Friday, October 29, 2010

November 1 PA Environment Digest Now Available

November 1 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Rendell Signs Moratorium On More State Forest Land Drilling, After Leasing 137,000 Acres

Gov. Rendell this week signed an executive order protecting Pennsylvania's state forests from any new natural gas development activities that would disturb the surface of these areas and jeopardize fragile ecosystems.
Under Gov. Rendell's tenure, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources leased over 137,000 acres of State Forest land for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. Almost all of the proceeds from the leases so far have gone to balancing the state budget, not to conservation or environmental programs. Click here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Luzerne Commissioners Back Onorato's Gas Severance Tax Plan
Bradford County Woman Sues Driller Over Well Problems
DEP Rules Challenge Natural Gas Extractors
Alcosan Customers Won't Pay Any More In 2011
Midstate Facility Begins Massive Solar Power Project
Fayette County OKs Higher Wind Turbine Noise Limit
Editorial: Allegheny Energy, Good For Whom?
Wildlife Acreage Will Be Preserved In Upper Lehigh
New Focus Now On All Outdoor Signs
Law Firm Sued Over Centralia

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DCNR, DEP Establish New Gas Well Development Permit Policy For State Parks, Forests

The departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Environmental Protection this week announced a new policy which establishes clear procedures for evaluating the impacts of oil and gas drilling on state park and forest land as part of DEP's standard well-permitting process.
Because the Commonwealth does not own the mineral rights to 80 percent of state park land and about 15 percent of state forest land, DCNR Secretary John Quigley said this joint policy will provide another measure of protection to Pennsylvania's state-owned natural resources. Sixty state parks are located above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.
"To manage development of oil and gas drilling where the commonwealth does not own the mineral rights, we needed a formal process in place to ensure that natural gas well operators properly coordinate with DCNR," DEP Secretary John Hanger said. "This will help us determine the impacts of proposed oil and gas wells on state parks and forests before they submit their well permit applications to DEP."
"Coordination is especially important on the areas of our state parks and forests where DCNR does not have the controls that would be put in place by a lease agreement," Secretary Quigley said.
This new policy dovetails and support DEP's existing practice of considering the impacts of proposed wells on public natural resources, including state parks and forests, as outlined in Section 205(c) of the Oil and Gas Act.
The policy, effective immediately, requires well operators to identify all areas of a tract that will be disturbed by development activities. DCNR will delineate, with assistance from the well operator, any areas of concern and recommend measures to minimize the impacts.
Impacts to be considered include: threatened and endangered species habitat; wildlife corridors; water resources; scenic viewsheds; public recreation areas; wetlands and floodplains; high-value trees and regeneration areas; avoiding steep slopes; pathways for invasive species; air quality; noise; and road placement and construction methods.
After coordinating with DCNR, the well operator will submit the DCNR Environmental Review to DEP as part of a well permit application. An application that does not include sufficient information to allow DEP to consider the impacts on state park and forest lands will be considered incomplete.
DCNR will provide a letter if it is in agreement on recommended response measures. If there is no agreement, DEP may address the concerns with permit conditions.
A copy of the new policy is available online.
For more information, visit DCNR's Leasing In State Forests webpage.

Gov. Ridge Urges Corbett To Support Marcellus Shale Severance Tax

Former Gov. Tom Ridge told the Allentown Morning Call this week Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett should support a Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax and not violate his pledge to not raise taxes.
"I've got to say that, if the dollars were going to a specific cause — enforcement, regulation, support [for] local communities, counties — I personally don't think the public would view that as going back on his pledge," Gov. Ridge told the Morning Call. "It wouldn't affect them, it would socialize the benefit of these companies' presence. But I have to let Tom make that decision — if he wins, and I think he will."
"Nobody ought to view it (severance tax) as a long-term answer to Pennsylvania's fiscal problems, because it's not," he said. "But the bottom line is that the industry has paid taxes at various levels. And if it was the right balance between taxes and where the money was going, I suspect they could have cut a deal.
"I do think [state taxpayers] will distinguish between their personal tax rates going up and a broader tax on an industry," Gov. Ridge said, provided the money raised from the industry was put toward regulation and toward wear and tear of roads and other infrastructure.
"But that's my view of what Pennsylvanians would think, that's not my view of what Tom would think," Gov. Ridge said. "I want to make that very clear."
NewsClips: Ridge Expects A Marcellus Shale Tax

Thursday NewsClips

Ridge Expects A Marcellus Shale Tax
Editorial: Marcellus Moratorium Is Wrapped In Politics
Editorial: Rendell's Drilling Moratorium, Playing Games
Dickinson College Gets A On Green Report Card
Utility Aid Planned For State's Needy
New Program Provides Up-Front Cash For Geothermal Systems
Op-Ed: Solar Power Makes Sense In Western PA
Sales Pitch For Allentown Waste-To-Energy Plant
Rendell Blesses Allegheny Energy's Acquisition
Centralia Lawsuit Alleges State, County Abuse Of Power
Shohola Twp To Explore Controls On Gas Drilling
Living In Gasland (Dimock)
Homeowners Give Solar Solutions A Try
Brandywine Valley Assn Seeks Twps To Opt Into TMDL

