provision in the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act that exempts oil and gas industries from restrictions on hydraulic fracturing operations located near drinking water sources, and to require oil and gas industries to disclose all hydraulic fracturing chemicals and chemical constituents in the event of a medical emergency. Feb. 25, 2013 – Referred to Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
HR 249 Rep. Swanger A Resolution supporting continued and increased development and delivery of oil derived from North American oil reserves to American refineries and urging the President and Congress of the United States to support the continued and increased production and use of American natural gas. Resolution re: Gas Prices and Domestic Oil Drilling. Apr. 16, 2013 – Referred to House Committee on State Government
HB 683 Rep. Haluska An Act amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in arson, criminal mischief and other property destruction, providing for the offense of interfering with agricultural operations. Feb. 12 – Referred to Judiciary
SB 154 Sen. Greenleaf An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, providing for gas mineral rights lease agreement disclosure and indemnification. Jan. 15, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 213 Sen. Farnese An Act transferring funds from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority Fund for investments in Pennsylvania-related companies that promote the development of next-generation infrastructure technologies or technology-related investments to support development of life science, information technology or green energy industries. Feb. 1, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 218 Sen. Solobay An Act amending the act of July 9, 2008 (1st Sp.Sess., P.L.1873, No.1), known as the Alternative Energy Investment Act, further providing for alternative and clean energy supply chain initiatives. Solar & Natural Gas Supply Chain Initiative. Feb. 4, 2013 – Referred to Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Recreational Development
SB 258 Sen. Yaw An Act amending Title 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in particular rights and immunities, providing for actions to quiet title involving subsurface rights. Abandonment of Mineral Rights Jan. 17, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 259 Sen. Yaw An Act amending the act of July 20, 1979 (P.L.183, No.60), entitled “An act regulating the terms and conditions of certain leases regarding natural gas and oil,” adding definitions; providing for payment information to interest owners for accumulation of proceeds from production; and making editorial changes. Division Order for Royalties Feb. 5, 2013(50-0) [Senate] –Third consideration and final passage
SB 291 Sen. Erickson An Act establishing a program for the purchase of certain types of environmental liability insurance and for subsidies for the costs of premiums; and providing for powers and duties of the Department of Environmental Protection. Jan. 24, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 355 Sen. Yaw An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, consolidating the Oil and Gas Conservation Law with modifications relating to definitions, standard unit order, process, administration, standard of review, hearings and appeals, establishment of units, integration of various interests, lease extension and scope; providing for gas and hazardous liquids pipelines; and making a related repeal. Jan. 31, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 356 Sen. Yaw An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, providing for lease extended by production. Jan. 31, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 411 Sen. Kasunic An Act amending Title 27 (Environmental Resources) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for definitions, for eligibility and project inventory, for landowner liability limitation and exceptions, for project liability limitation and exceptions and for exceptions. Use of Acid Mine Water for Hydraulic Fracturing and Industrial Applications. Feb. 12, 2013 – First consideration
Mar. 13, 2013 -Laid on the table
SB 459 Sen. Costa An Act relating to safe drinking water; establishing the Emergency Drinking Water Support Fund; and providing for testing, for purchase of clean drinking water and for surcharge. Well Water Testing Fund Feb. 8, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 504 Sen. Dinniman An Act amending the act of April 9, 1929 (P.L.177, No.175), known as The Administrative Code of 1929, in powers and duties of Department of Environmental Protection, further providing for cooperation with municipalities. DEP Public Notification and Access to Information Act; Pipeline Acre-for-Acre; and Condemnation Approval Feb. 26, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 506 Sen. Dinniman An Act amending the act of December 22, 2011 (P.L.586, No.127), known as the Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act, further providing for definitions; and providing for recreational use and for storm water runoff.  DEP Public Notification and Access to Information Act; Pipeline Acre-for-Acre; and Condemnation Approval Feb. 26, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 507 Sen. Dinniman An Act amending the act of June 30, 1981 (P.L.128, No.43), known as the Agricultural Area Security Law, further providing for limitation on certain governmental actions. DEP Public Notification and Access to Information Act; Pipeline Acre-for-Acre; and Condemnation Approval Feb. 26, 2013 – Referred to Agriculture and Rural Affairs
