Posts Tagged ‘Susquehanna County’

Federal judge denies Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. to dismiss a case brought by Dimock Twp. residents

Pennsylvania Gas Drilling Injury LawyersA federal judge has denied a motion by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to dismiss a case brought by Dimock Township residents two years ago. The residents claim their water, health, and property was damaged by the Pennsylvania natural gas driller. Cabot motioned to have a federal judge throw out the case brought by over 60 residents of the Susquehanna County township. The gas company has argued that the families failed to establish a legal basis for the law suit against them.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said Cabot could stop delivery of clean water by November 30. This was outlined in a December 2010 settlement between the DEP and Cabot.

The settlement also required that:

  • Cabot offer to install methane-removal systems
  • Fund escrow accounts with twice the tax-assessed value of each of the 19 affected Susquehanna County homes.

However, this settlement did not require the company to restore the water to its pre-drilling quality. Now Dimock Township residents are making last-minute push to prolong the water deliveries from Cabot. In a recent petition for an injunction, the families state the department’s settlement terms ignored state law, which requires drillers to permanently restore or replace water supplies contaminated by their operations. Cabot is denying contamination was caused by their drilling activities. Their argument is that the appeal came too late from the Dimock residents. Cabot is also claiming their well water is safe to drink and even if it were not, the Dimock residents could get their own fresh water delivered “at modest cost” or collect it from a local well in Montrose.

Filed almost two years ago in November of 2009, the Susquehanna County residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania claimed Cabot Oil and Gas’s drilling activities introduced methane and other toxins into their properties and drinking water, causing illness, property damage, fear of future sickness and emotional distress. Pennsylvania courts have not directly addressed whether gas drilling is an “abnormally dangerous” activity that fits the strict liability standard.

Settlement sought over gas firm’s utility status

By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: August 25, 2010

HARRISBURG – Opposing parties in a high-profile bid by a gas-pipeline company to gain public utility status are attempting to reach a settlement.

The state Public Utility Commission has suspended hearings into the application by Laser Northeast Gathering LLC to become a regulated utility because of the effort to reach a settlement by Sept. 10, agency spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher said Tuesday.

Laser Northeast plans to build a 30-mile natural gas pipeline from Marcellus Shale exploration areas in Susquehanna County into southern New York, where it will connect to a larger interstate pipeline. The company has a field office in New Milford.

The Silver Lake Association, several individuals and the company have agreed to seek a settlement, Kocher said. Not all parties who filed intervention requests in the case, including some energy firms, have indicated they support a settlement, however.

The pipeline case has drawn attention because of the prospect that Laser Northeast, as a public utility, could exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire private property for the pipeline. Tom Karam, a Laser Northeast principal and Scranton native, has said the company wants to avoid land condemnation.

Under state law, a utility can exercise eminent domain, but a Common Pleas Court judge in a respective county would have to grant that power, Kocher said.

PUC Administrative Law Judge Susan Colwell held a public hearing on the case in June at Great Bend.

If a settlement is reached, it would undergo a review process with a decision by PUC near year’s end.

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Copyright:  Citizens Voice

Natural gas company reaches out to neighbors

WNEP-TV
The natural gas industry is booming in many parts of our area and one company is trying to educate the public with a community picnic held Saturday near Montrose. Cabot Oil and Gas has more than 100 gas wells in Susquehanna County and at Montrose Area high school, the company and other contractors brought in equipment, had demonstrations and more to show the community exactly what they do and how they do it.

Johnson hopes to build gas drilling workforce

By RICH HOWELLS [email protected]

SCRANTON – In order for Johnson College to keep up with the future of Pennsylvania’s industries, the technical school has gone back to its past.

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Johnson held an open house on Wednesday of their brand new Welding Training Center, located at 2001 Rosanna Ave. The college hasn’t offered welding training to students since 2002, when they suspended their Welding Program after 33 years due to declining enrollment.