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rendell Signs Moratorium Protecting State Forest Land From Future Drilling

Gov. Rendell today signed an executive order protecting Pennsylvania's state forests from any new natural gas development activities that would disturb the surface of these areas and jeopardize fragile ecosystems.
The Governor said a recent and extensive evaluation of the state forest system conducted by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources over a period of seven months found that any additional leases could endanger the environmental quality and character of these tracts and pose a risk to Pennsylvania's existing certification that it manages its forests in a sustainable manner, which is important for the state's nearly $6 billion forest products industry.
Gov. Rendell added the executive order was necessary now given the state Senate's failure to act on House Bill 2235 (Vitali-D-Delaware), which would have instituted a moratorium on state forest land leases. The legislation passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in early May, but was ignored by the Senate.
"Drilling companies' rush to grab private lands across the state has left few areas untouched by this widespread industrial activity," said Gov. Rendell. "We need to protect our un-leased public lands from this rush because they are the most significant tracts of undisturbed forest remaining in the state. The House led the way to protect these lands, but the Senate failed to do so. That's why it's clear we need this executive order.
"Failing to protect these acres will significantly alter the ecological integrity and the wild character of our state forest system. That would devastate our ecotourism industry and jeopardize the green certification upon which the state's forest products industry depends."
Currently, 700,000 acres of Pennsylvania's 2.2 million-acre state forest are available for natural gas extraction. When completely developed over the next 30 years, these leased lands will include about 1,000 well pads and as many as 10,000 wells, which, along with the associated roadways and infrastructure, could disturb as much as 30,000 acres of the land already under lease.
Approximately 1.5 million acres of state forest lands sits atop the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation. The remaining 800,000 acres that have not been made available for natural gas development contain significant environmental, eco-tourism, and recreational values, including:
-- 180,000 acres of high-value ecosystems designated as wild and natural areas;
-- 200,000 acres of old-growth forests;
-- 128,000 acres with sensitive environmental resources (wetlands, riparian areas, threatened and endangered species, steep slopes, unique habitats) and valuable recreational resources (scenic vistas and viewsheds, trails, leased camps);
-- 299,000 acres in remote areas generally inaccessible by motorized vehicles and offering wilderness experiences paralleling those in the western United States;
-- 88,000 acres of highly valued recreational and water resources in the Poconos in close proximity to many residents; and
-- 20,000 acres important to ecotourism in the Laurel Highlands region.
"The moratorium is important to the state's economy because it protects some of our most valuable assets," said Gov. Rendell. "Countless people enjoy our state forests for recreation, which draws tourism dollars into the state, and our lumber industry needs the assurance of knowing we're going to responsibly manage these resources to protect jobs in that industry.
"After I sign this order into effect, it should remain in place. The stewardship of the public's forests demands no less," added the Governor. "We simply cannot risk subjecting these sensitive and high-value tracts to the same kind of environmental accidents and mishaps that have happened on private lands elsewhere in the state because of the drilling industry's poor practices."
The Pennsylvania Environmental Council today applauded Gov. Rendell’s signing of an Executive Order prohibiting additional leasing of State Park or Forest land for oil and gas development.
“The Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, under the leadership of Secretary John Quigley, has done a courageous job of managing mandated leasing of State Forest land over the last two years” said Don Welsh, President and CEO of PEC. “Unfortunately the focus on generating revenue trumped the landmark conservation legacy of our state lands – most of which reflect more than a century of public and private investment and bipartisan effort to restore our natural resources and public places. We have lost sight of that tremendous legacy too soon in the face of budget shortfalls.”
More than 700,000 acres of State Forest land are available for leasing for natural gas development. In fact last year’s state budget included mandated revenue target levels from such leasing, with the majority of the revenues being used to help balance the state’s General Fund.
“Resource development on state lands should be driven by science and sound management, not solely by the need for revenue” commented Welsh.
Today the Governor also called for the General Assembly to meet its pledge to pass a natural gas severance tax in the current legislative session. PEC supports a fair and reasonable severance tax that directs the majority of its revenue to protect and restore the environment, help communities address impacts from escalating extraction activity, and to support the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation & Natural Resources as they manage natural gas operations.
Said Welsh: “The General Assembly and Governor must meet their commitment in law; the options and opportunities are there if they’re willing to make the effort. They owe it to the citizens of Pennsylvania to do what it takes to see this through.”
5 GOP Senators Ask For More Talks On Severance Tax
Corbett Would Rescind Drilling Moratorium

Tuesday NewsClips

State Forest Drilling To Be Curbed By Rendell Order
Rendell To Call For Gas Leasing Moratorium In State Forests
Rendell To Order Stop To Future State Forest Drilling
Rendell Eyes Revival Of Gas Tax
Rendell Blasts Legislature For Inaction
Natural Gas Industry Donations Ramp Up
Luzerne Senate Candidates Spar Over Drilling, Spending
Luzerne House Race Focuses On Environment, Economy
Quakertown's Green Ladies Patrol To Encourage Recycling
Energy Efficiency Tax Credit Has Homeowners Scrambling
Spring Groundbreaking Eyed For Ethanol Plant In Lancaster
Allegheny Energy Settles On Terms Of Merger Plan
Allegheny Energy Jobs To Be Preserved In Westmoreland
State Investigating Slate Belt Soil Dumps