SB 512 Sen. Kasunic An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, further providing for enforcement orders. Feb. 20, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 540 Sen. Leach An Act providing for a moratorium on leasing State forest lands for the purposes of natural gas exploration, drilling or production; imposing duties on the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and providing for report contents and for Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study. Moratorium on Leasing State Forest Land for Natural Gas Drilling Feb. 21, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 544 Sen. Leach An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in development, further providing for hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure requirements. Physician access to and disclosure of chemicals in Marcellus Shale hydro-fracking Feb. 21, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 555 Sen. Scarnati An Act establishing the Health Advisory Panel on Shale Gas Extraction and Natural Gas Use; and providing for its powers and duties. Marcellus Shale Health Advisory Panel. Physician access to and disclosure of chemicals in Marcellus Shale hydro-fracking Mar. 20, 2013 – Referred to Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare
SB 592 Sen Fontana An Act amending Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for protection of water supplies. Co Sponsorship: Water Testing Results by DEP Mar. 1, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SB 738 Sen Yaw An Act providing for distribution system extension and expansion plans to increase natural gas usage in this Commonwealth. Pennsylvania Natural Gas Expansion and Development Initiative. Co Sponsorship: Water Testing Results by DEP May 7, 2013 – Referred to Senate Committee on Appropriations
SB 739 Sen Yaw An Act amending the act of July 9, 2008 (1st Sp.Sess., P.L.1873, No.1), known as the Alternative Energy Investment Act, further providing for Commonwealth Financing Authority. Co Sponsorship: Water Testing Results by DEP May 7, 2013 – Re-Referred to Senate Committee on Appropriations
SB 941 Sen Yudichak An Act amending the act of June 28, 1995 (P.L.89, No.18), known as the Conservation and Natural Resources Act, further providing for forests. Legislation to Require A Public Hearing Before Leasing State Land. Co Sponsorship: Water Testing Results by DEP May 15, 2013 – Referred to Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy
TBA Sen. Ferlo An Act enacting a moratorium on unconventional well natural gas drilling in the Commonwealth. The moratorium would prohibit the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from issuing new unconventional well permits while a seven member commission studies the varied environmental impacts that the natural gas industry has on the Commonwealth. . Memorandum posted on April 30, 2013
SR 29 Sen. Yaw A Resolution directing the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to study the potential for increased residential, commercial and industrial natural gas distribution infrastructure by Pennsylvania’s public utilities to unserved and underserved areas of this Commonwealth. Mar. 14, 2013 – Transmitted as directed
SR 38 Sen. Solobay A Resolution directing the Department of General Services to conduct a study to determine the associated costs and feasibility of converting and retrofitting State-owned vehicles with compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas engines for the purpose of modernizing the State fleet. State Fleet Natural Gas Vehicle Study. Mar. 1, 2013 – Referred to Senate Committee on State Government
SR 39 Sen. Alloway A Resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study of the establishment, implementation and administration of fees for the consumptive use and degradation of water. Consumptive Use of Water Mar. 13, 2013 – Referred to Environmental Resources and Energy
SR 57 Sen. Cornman A Resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a study on the feasibility and effectiveness of converting the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority bus system to natural gas fuel. LBFC Natural Gas Fuel Study for SEPTA Buses. Consumptive Use of Water Apr. 4, 2013 – Referred to Senate Committee on Transportation