As development of natural gas from the state’s Marcellus Shale continues, the demand has now increased for skilled welders. Johnson hopes to meet that demand through an initiative by the Center for Sustainability at Johnson College, which is dedicated to offering industry-driven curriculum related to clean, green, and sustainable energy concepts.

“Johnson College’s goal is to take welders and specifically train them for the API 1104 code, which is the regulation they’re using for the pipeline in the natural gas industry. Right now, there’s a high demand for pipe welders who can weld to the API 1104 code. That’s primarily been used in southern states, so in this area, there’s not lot of welders trained in that. Our goal is to get local people working on the pipeline,” explained welding instructor Jeff Roughgarden.

Roughgarden, who has more than 10 years of welding experience, said that Johnson is the only school in the area offering a full-time day pipe welding program. The school also offers evening classes. The two courses are Basic Cutting and Welding for Pressure Pipelines, which runs for 400 hours over 16 weeks, and Pipe Welding for experienced welders, which is 125 hours over five weeks. The Welding Training Center also provides booth rentals and customized job training.

“There aren’t many schools locally that do welding training. We’re different because we’re teaching it all at once in short, 16-week segments,” added Marie Allison, director of continuing education.

Most of the drilling is currently being done in Susquehanna County, according to Allison, but more gas well drilling is being planned in Lackawanna County all the time. As high levels of unemployment continue to plague the area, she explained that the addition of these industry jobs is not only crucial to the region, but offer steady, dependable employment as well.

“The longevity (of these jobs) is important. Given that right now there are a lot of industries that are laying off workers, we need career paths that have long-term stability, and I think the gas industry has that. It varies. Some say 15 years, some say 20 years, and some say we’ll be here for 50 years. I think it’s going to be another 15 to 20 years, and that’s going to help a lot of people.”

Allison added that while these programs give students the skills necessary to obtain entry-level positions as welders for the gas industry, the abilities they learn and develop can also be useful in other industries, such as pipe welding for boiler manufacturers.

“These are skill sets that are transferable across industry sectors, but we do expect that most of the individuals would be looking at the gas industry for employment,” Allison said.

The occupation itself, as well as its tough schedule, can be difficult, Allison warned. There are many benefits, however, to those looking to start a career.

“It is a tough field to get into, and it’s a tough career path. It’s sometimes 14 days on, 14 days off,” she said. “There’s a commute, and a lot of individuals have to be prepared to do that. If they are, then there are a lot of opportunities there.”

Copyright: Times Leader

DEP secretary blasts back after N.Y. senators attack Pa. drilling

Published: August 6, 2010

By Laura Legere

Staff Writer

When the New York State Senate passed a nine-month moratorium on a crucial natural gas drilling technique late Tuesday, legislators there held up Pennsylvania, state regulators and a small Susquehanna County community as models for how not to drill for gas in the Marcellus Shale.

The senators’ criticism raised the ire of Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger, who defended the state’s environmental regulations on Thursday and criticized New York for riding the moral “high horse while consuming Pennsylvania gas.”

“If they are so ashamed of what’s gone on here perhaps they should stop buying Pennsylvania gas,” Hanger said.

The sponsor of the New York legislation barring hydraulic fracking, Senator Antoine Thompson, twice visited Dimock Township, in Susquehanna County, and Bradford County in the last eight months to learn from citizens and gas companies about the positive and negative effects of drilling – experiences he cited when he introduced the bill for a vote.

“I think because the state of Pennsylvania was so thirsty to get this development opportunity they did not have enough infrastructure in place, making sure they were inspecting the wells properly, making sure that landowners were protected,” Thompson, D-Buffalo, said Tuesday night.

Despite his opposition to the moratorium, New York State Senator Tom Libous, R-Binghamton, spoke even more critically of Pennsylvania.

“Shame on the state of Pennsylvania,” Libous said. “Shame on their Department of Environmental Protection … because they screwed up badly. They didn’t keep an eye on those who were drilling. They didn’t keep an eye on environmental factors on behalf of the citizens of that state.”