Friday, October 22, 2010

October 25 PA Environment Digest Now Available

October 25 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Rendell: Severance Tax Deal Is Dead, General Assembly Fails To Meet Commitment

Gov. Rendell this week declared the promised Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax deal dead, blaming Senate and House Republicans.
Senate Republicans and House Democrats promised in law to pass both a natural gas severance tax and create an Independent Fiscal Office by October 1 as part of the budget settlement in July. It appears neither promise will be met. Click here to read more…

Friday NewsClips

Natural Gas Extraction Tax Dead For Rest Of Year
Rendell Declares Shale Gas Tax Dead
Rendell Calls Gas Severance Tax Dead This Year
Rendell Says Shale Tax Dead, Blames GOP For Failure
Rendell Says Effort To Enact Natural Gas Tax Is Dead
Rendell: Gas Drilling Tax Clearly Dead
Rendell Says Marcellus Shale Tax Clearly Dead
Kotilk: Reconsider Shale Tax After The Election
Editorial: Legislative Malpractice On Severance Tax
DRBC Drilling Regulations Postponed
Marcellus Shale Reps Offer Biz Tips
Gas Drilling And Tourism
Damascus Considers Conditional Drilling
Westmont Resources Files 1st Quarter Financial Information
Range Resources Boosts Oil Production
EPA Seeks Comment On Chesapeake Bay
State To Vote On Laurel Hill Watershed Designation
Editorial: Making Flood Warnings More Meaningful
Proposed Carbon County Solar Park Hits Minor Snag

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rendell Says Severance Tax Deal Is Dead

Gov. Rendell today declared the promised Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax dea, blaming Senate and House Republicans.
Senate Republicans and House Democrats promised in law to pass both a natural gas severance tax and create an Independent Fiscal Office by October 1 as part of the budget settlement in July. It appears neither promise will be met.
On an October 19 conference call with key Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate, Gov. Rendell asked for counterproposals to a compromise tax plan that he had outlined last week.
On October 20, the Republican majority in the Senate responded with a letter that did not make a new proposal, but instead restated their previously announced positions on the tax rate and on accommodating the demands of the drilling industry. The House Republican Caucus did not immediately respond to the Governor's request.
"It is irresponsible for Senate and House Republicans to refuse to compromise and simply turn their backs on these negotiations after days and weeks and months of work. They signed a pledge to the people of Pennsylvania to enact a tax that requires drilling companies to pay their fair share for removing our state's natural resources from the ground, and now they are walking away from that commitment," Gov. Rendell said.
"Their clear unwillingness to change their previous proposal or to resolve differences with the House Democrats and with my administration makes it obvious that they have killed the severance tax in this legislative session. It is a broken promise, as well as a misguided policy decision that will harm our environment, will leave our local governments without the financial wherewithal to deal with the impacts of drilling in their communities, and will increase the budget challenges that Pennsylvania will face in the years to come," he added.
Gov. Rendell originally proposed a severance tax in February of 5 percent of the value of the gas at the wellhead, plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet. The House several weeks ago passed a bill containing a higher tax, and the Senate Republicans said they were willing to support only a rate of just 1.5 percent, along with numerous loopholes that would reduce taxes for drilling companies even further than that low mark.
On October 11, Gov. Rendell offered a new compromise proposal that would have called for a phased-in tax of 3 percent in the first year, 4 percent in the second, and 5 percent in the third. He personally met several times with legislative leaders and representatives of the drilling industry in developing that compromise.
Hearing no reaction to the new plan, and seeing no evidence that Senate Republicans planned to bring the House-passed bill up for debate, amendment or a vote, the Governor tried to restart the negotiations with the Oct. 19 conference call.
The Senate Republican leaders responded yesterday with a letter offering the same 1.5 percent rate, the same giveaways to the industry, and excuses about the legislative process to try to justify their own inaction.
The General Assembly has left the Capitol for its election recess, and Senate Republicans have announced that they will allow no votes during what remains of the legislative session after the Nov. 2 election.
"With little time left to enact the severance tax, the Senate and House Republicans' adamant refusal to advance a meaningful counter-proposal speaks volumes about their intentions. They clearly desire to put costs of natural gas drilling on the backs of Pennsylvania taxpayers, rather than on the large multinational oil and gas corporations who stand to reap enormous wealth from our state's resources," Gov. Rendell said.
House Republicans
Rep. Sam Smith (R-Jefferson), House Minority Leader wrote to Gov. Rendell saying, "As you know, the House Republicans were not a part of any agreement regarding tax legislation. Still, our members spent the summer working on the Marcellus Shale issue. Our Appropriations Committee and Policy Committee visited well sites and affected communities. Further, they visited State College where the public busses are fueled by clean natural gas. These visits, hearings and meetings led to our Caucus's proposal to harness the potential for the Marcellus Shale Play.
"While we have not seen all the details of the Senate Republican proposal, several members of our Caucus are supportive of the concept.
"From what we know and understand, the issues which should be dealt with are the environmental impact in the local areas; the community impact; and maximizing the economic potential in the state."
Marcellus Shale Industry
Marcellus Shale Coalition president and executive director Kathryn Klaber issued the following statement regarding the months of good-faith, broad-based discussions that the industry continues to participate in with the goal of reaching sound, legislative and regulatory solutions that will encourage economic growth and job creation, while helping to put the Commonwealth on a path towards a cleaner energy future:
"From the outset of these discussions, our industry has been working closely with elected leaders and key stakeholders in an effort to modernize the Commonwealth's legislative and regulatory framework. These commonsense and shared goals will help ensure that capital investment will continue to flow into Pennsylvania, which is critical to expand job opportunities during this period of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.
"Expanding the responsible development of the Marcellus Shale's abundant, clean-burning natural gas resources will also help put our region and the nation on a path toward a cleaner and more secure environmental future.
"As part of a well thought out and considerate comprehensive overhaul that includes legislative and regulatory modernizations, our industry maintains its support for a competitively structured severance tax that allows for capital recovery and reinvestment, comparable to other leading shale gas producing states, such as Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.
"The leadership in the state senate deserves credit for their months of work in crafting a competitive, well-balanced package of reforms that would help ensure Pennsylvania remains a leader in responsible shale gas development.
"While our commitment to achieve these shared goals remains steadfast, we're regretful that there wasn't closure brought toward achieving these commonsense initiatives during this legislative session. We must get this historic opportunity right; we cannot afford not to."
Natural Gas Extraction Tax Dead For Rest Of Year
Shale Tax Is Clearly Dead This Year
Rendell Says Marcellus Shale Tax Clearly Dead
Kotilk: Reconsider Shale Tax After The Election