Last updated: June 3, 2013

Controversy in the Loyalsock

Controversy in the Loyalsock

By Mark Szybist, Staff Attorney, PennFuture

What are the Clarence Moore Lands?

The Clarence Moore lands are 25,621 acres of “split estate” lands in the Loyalsock State Forest where the surface rights are owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the oil and gas rights are owned by two private parties – an affiliate of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (Anadarko) and a private company called International Development Corporation (IDC). The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) calls this acreage the “Clarence Moore lands,” after an individual who once owned the area’s oil and gas interests.

What is the controversy over the Clarence Moore lands?

The Clarence Moore lands have become controversial because Anadarko wants to drill gas wells on them (and build compressor stations, water impoundments, pipelines, and new roads). Because of the ecological and recreational sensitivity of the Clarence Moore lands, PA’s conservation community (and much of the general public) wants the DCNR to use its substantial powers to minimize surface activities, if not prevent them altogether.

In general, when a “split estate” exists in PA, the party that owns or controls the oil and gas estate has an implied right to use the surface that it does not own in order to extract oil and gas. The Clarence Moore lands present an exception to this rule. Due to a provision in the Commonwealth’s deed, the DCNR has the power to deny Anadarko access to 18,870 acres of the Clarence Moore lands – almost 75%. To obtain access, Anadarko needs a right-of-way from the DCNR. Conservationists are arguing that given this power, the DCNR has leverage to protect all of the Clarence Moore lands – including the 6,841 acres where Anadarko appears to have traditional “split estate” surface rights.

In March 2012 Anadarko submitted to the DCNR a development plan for the Clarence Moore lands. For almost a year, a coalition of conservation, recreation, fishing and hunting organizations (and thousands of private citizens) have been pressing the DCNR to conduct a public input process on the Clarence Moore lands before making any agreement with Anadarko. The coalition wants the DCNR to make public its environmental impact analyses, allow public comment on all development and non-development alternatives, and protect the Clarence Moore lands for future generations of Pennsylvania citizens. In April 2013 the DCNR conducted an invitation-only meeting about the Clarence Moore lands for “local stakeholders,” followed by a webinar in collaboration with the Penn State Extension of the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. The DCNR announced on May 22, 2013 that it would hold a public meeting in Williamsport on June 3rd.

Why are the Clarence Moore lands so important?

The Clarence Moore lands are a wealth of ecological and recreational resources. They include the Old Loggers Path (OLP), an acclaimed 27-mile hiking trail that follows former logging trails and opens onto stunning vistas. According to DCNR documents, the OLP “will be taking the brunt of development [from Anadarko’s activities].”

The Clarence Moore lands include most of the watershed of Rock Run, an Exceptional Value (EV) stream widely hailed as the most beautiful stream in Pennsylvania. The headwaters of Rock Run and Pleasant Stream, another EV stream, emerge from ridge-top wetlands that provide habitat for several threatened or endangered plant and animal species.

The Clarence Moore lands provide habitat for numerous plant and animal species that Pennsylvania has classified as threatened, rare, or at risk (or determined to be candidates for these classifications). Among these species (to name just a few): the timber rattlesnake, northern water shrew, creeping snowberry, northern bulrush, northern goshawk, and yellow-bellied flycatcher. The Clarence Moore lands have been designated an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. (See p. 82 of this PDF).

Finally, the Clarence Moore lands are one of only a few large public land areas in north-central PA that have not been opened to gas development, and still contain relatively unfragmented forests.  The DCNR has already leased almost 21,000 other acres of Loyalsock (the forest is around 114,000 acres in all), and has also leased much of the Tiadaghton State Forest to the west and the Tioga State Forest to the north.

FracTracker map of Clarence Moore Lands and Activity

The map above shows the Clarence Moore lands as yellow and blue areas within the Loyalsock State Forest. In the yellow areas, the DCNR has exclusive control of the surface. In the blue areas, Anadarko has the right to use the surface to extract oil and gas. The locations of the yellow and blue Clarence Moore areas are based on documents obtained by PennFuture through the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law (RTKL) and on maps that the DCNR presented at the April 2013 webinar noted above.

The map also shows the oil and gas wells, pipelines, roads, compressor stations, and impoundments that conservationists believe Anadarko has proposed to build in the Clarence Moore lands. The locations of this infrastructure are based on the RTKL documents and on hikers’ observations of survey flags within the Loyalsock State Forest.


Questions and comments about this issue or the June 3rd public meeting can be directed to Mark Szybist: Szybist@pennfuture.org.

Unconventional oil and gas wells in the Chesapeake Basin

A Fresh Opportunity in the FRESHER Act

By Tanya Dierolf, Choose Clean Water Coalition

Love him or hate him, there’s no arguing that Stephen Colbert can grab a headline. Recently he’s had a lot to say about environmental protection, energy and water. Last week he reported on the Pegasus Pipeline Spill in Arkansas and reminded us that what’s “out of sight” and “out of mind” might still be in our drinking water. Those of us in Pennsylvania familiar with Talisman Terry have yet to forget his exposé on the children’s coloring book that attempts to teach kids about hydraulic fracturing through the expertise of a friendly Frackasaurus. This leaves me wondering if Colbert might ask Congressman Matt Cartwright about his legislative attempts to apply stricter federal protections to oil and gas development when the Pennsylvania Congressman appears on Stephen’s “Better Know a District” segment in early May.