Hanger agreed the experience in Dimock was “unacceptable” – the department found that faulty Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. natural gas wells caused methane to contaminate residents’ drinking water there. But he described two years of work the department has dedicated to strengthening Pennsylvania’s drilling standards and enforcement, including doubling the size of its gas enforcement staff while “New York has added nobody.”

“If New York demands to have no impacts from drilling, then they better have a moratorium that extends not just through May 2011, but forever,” he said. “You cannot have drilling, even done well, and get zero impact.”

When companies have “screwed up, like Cabot screwed up in Dimock,” he said, “we’ve come down on them very, very hard.”

Marcellus Shale drilling has been on hold in New York since 2008 when the state’s environmental regulatory agency began reviewing the environmental impact of the deep well drilling and updating its permitting requirements. That review is expected to be completed later this year.

When asked if he wished he had the opportunity to watch a neighboring state learn through trial and error – as the New York State Senate’s vote positions the Empire State to continue to do – Hanger said, “There are pluses and minuses to each state’s approach.”

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Copyright:  The Citizens Voice 

Casey slips ‘fracking’ rules into energy bill

BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK (STAFF WRITER)
Published: July 29, 2010

A provision to require disclosure of all chemicals used in fracturing Marcellus Shale to extract natural gas could wind up as part of the scaled-down national energy bill the U.S. Senate might consider soon.

Sen. Bob Casey said he convinced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fold disclosure provisions of his Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act into the energy bill.

“It’s a great breakthrough,” he said. “It’s a substantial step forward. … It gives people information they wouldn’t have otherwise about what’s happening underneath their property.”

Senate leaders are hoping to pass the bill before the summer recess Aug. 6, after realizing they did not have the votes to pass a more comprehensive energy bill. Even if the smaller energy bill gets through the Senate, the House would have to pass it before President Barack Obama can sign it. Neither is assured.

Industry groups said the fracturing chemicals are already well known to the public and state regulators, and further disclosure would harm the development of natural gas.

“We fundamentally believe that regulation of hydraulic fracturing is best addressed at the state level, and we have been unable to reach a consensus with congressional advocates on how this program would be overseen by the federal government,” America’s Natural Gas Alliance said in a statement.

Congress and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are studying whether the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of shale contaminate drinking water.

Energy In Depth, an industry group, argues regulation should be left to states, which “have effectively regulated hydraulic fracturing for over 40 years with no confirmed incidents of groundwater contamination associated with (fracturing) activities.”

At public meetings on gas drilling, local residents regularly dispute the claim.

Though the industry argues the chemicals it uses are well known, a Times-Tribune investigation determined that DEP scientists who analyzed spilled fracturing chemicals at a Susquehanna County well site in September found 10 compounds never disclosed on the drilling contractor’s material safety data sheet.

None of the 10 was included in a state Department of Environmental Protection list of chemicals used in fracturing, a list developed by the industry. When DEP posted a new list earlier this month, none of the 10 was on it.

Mr. Casey dismissed the industry criticism.

“That’s why I called it a substantial step forward, if they’re attacking it,” he said. “If they’re feeling that this is giving information to people that they are reluctant to disclose, that’s why I think it’s an important change, and it’s progress on an issue that some would have thought would have taken years to get done.”

Mr. Casey’s legislation would amend the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which requires employers to disclose what hazardous chemicals they use.

The amendments would require:

- Well-drilling operators to disclose to state regulators and the public a list of chemicals used in fracturing, commonly known as fracking. The requirement would cover chemical constituents but not chemical formulas whose manufacturers are allowed by law to keep the formulas secret, according to Mr. Casey’s office.

- Disclosure to be specific to each well.

- Disclosure of secret formulas or chemical constituents to doctors or nurses treating a contamination victim in an emergency.

- An end to thresholds for reporting chemicals normally required by law so all amounts of chemicals are reported.