Thursday NewsClips

Senate Position Firm On Severance Tax
Caucuses Stand Firm On Gas Tax Dispute
Methane Gas Found In Bradford County Water Wells
DEP, Cabot Argue Over Dimock Water Contamination
Gas Drilling Forum Offers Hope, Dispels Myths
Drilling Backer Sees 90,000 New PA Jobs By End Of 2010
Water Well Owners Needed For Marcellus Gas Well Study
Jobs, Gas Taxes Dominate House Candidates Debate
Naylor: Drilling Issue Top Priority
Range Resources Provides Operations Update
Editorial: Anti-Drilling Groups On Wrong Ground
Pollution Reduction Needed For PA Waters
Farmers May Be Underreporting Chesapeake Bay Progress
Luzerne County Watershed Under WatchCounty
A Clear View Offered For Coplay Creek
Clearfield Treatment Plant May Require Expensive Upgrades
Pilot Project Could Help Local Towns Revitalize
Bald Eagle Comeback Continues At Hawk Mountain
Dunmore Honored For Energy Efficiency
Deer Tracking Study Gaining Ground

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DEP Sends Open Letter To Dimock Residents Affected By Drilling

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today issued the following open letter to residents of Dimock, Susquehanna County:

To Whom It May Concern:

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced a permanent solution to the drinking water problems in Dimock caused by gas migration from Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation wells.
DEP was forced to take action since Cabot continues to deny responsibility for the contamination, despite overwhelming evidence of its responsibility. Since that announcement was made, Cabot has launched a public relations campaign and much misinformation has been brought forth concerning who will be party to that solution and who will end up paying for it.
Cabot is responsible for the gas migration that has caused families to be without a permanent water supply for nearly 2 years and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will seek court orders to make Cabot pay for all costs.
But we cannot wait for Cabot to fix the problems it caused and to do the right thing. In the interim, PENNVEST, an agency that finances water and sewer infrastructure projects, will be asked to provide funds to pay the estimated $11.8 million cost for Pennsylvania American Water Company to construct a new, 5.5-mile water main from its Lake Montrose treatment plant to provide water service to the residents of Dimock. Again, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will then aggressively seek to recover the cost of the project from Cabot.
No one in Dimock or Susquehanna County will pay for it and local taxes will not be increased as the result of it. Residents along Route 29 will have the option to tap into the line if they so choose. No one will be forced to hook up to the new public water supply. The new water line will also boost the value of homes and businesses near it.
This action is being taken based on overwhelming evidence that proves the Cabot wells are the source of the contamination. DEP has collected ample evidence tying methane found in private water supplies to Cabot's wells. We have witnessed and chronicled bubbling gas and high pressure readings from a number of wells that prove poor well construction, and taken readings that show excessive gas levels that could only exist in wells that are leaking. Sophisticated testing has "fingerprinted" gas samples and matched the gas found in five homes to the gas leaking from the nearby Cabot wells.
Additionally, the gas wells in many cases are less than a thousand feet from the homes where, by law, it is presumed gas drilling caused any pollution of water wells that may result.
The residents of Dimock have already paid a high price for Cabot's unwillingness to accept responsibility and provide a satisfactory solution. Cabot will be the one paying the final bill. Perhaps next time Cabot will do the job right the first time and avoid expensive repairs.