In March 2013, Congressman Cartwright (PA-17) introduced the “Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Environmental Regulation Act” or FRESHER act. Because of expanding development of oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania and exploration, construction, and operations in almost 30 other states, Mr. Cartwright introduced legislation aimed at fixing a federal Clean Water Act loophole to control stormwater runoff from for oil and gas operations. Under the Clean Water Act, industrial facilities are required to obtain a permit to discharge stormwater from their sites and develop “Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans” if disturbing more than one acre of land. However, Congress exempted oil and gas operations from both of these requirements. By closing the loophole, the FRESHER Act would provide for stronger oversight as both regulators and the public would be aware of industry plans to control pollution. The bill would also require a federal study of stormwater impacts in areas that might be contaminated by stormwater runoff pollution from oil and gas operations.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Many of us working in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are often asked about the impacts that increasing natural gas activity may have on our local waters and the larger Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Considering the ongoing challenges we have with sediment impacts to our local waterways in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and the pollution limits we now have in place to bring the Bay back to health, many are asking how we quantify these impacts. In addition to increased sediment pollution largely carried by stormwater runoff, others are also asking what impact a change in our land use might have as we convert farm fields and forests to well pads. Furthermore, many are asking about roads and pipelines and cumulative impacts. All good questions – and these are just related to natural gas development and its relationship to existing pollution limits and cleanup plans. There are a host of additional questions being asked about drinking water, emissions, groundwater contamination, methane migration, and health and safety.

Mapping a Better Picture

Unconventional oil and gas wells in the Chesapeake Basin

Unconventional Oil and Gas Wells in PA’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Click here to view dynamic, PA map of unconventional wells

To get an idea of the impacts of the oil and gas industry in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we turned to our colleagues at the FracTracker Alliance. FracTracker is committed to working with partners – citizens, organizations, and institutions – in a quest for objective, helpful information to perpetuate awareness and support actions that protect public health, the environment, and socioeconomic well-being. FracTracker collects, interprets and shares data through a website and mapping tool. When it came time to understand impacts, we asked for and received some numbers.

In the portion of Pennsylvania that has waterways draining to the Chesapeake Bay, there have been 5,137 oil and gas wells drilled since 2005*. This number includes both conventional and unconventional wells and vertical and horizontal wells (see map on right). Pennsylvania defines an “unconventional well” as one that is drilled into an unconventional formation, which is defined as a geologic shale formation between the base of the Elk Sandstone or its geologic equivalent where natural gas generally cannot be produced except by horizontal or vertical well bores stimulated by hydraulic fracturing. In short, the definition does include wells drilled within the Marcellus Shale formation. We are continuing to work with FracTracker to obtain similar information on West Virginia.

In Practice

I don’t want to leave the impression that oil and gas development, specifically gas development because of hydraulic fracturing, is an unregulated industry. For example, Pennsylvania already requires erosion & sediment permits for activities involving earth disturbance activities over five acres. I’m also not attempting to get into the patchwork of state-by-state regulations of the oil and gas industry, but Congressman Cartwright’s legislation would ensure that oil and gas companies have stormwater-related permits and pollution prevention plans in place prior to well pad development. The lack of oversight and permitting represents a significant threat to our waterways in places without adequate accountability mechanisms. It’s a fresh opportunity to address an ongoing challenge. We hope Mr. Colbert might just ask Mr. Cartwright about his efforts as we get to know PA’s 17th district. We think he might just say the FRESHER Act is good for his Congressional district and the region.

Written by Tanya Dierolf, Choose Clean Water Coalition


*For those who prefer to read statistics in a table format, see below:

Number of PA Drilled Wells in Chesapeake Basin 1/1/05 – 3/20/13

Well Type Conventional Unconventional Total
Vertical 1197 461 1658
Horizontal 5 3474 3479

Total 1202 3935 5137

To Severance Tax or not to Severance Tax, that is the question!