In an analysis of the legislation, Energy In Depth said it would “chill” investment in innovations in fracturing and place “unrealistic burdens” on natural gas producers by requiring them to disclose secret chemical compounds whose composition they legally can know nothing about.

In an interview, DEP Secretary John Hanger said he welcomed the federal legislation, argued Pennsylvania already requires more disclosure than his bill and believes companies should disclose the volume and mix of chemicals they use in fracking.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Casey seeks input on shale bill

Senator drafting legislation to improve the emergency response at oil and gas wells.

By Steve Mocarsky[email protected]
Staff Writer

At a hearing he chaired on Monday in Pittsburgh, U.S. Sen. Robert Casey sought input on legislation he plans to introduce to improve emergency response at oil and gas wells.

The Faster Action Safety Team Emergency Response Act of 2010 would empower the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft regulations that would enhance emergency response procedures at oil and gas wells.

Specifically, the act would let OSHA draft regulations requiring well operators to:

• Have an employee, knowledgeable in responding to emergency situations, present at the well at all times during the exploration or drilling phase.

• Make available a certified response team, within one hour of ground travel time, if an emergency situation arises.

• Contact local first responders within 15 minutes of an emergency situation beginning.

• Contact OSHA and the National Response Center within one hour of an emergency situation beginning.

• Provide communication technology at the well site (for example, mobile communication or satellite phone).

• Provide annual training to local first responders on the hazards of a well site and proper emergency response techniques.

• File an annual report with OSHA that names the certified response team assigned to each well of the operator.

OSHA would define the term “emergency situation” and would have 18 months to finalize the regulations under the act.

Casey, D-Scranton, sought input on the legislation from panelists at a field hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee titled “Emergency Response in the Marcellus Shale Region.”

“Because of the recent incidents at several gas well sites, I have called this hearing to investigate the current emergency response procedures and determine where we need improvement,” Casey said.

Panelists testified on current emergency response procedures and whether increased regulation is needed.

Among those testifying was Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Director Robert French, who said Marcellus Shale drilling has inherent risks, as demonstrated by the recent blowout at a well in Clearfield County and a fire at a separator tank in Susquehanna County. In the past year alone, there have been at least 47 incidents at natural gas operations that required an emergency response by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

French said PEMA has had to elevate efforts in response to industry growth, conducting tabletop exercises and meetings with industry and local officials and assisting county 9-1-1 centers with concerns about identifying drilling sites – often in very remote locations – so first responders can more quickly react.

French said state budgetary constraints can impact training and emergency response capabilities, and noted that part of a natural gas severance tax proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell would go to local governments and emergency responders for planning, training and equipment.

Barney Dobinick, emergency management coordinator for Lake Township, where Encana Oil & Gas USA plans to begin drilling a gas well later this summer, said Encana and the township already have everything in place that the senator’s been discussing.

“In fact, we exceed those (requirements) 10 times over in our plans,” Dobinick said.

Copyright: Times Leader

Job recruiters tour Cabot sites

MICHAEL J. RUDOLF, Susquehanna County Independent
Published: July 14, 2010

About two dozen employment recruiters, business representatives and others toured some natural gas sites in Susquehanna County on Wednesday, learning what jobs will be available in the industry.