John Hanger, Secretary

Tuesday NewsClips

Onorato, Corbett Spar Over Shale
Corbett Leads Everyone In Gas Industry Donations
Editorial: Time Running Out For Gas Severance Tax
DRBC Agains Delays Rules Covering Gas Drilling
Pittsburgh Council Hears Warnings On Marcellus Shale Drilling
Lehman Drilling Limits Urged
Yoga Class Takes A Posture On Fracking
Drilling Almost Complete At Luzerne County's 2nd Well
Marcellus Wells, Output Up In Third Quarter
Gas Industry Session Kicks Off Two Day Career Expo
Chesapeake Bay: How Much More For PA?
Heating Costs Expected To Rise In Northeast PA
Penelec Rates In NE To Rise Less Than Expected
Western PA Man Champions LEDs
Solar, Wind Workshops Planned In Millcreek
Dallas Takes Solar Leap
PLCM Task Force Unveils Recommendations For Cities

Friday, October 15, 2010

October 18 PA Environment Digest Now Available

October 18 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

Senate Adjourns Before Agreement On Severance Tax, House Coming Back Early

With action on several of Gov. Rendell's key legislative priorities-- transportation funding and alternative energy-- off the table, the only high profile environmental issue left is action on a proposed severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production.
What a roller coaster ride this week! Click here to read more…

DEP Marcellus Shale Examiner Now Available

Click here to read this week's Marcellus Shale Examiner from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Friday NewsClips

Senate Recess Puts Severance Tax Bill On Hold
Senate Wraps Up, No Proposal For Marcellus Severance Tax
State Jobs Depend On Gas Drilling Tax
Drillers' Campaign Contributions Draw Concern
Groups Say Corbett Received Most Natural Gas Campaign Money
Editorial: Lawmakers Must Take Action Now On Fracking
Marcellus Shale Seminars Being Offered
Atlas Energy Builds Marcellus Output
Rail Executive Sees Synergies Between Shale, Trains
Northeast Environmental Partners Makes Awards
Curwensville Stays On Course For Treatment Plant Upgrade
State Overseeing Chemical Spill Cleanup At Olyphant Plant
PECO Customers Can Soon Shop Around
MD Firm To Build PA Chicken Manure Power Plant
NE Gets $1.7 Million Conservation, Recreation Grants
Editorial: They Make Us Notice Outdoors
Funding For National Park System Waning
National Parks Facing Budget Crunch
Editorial: Miner Miracle
Public Opinion On Natural Gas Tax Tricky To Measure
Gas Drillers Must Adhere To New Rules
Editorial: Get Back To Work On Severance Tax
Single Stream Recycling Big Hit In Wayne County

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Senate Recesses While Discussions Continue On Severance Tax

The Senate just recessed to the call of the President Pro Tempore. The Senate has no scheduled voting days between now and the election, but it can be called back into session at any time by the Pro Tempore.
Discussions between the Senate, House and the Rendell Administration continue on the Marcellus Shale natural gas production severance tax, so the issue is not dead.
There is an intent by the Senate to come back into voting session to act when (or if) discussions lead to an agreed-to severance tax package, as long as it happens before election day.

Oct. 15 WITF Radio: Chesapeake Bay TMDL Pollution Reduction Plan

WITF Radio Smart Talk for Friday, October 15: We'll discuss the new Chesapeake Bay "TMDL." That stands for Total Maximum Daily Load, and it refers to the largest amount of a pollutant a body of water can hold and still meet water quality standards. A TMDL is being developed for the Chesapeake Bay. It will be up and running in the next few months. We'll find out how this TMDL is measured and monitored, and what happens if the Bay exceeds its TMDL. Click here to listen online at 9:00 a.m.

Thursday NewsClips

We are told the Senate will adjourn today regardless of whether or not there is an agreement on the Marcellus Shale severance tax. There is an intention to come back to finish action on the severance tax when (or if) there is final agreement on a package. The Senate still has no plans to consider legislation after the election.
The House has already committed to return before the election if there is an agreement on the tax.
Rendell Sees Some Life On Severance Tax Talks
Rendell Sees Progress In Gas Drilling Tax Talks
Rendell: Gas Tax Showing Progress
Rendell Now Has Hope For Natural Gas Tax Deal
Rendell Hopeful Compromise On Severance Tax Can Be Reached
Editorial: Taxpayers Get Drilled Again
Drilling's Effect On Streams Eyed
Op-Ed: Tough Regulations Needed For Gas Drilling
Work To Begin On Montour Trail Span
PA Companies Help Free Miners
Forced Pooling Won't Become Law Just Yet
Midvalley Spill Sends 40 To Hospital, Thousands Into Lockdown

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Now is the Time to Come Together: Where There is a Will, There is a Way On Severance Tax