By Ted Auch, PhD – OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Million Cubic Feet (MCF) as measured over industry standard test periods.


Barrels of Oil Equivalents (BOE) as measured over industry standard test periods.
Figure 1. Ohio’s Producing Utica Wells & Primary Shale Geology – plus non-reporting, drilled, or producing Utica & Marcellus Wells.
“Million Cubic Feet” (MCF) as measured over industry standard test periods.
“Barrels of Oil Equivalents” (BOE) as measured over industry standard test periods.

The economic opportunities provided by Ohio’s Utica Shale play via hydraulic fracturing have been cited repeatedly by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and industry think-tanks like IHS Inc [1]. Numbers published by the latter last October [2] predicted 143,000 Ohio jobs and $18 billion in state revenue by 2020. However, these projections are accompanied by substantial amounts of error. Given that the state’s Utica Shale well movement is now more than 500 wells permitted strong, we thought it was time to take a closer look at the demographics and economics of the Utica Play, given that there will be a strong geographic component being inserted into the “To Drill Or Not To Drill” and waste disposal debate here in Ohio. This is an especially important issue given that the state is wrestling with either implementing an ad valorem [3] tax or raising the state’s industry-low severance taxes, which currently stands at 0.5-0.8% but would be raised to 1% under the governor’s budget. In contrast, proposals from Policy Matters Ohio and northeast Ohio Democrats seek 5% – 7%, respectively.

In comparison to most other states producing oil and gas, even 5% may be a trivial amount, or what The Cleveland Plain Dealer called “indefensibly low.” It amounts to 97 cents per Ohioan (i.e., $275 mi2) [4]. According to an Ernst & Young analysis of eight states that produce dry gas and natural gas liquids and/or dry gas and oil…

  • Ohio currently imposes the lowest combined state and local taxes of the states included in the analysis.
  • …Ohio’s overall effective tax rate (measured as total taxes divided by sales) is 80% below the average rate for the other 7 states for a well producing dry natural gas and natural gas liquids.
  •  For a well producing dry natural gas and oil, Ohio’s effective tax rate is 65% below the other-state average…
  • With the [proposed] increase, Ohio’s effective severance tax rate (ETR) would be 16% lower than the other states’ average for the well producing dry natural gas liquids and 4% lower than the other states’ average for the well producing dry natural gas and oil.

The governor’s proposed “Severance Tax Changes” will not apply to any Marcellus Shale wells, even though the state is home to five producing Marcellus wells (two in Monroe County) and eight permitted wells across Belmont and Monroe Counties. Additionally, the governor and his staff included a severance tax exemption for all “small-volume gas wells” (gas wells with average daily production of under 10 million cubic feet [MCF] would be exempt from the tax). If early industry production reports – and the Ohio Business Roundtable requested Ernst & Young report – are any indication, only 19% of wells will be subject to this tax. Our own analysis revealed that of the 32 industry reported production wells, the average production value is 7.5 MCF (Figure 1).The Kasich administration admitted the exemptions would apply to – by their estimation – 45,000 gas wells.

Another nuance of the Kasich administration’s severance tax complicated mélange is that rates will be 1% for natural gas and 4% for oil, natural gas liquids, and condensate. However, according to the administration:

… there will be a lower tax rate of 1.5 percent for the first year of production, in order to allow producers to recover the cost of preparing the well site and drilling the well.

Coincidentally, “the first year of production” is generally the time of greatest gas yields. Anonymous sources in Ohio’s Utica sweet spot have spoken of 50% declines in royalties within 6 months of production.

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association, the industry’s lobbying arm, has weighed-in against higher severance taxes, stating that:

a 4% severance tax on oil and gas would be equivalent to a 40% income tax and 16 times more than the commercial activities tax (or CAT). It would also burden economically challenged area throughout the state and landowners who want to lease their land and receive royalty streams.

(Total of 4,037 individual donations, Data courtesy of Common Cause Ohio’s “Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: Campaign Cash and Fracking Regulation in Ohio” spreadsheet)

Figure 2. Ohio’s Big Energy individual or Political Action Committee (PAC) political donations from 2001 to 2011. (Total: 4,037 individual donations. Data courtesy of Common Cause Ohio’s Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets spreadsheet.)

