Pennsylvania

December 18, 2013

Marcellus Shale drilling becomes more efficient

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

When David Dewberry landed in Pennsylvania in 2010, the veteran of the migratory worldwide oil-and-gas workforce said he required more than a month to drill a typical Marcellus Shale natural gas well.

On Dec. 4, a crew under Dewberry’s direction dug into the mountaintop of a state forest near here with a diamond-studded drill bit. Dewberry reckons it will require only 16 days to finish drilling the well’s full length, more than 21/2 miles.

“Since I came up here three years ago, it’s 200 percent better,” said Dewberry, who manages this Lycoming County site in Loyalsock State Forest for Seneca Resources Corp.

The well not only will require half the time to drill, the bore will extend farther horizontally than older wells. And, if it performs like other wells in the area, it will produce a staggering amount of gas.

When it’s done, the towering rig will crawl 20 feet and begin drilling another well. Seneca plans to complete nine wells in an assembly-line fashion on this site, which is the size of five football fields.

“We’ve become so much more efficient,” Dewberry said.

Marcellus Shale exploration companies are drilling bigger wells in less time at less cost, and they are producing more natural gas than ever in Pennsylvania.…

December 10, 2013

New Rule in WV Regarding Fracking Waste

Read here about a new rule in West Virginia regarding fracking waste.

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December 4, 2013

Gas Drilling Slows in PA City

Read here about a Pennsylvania city where the pace of gas drilling is slowing.…

October 28, 2013

Policyholders: Beware of Choice of Law Provisions

Source: Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C., October 2013

New York District Court Applies “No Prejudice” Rule to Late Notice Claim for Policy “Issued and Delivered” Outside the State with NY Choice of Law Provision

A New York federal district court applied the antiquated “no prejudice” rule to an insured’s late notice claim in Indian Harbor Insurance Co. v. City of San Diego, 2013 WL 5340380 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 25, 2013). The insurance policy in question was issued in Pennsylvania, delivered to the policyholder in California, and insured risks located in California. The policy contained both New York choice of law and forum selection clauses. In holding that the insurer had no duty to indemnify, the court held that only those policies “issued and delivered” in New York are entitled to take advantage of New York’s statutory “notice-prejudice” standard, which requires that an insurer show prejudice resulting from the policyholder’s late notice in order to deny coverage on that basis. Rather, the court held that foreign insurance policies with New York choice of law provisions are subject to the draconian common law “no prejudice” standard, under which an insurer does not have to show that it was prejudiced by late notice in order to deny coverage.

The Indian Harbor case involved three underlying pollution claims made against the California State Association of Counties and the City of San Diego (collectively “the City”). For each claim, the City failed to give timely notice to the insurer after receiving the claim. The insurer disclaimed coverage and sought a declaration that it had no duty to indemnify the City due to the late notice.…

October 9, 2013

Duke researchers publish new paper on gas-drilling waste

Source: The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC), October 6, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Duke University researchers say they’ve documented elevated levels of a radioactive element where a western Pennsylvania waste plant discharged treated water previously used in natural-gas drilling.

Published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the findings came from a team led by Nicholas School of the Environment professors Avner Vengosh and Rob Jackson.

The key finding, of elevated levels of radium in streambed sediments just below the plant’s discharge point, came even though it was clear that the treated water leaving the plant met the industrial discharge limit for radioactivity, the paper said.

The effluent nonetheless has a “significant impact” on the sediments. To wit, “most of the radium appears to be absorbed and retained in them” instead of flowing downstream, the paper said.

And the resulting concentrations are high enough that if the sediments themselves were treated, regulations “would require you to take them a licensed radioactive-waste facility,” Jackson said.

The team also found that the plant’s discharge appeared to contribute to elevated levels of salts in the stream’s water downstream of the facility, despite the diluting effect of the stream’s much larger flow.…

October 9, 2013

Ohio will soon authorize fracking wastewater pools

Source: Vindicator (Youngstown, OH), October 7, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Ohio regulators will soon approve and permit large, exposed centralized impoundments that hold fracking flowback water.

These are used widely by oil and gas companies in other states to recycle the waste and serve multiple wells near one another .

The impoundments, or pits, which sometimes exceed the size of a football field and can hold millions of gallons of water, are now banned in Ohio.

But they’ve proved a useful asset to companies operating in other states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The impoundments serve as water-transfer stations for multiple wells nearby, greatly reducing the amount of truck traffic and the water necessary to drill and frack those wells.

Existing Ohio regulations permit use of lined impoundments that hold freshwater for drilling. Flowback, or fracking wastewater, however, must be stored above ground in covered steel tanks before disposal or reuse.