Today, Andrew Heath, Executive Director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition, called on the Senate leadership to follow through on their promise of passing a severance tax before adjourning this week.
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition has been advocating for substantial revenue from a severance tax to be allocated to the Environmental Stewardship Fund and Renewing Growing Greener.
Growing Greener has transformed Pennsylvania by empowering communities, non-profit groups and citizens to protect working farms and special places, clean up rivers and streams, create and improve parks and trails, and revitalize cities and towns.
A recent Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report shows that Growing Greener is running out of money. “We cannot allow the depletion of the Growing Greener funds to occur,” said Heath. “If it does, the consequences will be felt across the entire state and for many years to come.”
Heath stated, “A month ago I said, „Our policy makers must make passing a severance tax their highest priority.‟ Now, the urgency is even greater. The Renew Growing Greener Coalition urges the General Assembly and Governor to enact a severance tax and invest a substantial part of the revenues in our natural resources thus enhancing the quality of life of our communities.”
“The Senate, House and Governor have a responsibility to follow through on their commitment to adopt a severance tax. Now is the time to take politics out of this discussion and focus on protecting Pennsylvania‟s most treasured places.”
“Where there is a will, there is a way. We have all been in Harrisburg long enough to know that anything is possible – there is no time for excuses, name calling or political posturing. Now is the time to come together. Now is the time to stand up for Pennsylvania, to stand up for the environment, and to stand up for our future by taking the first step to Renewing Growing Greener through passage of a fair and reasonable severance tax. If a severance tax is not adopted this week, it will not matter who is to blame because we will all lose.”

Governor Reports More Positive News On Marcellus Shale Severance Tax

At a just concluded press conference, Gov. Rendell reported a more positive meeting of Senate and House Leaders on adopting a Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax. He commended Senate Leadership for a willingness to work toward a compromise and "meet in the middle."
The Governor reported the severance tax rate the negotiators are looking at was about 60 percent of the original rate proposed by the Administration (based on the West Virginia law) and providing a phase-in of the rate and for deducting certain production expenses. Shallow gas wells would still be exempt.
He noted distribution of the funds were up to the Senate and House, but there was a need to use some of the revenue to help balance this year's budget.
The Governor also said "other issues" were open for discussion, presumably some of the issues the Senate has been trying to link to the severance tax like regulation of drilling by local communities, spacing of deep coal mines and gas wells and requiring certain safety and environmental inspections.
"The attitude was great today," said Gov. Rendell who said he thought the mechanics of getting it done, i.e. which bill to use, could be worked out.
Senate Republicans, the Governor said, were willing to come back next week to finish up work on the severance tax if there is an agreement. House Leaders had earlier today said they could be coming back on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Only 2 Voting Days Left This Year In Senate

Wednesday NewsClips

Severance Tax Builds To Cliffhanger
Rendell, GOP Still Split On Gas Tax
State Far Away From Shale Gas Compromise, Senate GOP Says
Gas Tax Debate May Fail To Beat The Clock
Legislators, Rendell Far Apart On Marcellus Shale Tax
Rendell, Senate GOP Reach Impasse In Shale Tax Talks
Shale Tax Efforts Running Out Of Gas
Scarnati: Outlook For Gas Drilling Tax Bill Not Good
Stalemate Nears In Senate Over Shale Tax
John Baer: Common Ground Missing From Lawmakers' Lists
Blog: Prospects For Shale Tax Agreement Seem Dimmer
Blog: Explaining The Shale Tax Deadlock To Your 5-Year Old
Editorial: Marcellus Shale Tax Too Important For Legislators To Leave
Editorial: Lots Of Hot Air But No Gas Tax
Editorial: No Shale Tax, No Books Or Food, Either
Editorial: Shale Gas Tax Foes Prefer Cash
Ads Say Range Resources Is A Responsible Driller
Editorial: Drilling, Perhaps The Most Compelling Issue Facing NE PA
Disaster Prompts Question Of Gas Pipeline Safety In Erie
Early Study Shows Dense Drilling Impacts Watersheds
Grants Announced For Schuylkill Highlands
Rendell Blasts Allegheny Energy Merger As Job Killer
Rendell Opposing Allegheny Energy Merger
Quecreek Survivor Watches Chile Rescue Efforts And Remembers
Someset County Company Uses Drill To Free Chilean Miners
Former Governor Recalls PA Mine Rescue
Solar Project Activated At Hawley Silk Mill
Op-Ed: Reconsider Long-Term Drilling Costs
Atlas Energy Reports Marcellus Shale Performance
Consol Energy Announces Quarterly Production
Wissahickon Watershed Assn Proceeds With Projects