The anonymous BizzyBlog took the OOGA position one step further proclaiming that energy companies “won’t do business in a state with a newly-enacted punitive severance tax.”

Such arguments against a “hefty tax increase” don’t have much empirical support. OSU oil and gas development expert Douglas Southgate called such taxes “definitely affordable for the industry.” Even with the increases proposed by some, Ohio would still rank lowest among the eight shale gas producing states investigated by Ernst & Young in 2012.

Whereas an ad valorem tax would be redistributed directly back into the communities from which the hydrocarbons are extracted, a severance tax would be distributed throughout the state, even to communities and counties that prohibit Utica Shale drilling and/or injection activity. Theoretically, the entire state could benefit from the toils and environmental risks taken on by Ohio’s Appalachian region. According to a Quinnipiac pole, Ohioans support (52 to 38%) an increase in drilling-related severance taxes. Bipartisan voter support for a severance tax increases (60 to 32%) when the prospect of offsetting state income taxes is proposed.

Either levy – an ad valorem tax or severance tax – would be based upon the industry’s headline well production, even though USGS research recently spoke to the substantial well-to-well production variability in the Appalachian Shale Basin: 250-600% [5]. There are quite a few short- and long-term costs and benefits associated with exploitation of the Utica Shale; however, as it stands the risk burden is disproportionately being shouldered by Appalachian Ohio. Thus, the severance tax being proposed by the governor and House Democrats could add to the regional schisms evident in the state.

But maybe geography is immaterial. The likely big winner of the tax decisions will be energy companies and, according to data on recent campaign contributions, those politicians they deem worthy of their political donations – many of whom are on the fringes or completely outside the Utica Shale (Figure 2).


[1]  IHS Global Insight is the brainchild of Daniel Yergin.

[2] This work was funded by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council, America’s natural Gas Alliance, and the Natural Gas Supply Association.

[3] Ad valorem taxes are assessed according to the value of the natural gas extracted.

[4] The Kasich “Ohio’s Jobs Budget 2.0: Jobs. Momentum. Transformation” highlights this aspect of their proposed severance tax, explicitly noting that it “has researched the severance tax structures of other states with significant oil and gas production, particularly those states with shale resources, and has found that even with a 4 percent tax rate, the tax burden on the revenues from these horizontal Utica wells will be lower than in other states.”

[5] According to the USGS, production from the most productive wells in the Appalachian Basin’s shale formations is commonly 50 times larger than the poorest producing wells, with the same value being 250-600 times larger for the Marcellus Basin. However, the only numbers presented to individual landowners – but less frequently to collectives given that energy firms are increasingly aware of the legal advice that land aggregators are seeking out – when the subject of royalties comes up are near-term gushers. For example:

  1. GPOR’s “’King’ of Utica Well” the Shugert 1-1H at 4,913 barrels of oil equivalents per day (BOEPD),
  2. CHK’s Buell well in Harrison County, OH producing 1,040 BOE[5],
  3. GPOR’s Boy Scout 1-33H in Wagner, Harrison County producing 3,456 BOE, the Ryser 1-25H producing 2,914, or the Groh 1-12H producing 1,935 BOE,
  4. Anadarko’s 9,5000 BOE, and
  5. The Wagner 1-H well producing 4,650 BOE. Yet, wells like the Frank unit in Stark County owned by Enervest producing 515 BOE or the non-producing wells across Ashland and Medina Counties are barely discussed – what a JP Morgan energy analyst called a “funding gap.”

Inergy Seeks Approval for Gas Storage in Once Deemed Unusable Salt Caverns

By Peter Mantius, Staff Writer, DCbureau.org

Key brine wells of interest at Salt Point on Seneca Lake (click to enlarge)

Key brine wells of interest, Salt Point on Seneca Lake

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — A Kansas City energy company is urging New York and federal regulators to disregard explicit warnings about the structural integrity of two salt caverns that it plans to use to store millions of barrels of highly-pressurized liquid propane and butane.