Representatives of Cabot Gas & Oil Company presented the tour in conjunction with the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center.
They said their goal is to make sure local people get trained for the jobs they’ll have to offer.
“We’re trying to show them what it takes to get a job, what it takes to work in our industry,” said Cabot spokesperson George Stark.
“It gives us a better understanding of what the jobs are now and what they’ll be like in the future,” noted Corky Staats, a job developer for Trehab.
“We’re educating ourselves as to seeing what those job opportunities are,” added Gary Matson, executive director of the Northern Tier Industry & Education Consortium.
Alice Davis, director of the career center, said knowing what employment opportunities are there helps employers and schools know what to prepare young people for.
“The worst thing to do is to have students get an education and not be able to get a job,” Davis said.
Traveling by school bus, the group went to three well sites to observe different phases of the gas drilling process.
The first stop was at the well site on the Elk Lake School District property. That site is in full operation producing gas. In fact, the school district has already received a royalty payment from the gas extracted there.
The group then stopped briefly at a well site on the Grosvenor property about a mile away. That site is just being developed, with heavy equipment clearing the land for a well pad.
Finally, the bus travelled to the Blaisure property, where a drilling rig is in the process of boring the first of six wells on that pad.
Stark said there is a misconception that gas well jobs are all going to people from out-of-state. He explained that while the actual drilling work tends to be done by experienced workers brought into the area, once the wells are in operation there are plenty of jobs for local people.
“The rigs are temporary. It’s the piece that’s up and gone the fastest,” he said.
Jonathan Pugh, a Cabot pipeline foreman, said many of the jobs are not through Cabot itself, but with its subsidiaries or subcontractors. For example, he said GDS Inc., the company Cabot uses to do site and rig construction, is always in need of laborers.
“That company needs people straight out of high school to work on heavy equipment,” Pugh said.
He added that the work is hard and the hours are long, but it’s worth it.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted. You’re out there to work,” he told the employment representatives. “But they get paid well. They get paid very well.”
Other subcontractors looking for workers are those that draw the water for the drilling and fracking process, such as Somerset Regional Water Resources. Pugh said that company is growing rapidly, with nearly 100 employees, most of whom are local.
One occupation that the industry will continue to need as it grows is welding, Stark said. Just about every phase of the operation requires skilled welders, he said.
“They’re the highest in demand. They can virtually name their hours, their salary,” he said.
At the Blaisure site, the group heard from Jerry Dugas, a Cabot drilling superintendent.
Dugas explained that the gas industry is not a transient business. It is to stay, he said, which is why it needs local workers.
To illustrate that, Dugas said after decades of living and working for Cabot in Texas, he now calls Tunkhannock home.
“I’ve got my Pennsylvania driver’s license and I’m registered to vote, so I’m here for the long haul,” he said.
Cabot has a significant financial investment in the area, Dugas said, noting that each well costs the company $6 to 8 million to drill. Cabot – and the other gas companies – wouldn’t be here if they didn’t expect to be profitable.
“Pennsylvania’s got the chance to become the next Texas, by a long shot,” he said.
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Fell Twp.company wants to withdraw 905,000 gallons of water from Lackawanna River for natural gas drilling-based business

BY STEVE McCONNELL (STAFF WRITER)
Published: July 15, 2010

A company developing a railroad facility to serve the natural gas drilling industry is also seeking to withdraw 905,000 gallons of water a day from the Lackawanna River in Fell Twp. to support its operation.

Honesdale-based Linde Corp. began developing the Carbondale Yards Bulk Rail Terminal this year inside the Enterprise Drive business park to provide a transportation mode for materials and to mix fluids on-site that natural gas drilling companies use in the drilling process.

Susan Obleski, a spokeswoman with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which regulates surface water withdrawals in the watershed, said the commission is reviewing Linde’s application to see if flow meters, which measure the amount of water in the river at all times, will need to be installed around the withdrawal point as a way to mitigate potential impact to aquatic life, especially during drought conditions.

Linde officials have said they intend to mix the drawn water with sand and a chemical concentration to create a “drilling mud.”

The river withdrawal point, which is located near Linde’s facility, is also upstream from a stretch of the Lackawanna River from Archbald to Olyphant designated as wild, “trophy” trout waters with stringent fishing regulations enacted by the state Fish and Boat Commission.

Larry Bundy, a law enforcement assistant regional supervisor for the state Fish and Boat Commission, which also regulates state waters and aquatic wildlife, said Wednesday that he “wasn’t aware” of Linde’s application. However, he said his agency relies on the river basin commission’s biologists and staff to make determinations on whether water withdrawals may impact trout or other aquatic life.