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

EQB Adopts New Gas Well Construction Standards To Prevent Gas Migration

The Environmental Quality Board today approved, by a 14-1 vote, a proposed set of regulatory improvements that will make natural gas wells in Pennsylvania significantly safer by making them subject to more stringent construction standards.
The proposed oil and gas well cementing and casing requirements will help prevent natural gas from migrating from a well, which has been associated with contaminated water supplies and adverse impacts to public health and safety.
Additionally, the new rules will require drillers to report production and waste volumes electronically and to submit a detailed report of the chemicals they use to hydraulically fracture wells.
"The EQB's actions will strengthen our regulations significantly, making them as strong as any in the country," said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger. "They will lead to a decline in the number of incidents and problems we have experienced related to gas migration."
The board approved the proposed rulemaking in May. During a subsequent 30-day public comment period and after five scheduled public hearings, the board received nearly 2,000 public comments, the majority of which were supportive. DEP also met with numerous oil and gas operators, industry groups and environmental groups to discuss the regulations in detail.
The department used the public's input to make several important changes to the regulations, which further improved the well design requirements to prevent gas migration incidents, including:
-- A provision that requires operators to have a pressure barrier plan to minimize well control events;
-- A provision that requires operators to condition the wellbore to ensure an adequate bond between the cement, casing and the formation;
-- Provisions that require the use of centralizers to ensure casings are properly positioned in the wellbore; and
-- A provision that improves the quality of the cement placed in the casing that protects fresh groundwater.
In addition to these important provisions, the EQB-approved regulations will require operators to keep a list of emergency contact phone numbers at the well site and specify what actions an operator must take in the event of a gas migration incident. It also includes amended provisions that clarify how and when blow-out prevention equipment is to be installed and operated.
The next steps in the regulatory review process are review by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission scheduled for November 18, and the House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committees.
If approved by IRRC and the standing committees, the final step in the regulatory review process is review by the Attorney General's office.
Once all reviews and approvals are obtained, the regulations will go into effect upon publication in the PA Bulletin.
A copy of the final rule is available on the Environmental Quality Board meeting webpage.

Online Video: Severance Tax Press Conferences Tuesday

Online Video
Senators Scarnati & Pileggi Part 1 (Roxbury News)
More from Senators Scarnati & Pileggi Part 2 (Roxbury News)
Gov. Rendell & House Speaker McCall Part 1 (Roxbury News)
Gov. Rendell & House Speaker McCall Part 2 (Roxbury News)

NewsClips On Severance Tax Impasse

Scarnati: Rendell, Senate GOP Worlds Apart On Gas Tax
State Far Away From Shale Gas Compromise Senate GOP Says
Legislators, Rendell Far Apart On Marcellus shale Tax
Shale Gas Tax Compromise Looks Dead

Academy Of Natural Sciences: Marcellus Shale Needs Scientific Study to Set Guidelines

The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia is calling for a comprehensive research plan that would result in guidelines and an assessment tool for regulators and managers in order to minimize the environmental impact of Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
"At this time, there is very little information available as to the impacts of long-term exposure of a watershed to Marcellus Shale drilling activities," said Dr. David Velinsky, vice president of the Academy's Patrick Center for Environmental Research. "Nor do we know if there is a cumulative impact of drilling activity on the ecosystem services of a small watershed."
Preliminary research by Academy scientists and a University of Pennsylvania graduate student shows the environmental impact of drilling may be directly related to the amount of drilling in a specific area, referred to as the "density" of drilling. "The question that needs to be addressed is whether there is a threshold point past which a certain amount of drilling activity has an impact on the ecological health and services of the watershed -- regardless of how carefully drilling is conducted," Velinsky said.
In the preliminary research conducted this summer, scientists examined small watersheds in northeastern Pennsylvania -- three in which there had been no drilling, three with some drilling and three with a high density of drilling. At each site, they tested the water, abundance of certain sensitive insects, and abundance of salamanders. The presence of salamanders is particularly important because amphibians are especially vulnerable to changes in the environment.
For each of the measures, there was a significant difference between high-density drilling locations and locations with no drilling or less drilling. The studies showed that water conductivity (which indicates the level of contamination) was almost twice as high in the high density sites as the other sites, and the number of both sensitive insects and salamanders were reduced by 25 percent.
"This suggests there is indeed a threshold at which drilling -- regardless of how it is practiced -- will have a significant impact on an ecosystem," Velinsky said. "Conversely, it also suggests there may be lower densities of drilling at which ecological impact cannot be detected."
Velinsky stressed that the data is preliminary and that a larger, more comprehensive study must be done before definitive conclusions can be drawn. The Academy has applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to fund such a study.

Talks On Severance Tax Break Down In Disagreement

Talks this morning between House and Senate Leadership and Gov. Rendell over adoption of a Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax broke down in disagreement over the tax rate and whether the vehicle used by the House-- Senate Bill 1155-- to adopt a severance tax was constitutional.
Senate Republicans have an opinion from the independent Legislative Reference Bureau saying there are constitutional issues with Senate Bill 1155.
House Speaker Keith McCall (D-Carbon) told a press conference he has another opinion from the Legislative Reference Bureau saying the constitutional issues with Senate Bill 1155 can be fixed with amendments and there are two other legislative vehicles in the Senate they could use to pass a severance tax-- House Bill 786 (D-George) establishing a state energy office within DEP or House Bill 2235 (Vitali-D-Delaware) putting in place a three year moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling.
While Gov. Rendell said at the same press conference talks will continue Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said the prospects for an agreement on a severance tax "diminish by the hour."
Sen. Scarnati said Republicans have negotiated in good faith and have lived up to their commitment in the budget agreement in July to work to pass a severance tax. Gov. Rendell responded, "bull."
Both Gov. Rendell and Speaker McCall said today's discussions did not tackle the issue of where revenues would be distributed, but Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) said the Governor's position is significantly different from the one taken by the House Democrats and Senate Republicans.
Speaker McCall said he is more than willing to bring the House back into session this week to take action on a severance tax and in fact notified House members that was a possibility.
The Senate is only scheduled to be in session through Thursday of this week and said it will not return to take action on any legislation for the remainder of the year. Any bill not receiving final action by the House and Senate will die and have to start all over next year with a new Governor and General Assembly.
Online Video
Senators Scarnati & Pileggi Part 1 (Roxbury News)
Senators Scarnati & Pileggi Part 2 (Roxbury News)
Gov. Rendell & House Speaker McCall Part 1 (Roxbury News)
Gov. Rendell & House Speaker McCall Part 2 (Roxbury News)
Scarnati: Rendell, Senate GOP Worlds Apart On Gas Tax
State Far Away From Shale Gas Compromise Senate GOP Says
Legislators, Rendell Far Apart On Marcellus shale Tax
Shale Gas Tax Compromise Looks Dead