But effective Jan. 1, the centralized impoundment pools will be authorized by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as part of a regulatory change state legislators made in the biennial budget bill signed in June.

Changes to the law likely came after input from the industry. Operators consider centralized impoundments a key to further developing the Utica Shale play.…

October 7, 2013

Dangerous levels of radioactivity found at fracking waste site in Pennsylvania

Source: Guardian Web, October 3, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Scientists have for the first time shown dangerous levels of radioactivity and salinity at a shale gas waste disposal site that could contaminate drinking water. If the UK follows in the steps of the US “shale gas revolution”, it should impose regulations to stop such radioactive buildup, they said.

The Duke University study, published on Wednesday, examined the water discharged from Josephine Brine Treatment Facility into Blacklick Creek, which feeds into a water source for western Pennsylvania cities, including Pittsburgh. Scientists took samples upstream and downstream from the treatment facility over a two-year period, with the last sample taken in June this year.

Elevated levels of chloride and bromide, combined with strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions, are present in the Marcellus shale wastewaters, the study found.

Radioactive brine is naturally occurring in shale rock and contaminates wastewater during hydraulic fracturing known as fracking. Sometimes that “flowback” water is re-injected into rock deep underground, a practice that can cause seismic disturbances, but often it is treated before being discharged into watercourses.

Radium levels in samples collected at the facility were 200 times greater than samples taken upstream. Such elevated levels of radioactivity are above regulated levels and would normally be seen at licensed radioactive disposal facilities, according to the scientists at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in North Carolina.…

September 25, 2013

Sites sought for region's fracking residue

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, September 23, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Battelle scientists are leading a search for sites where companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The two-year project, funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a response to the growing amount of polluted wastewater that bubbles out of fracked shale wells. Millions of barrels of the waste are pumped into disposal wells, many of which are in Ohio.

With more drilling and fracking expected, oil and gas companies will need to find the best locations to safely inject more waste, said Neeraj Gupta, senior research leader for Battelle’s subsurface-resources group.

“That’s one of our objectives. Where is the injection capacity?” Gupta said.

Right now, it’s in Ohio, where more than 14.2 million barrels of fracking fluids and related waste from oil and gas wells were pumped into 190 disposal wells last year. That was a 12 percent increase over 2011.

Much of the waste — 8.16 million barrels last year — came from Pennsylvania, which has seven active disposal wells. West Virginia has 63 disposal wells.

The fracking process pumps millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals underground to shatter shale and free its trapped oil and gas. Some of the fluid bubbles back up, along with ancient saltwater that contains toxic metals and radium.

Environmental advocates say they worry that old, poorly maintained disposal wells will leak pollutants to groundwater.…

September 16, 2013

Shale criminal charges stun drilling industry

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 12, 2013
Posted on: http://fpn.advisen.com<\span>

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill has sent shock waves through the industry.

But environmentalists Wednesday hailed the prosecution of the Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary as a departure from the soft treatment they say the industry has received from Pennsylvania regulators.

“We have been very concerned about enforcement in the Marcellus, and we welcome the attorney general’s taking an active role,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

Kane’s office announced charges Tuesday against XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County.

XTO in July settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and deploy a plan to improve wastewater-management practices. The consent decree included no admissions of liability.

The Fort Worth, Texas, drilling company, which Exxon acquired in 2010, said it had worked cooperatively with federal and state authorities to clean up the spilled waste, known as “produced water.” XTO excavated and removed 3,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site.…

September 13, 2013

Pennsylvania drillers may soon face tightened environmental regulations

Source: http://www.lexology.com, September 5, 2013
By: Scott J. Bent, Baker & Hostetler LLP

Oil and gas drillers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formation may soon find themselves subject to more stringent environmental protection standards under regulations proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“the Department”). The Department announced on August 27, 2013 that the proposed regulations were approved by the state’s Environmental Quality Board. The proposal now moves to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Office of General Counsel, followed by a public comment period.

The proposed regulations address four general issues: 1) protection of public lands and resources; 2) orphan and abandoned well identification; 3) pollution containment practices; and 4) protection of water resources.

Protection of Public Resources

Under the proposed regulations, applicants for well permits must notify the appropriate public resource agency (such as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or the Pennsylvania Game Commission) if a well site is within a certain distance of public lands or resources. For example, notice is required if a site is within 200 feet of a national natural landmark or within 1,000 feet of a water well, surface water intake, reservoir, or other water source used by a water purveyor.

The resource agency has an opportunity to provide comments and recommendations to the Department and the well operator. The Department makes the final determination on the permit application, and it may add conditions to the well permit to mitigate potential impact to public resources.…