“I haven’t seen any problems,” he said of other commission-approved water withdrawals in his Northeast Pennsylvania jurisdiction.

As of Monday, the river basin commission had only approved only one water source withdrawal for natural gas-related development projects in Lackawanna County – 91,000 gallons a day from the South Branch of Tunkhannock Creek in Benton Twp.

It has approved dozens of others throughout its 27,510-square miles jurisdiction, however, including 22 water withdrawal applications specifically for natural gas projects in Susquehanna County.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission could vote on Linde’s application at its September meeting.

Contact the writer: smcconnell @timesshamrock.com

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Copyright:  The Scranton Times 

Gas driller eyes site in Plains Twp.

It is up to the state whether to approve or deny the request to seek natural gas.

By Steve Mocarsky[email protected]
Staff Writer

PLAINS TWP. – A second energy company has plans to drill a natural gas well in Luzerne County – this one behind the East Mountain Business Park in Plains Township on property owned by Theta Land Corp.

Rice Drilling, a subsidiary of Washington County-based Rice Energy, filed an application for a permit to drill and operate a well in the northeast corner of the township with the state Department of Environmental Protection on June 24, according to the department’s online database.

The department has 45 days from receipt to either approve or deny the application.

Encana Oil & Gas is set to begin drilling two wells in Fairmount and Lake townships this summer and has drilling permits for two other sites in Lake and Lehman townships.

According to a DEP well locator map, the proposed well site in Plains Township would be just west of Deep Hollow Pond, a little more than 1,000 feet from Baltimore Drive and less than a mile south of Jumper Road.

Freda Tarbell, DEP’s community relations coordinator for the Northwest Region, said the staffer handling the application was unavailable on Thursday, so specifics on the site, such as acreage and distance from water sources, were unavailable.

A secretary with Rice said no company representative was available to provide information on Thursday.

The permit application is somewhat unusual, given that energy companies normally lease gas rights from land owners before applying for drilling permits. However, no lease for the land had been filed with the Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds.

Theta Land Corp. is a subsidiary of Southern Union Co. – one of the nation’s largest suppliers of natural gas – and has been linked to billionaire Louis DeNaples of Dunmore.

Environmentalists criticized DeNaples in 2000 in connection with the purchase of 44,000 acres of land – some of it environmentally sensitive – owned by Theta. He had long been thought to be the buyer, but a confidentiality clause in the sales agreement kept the buyer’s identity secret.

However, DeNaples’ role was confirmed by a Dauphin County grand jury, which determined that a company controlled by DeNaples had purchased Theta. DeNaples in 2008 had been charged with perjury for allegedly lying to state Gaming Control Board investigators about alleged ties to organized crime members. Prosecutors withdrew the charge after he transferred ownership of Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County to a trust.

Plains Township Secretary Kathy O’Boyle said no application for drilling has been submitted to the municipality. She said most of the land behind the business park is zoned as a conservation district and extraction of natural resources would be considered a conditional use. The driller would have to appear before the planning commission and the township board of commissioners for approval, and that process could take about a month, she said.

Reacting to news of the drilling permit application, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, said he’s “in favor of economic development and job growth,” but he supports a temporary moratorium on gas drilling in Pennsylvania “until safeguards are in place.”

“There needs to be regulations in place, enough inspectors on the ground, enough state police to monitor and check vehicles and proper water treatment facilities to protect drinking water sources,” Pashinski said.

“We were all very excited when we learned this new industry was coming to Northeastern Pennsylvania. &hellip Their initial presentations were very encouraging. But in light of what happened in Dimock and Clearfield County, I am supporting a temporary moratorium,” he said.

Natural gas migrated from well bores in Dimock, Susquehanna County, contaminating some drinking water wells last year.

A blowout at a well in Clearfield County in June shot explosive gas and polluted water 75 feet into the air before crews tamed it 16 hours later.

Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

Copyright: Times Leader