One cavern was plugged and abandoned 10 years ago after a consulting engineer from Louisiana concluded that its roof had collapsed in a minor earthquake. He deemed the rubble-filled cavity “unusable” for storage. It is now scheduled to hold 600,000 barrels of liquid butane.

The other cavern sits directly below a rock formation weakened by faults and characterized by “rock movement” and “intermittent collapse,” according to a 40-year-old academic study that cautioned that the cavern might be plagued by “difficulties in production arising from the geological environment.” That cavern is scheduled to hold 1.5 million barrels of liquid propane.

Both warnings were overstated, according to Inergy LP, which begins the fourth year of its bid to obtain an underground storage permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “There is no reason to believe now that a roof cavern collapse did in fact occur,” Inergy wrote in a confidential 2010 report to the DEC.

The company claims its own tests show the caverns to be structurally sound and suitable for storing the liquefied petroleum gases, or LPG, under pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch.

Public details of contrary opinions are scarce because Inergy, which bought the caverns from US Salt in 2008, has insisted that their history is a confidential “trade secret.”

Both the DEC and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have generally accepted that argument and withheld or redacted many historical documents requested under state and federal Freedom of Information laws. However, the EPA did provide one document to DCBureau that disclosed the name of the Louisiana consulting engineer—Larry Sevenker.  The DEC later released documents that summarized Sevenker’s 2001 analysis of “Well 58,” the entry point for the cavern now set to hold liquid butane.

Those records and recent interviews with Sevenker reveal the DEC’s concerns about Well 58 and other Seneca Lake salt caverns in early 2001 following a series of catastrophic gas explosions in Hutchinson, Kansas.Sevenker had made many trips to the Watkins Glen brine field to study wells and caverns for US Salt and predecessor companies before US Salt hired him to report on Well 58. Dug in 1992, the well was originally used to mine salt by extracting brine, but US Salt had plans to eventually use the cavern to store compressed natural gas.

However, Sevenker’s findings convinced US Salt’s local manager, Alan Parry, to plug and abandon the cavern surrounding the well, according to a once-confidential letter.

“Our intentions for this well are to plug and abandon on the advice of our consultant, Mr. Sevenker,” Parry wrote the DEC on May 24, 2001. “He clearly states in his report that the roof movement is unusual and renders the cavity unusable for continued development or storage.”

Days later, Kathleen Sanford, a DEC permit administrator, wrote to New York State Electric and Gas to request a report on the integrity of nearby salt caverns NYSEG was using to store compressed natural gas. In particular, she wanted to know if its storage caverns had been affected by the Well 58 roof collapse “that occurred sometime prior to Feb. 12, 2001.” She said her questions “are in response to the Hutchinson, Kansas, incident.” … Read more

Texas Lease and Pooling Data Available

In the wacky world of oil and gas data, you never know what unexpected treasures there are to be found. For that matter, you never know what standard data will remain out of reach. Such is the story of the new Texas Lease and Pooling Agreements entry to FracMapper.


Texas Lease and Pooling Agreements. This map is zoomable and you can click on the map icons for more information. For full access to the FracMapper controls, click the expanding arrows icon in the top right corner.

In many states, even though lease data is technically publicly available, in practice, it is nearly impossible to obtain in a systematic fashion. Imagine searching through stacks of property files at county office buildings to see if there happens to be any mineral rights attached to a plot of land; this is the reason that lease data is so often not available in the way that oil and gas well data usually is. But in Texas, it’s easy: just go the the Texas General Land Office (GLO) website and download it. Not only that, but they have pooling agreement mapping data freely available as well.

On the other hand, the oil and gas well data is not up to the transparency and accessibility standards of other states. Although the agency that regulates that data, the Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas, has a bevy of search tools available, notably missing from the results are the location data. As it turns out, the Lone Star State actually charges for that data, and a pretty penny too.  Luckily, the RRC does provide a one county sample of the sort of data that one might get if they spent thousands of dollars on their data. This has allowed FracTracker to determine that the data purchase is decidedly not worthwhile. The oil and gas wells don’t even have complete well API numbers, let alone spud or permit issue dates.

Hopefully someday, the RRC will follow the data transparency model of the GLO, and not the other way around. A state funded by such a robust severance tax ought to be able to figure out a way to get this data out there for free.