Tuesday NewsClips

Academy Of Natural Sciences: Drilling Threatens Streams
Rendell: Progress, But No Agreement On Shale Tax
Rendell Pushes Hard For Shale Gas Tax
Severance Tax Talks Continue
Shale Drilling Tax Compromise Sought
Rendell Pushes For Deal On Drilling Tax
Senate Republicans Propose Natural Gas Severance Tax Rate
Op-Ed: A Tax On Gas Drilling Should Be An Easy Call
New Guidelines To Protect Groundwater Set For Vote Today
Residents Say Marcellus Shale Drill Site Too Close To Schools
Impact Of Gas Drilling On Wildlife A Concern
Regulators Voice Concerns At Penn State Marcellus Shale Conference
Moravian Biologist Gets National Conservation Fellowship
Wildlife Academy Offers Teens Unique Wildlife Experience
Pittsburgh Water Loss Reduced Authorities Say
Bill To Fight Blight Draws Group's Concern
Infrastructure Stimulus Pushed
Column: Time Has Come For State Game Lands User Fee
Somerset Company Aids Trapped Chilean Miners
Chile Mine Drama Stirs Emotions In Somerset
Local Officials Get Marcellus Shale Lesson
Editorial: Severance Tax In Everybody's Best Interest
Op-Ed: One Chance To Get Marcellus Shale Right
Merck Solar Panel Installation Creates Jobs
Editorial: Political Gas, But No Tax Revenue

Friday, October 8, 2010

October 11 PA Environment Digest Now Available

October 11 PA Environment Digest now available. Click here to print this Digest.

House Misses Bus On Transportation Funding, No Severance Tax In Sight

It was another tough week for House Democratic Leadership. After failing to move any transportation funding bill, House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D-Luzerne) finally announced Wednesday there are no further voting session days between now and the November 2 election in spite of a number of outstanding issues still being discussed with the Senate including a Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax, pension reform and an independent fiscal office. Click here to read more…

CBF: Senate Inaction On Severance Tax Could Cost PA Taxpayers Billions To Cleanup Water

Matthew Ehrhart, Pennsylvania Office Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, sent this letter to all members of the Senate Friday saying if they don't meet their commitment to pass a Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax in time to cleanup Pennsylvania's rivers and streams, it will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers billions of dollars.

Dear Senator:

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, on behalf of our 16,800 members across Pennsylvania, asks that you fulfill the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s commitment to pass a Severance Tax. We urge you to pass a bill that provides the Environmental Stewardship Fund with level of support similar to Senate Bill 1155 as passed by the House.
This funding is critical to Pennsylvania’s ability to meet our obligations to the Federal Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law. Senate inaction on the natural gas Severance Tax could cost Pennsylvania billions of dollars.
Two weeks ago the EPA published its draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), or pollution budget, for the Chesapeake Bay States. They said very clearly that Pennsylvania’s draft plan to improve water quality to meet that TMDL was woefully inadequate, primarily because there was no documentation that the STRATEGIES and RESOURCES necessary to implement PA’s plan were available.
If the Commonwealth cannot improve its draft plan to demonstrate with reasonable assurance that implementation is possible, EPA clearly identified how it would use its legal authority.
In the absence of satisfactory assurance of implementation of the non-point source pollution controls for agriculture and suburban runoff, EPA has the authority and will require limit of technology upgrades at wastewater treatment plans and they will dramatically increase the requirements of the MS4 stormwater permits held by many of our local communities.
These actions will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers billions of dollars if we cannot provide a plan and resources to provide cost effective controls on our non-point sources of pollution.
Adequate resources in the Environmental Stewardship Fund is a critical component to provide EPA with the reasonable assurance that the Federal Clean water Act Requires. These resources are also critical to deal with impaired water resources throughout the Commonwealth.
A responsible Severance Tax is a keystone to building a plan that EPA will accept and avoiding tremendously costly upgrades to our wastewater infrastructure.
Please keep the commitment that was made this summer to pass legislation enabling a Severance Tax.

Friday NewsClips

Coming Clean On Streams
Turtle Creek Watershed Tackles Orange Water
Fecal Contaminants Rising In Bushkill Creek
Marcellus Shale Drilling: Gas Migration
Penn State Has Marcellus Shale Web Tool
Lakeland Outdoor Classroom Officially Opens
State Farm: PA Ranked 6th In Deer-Related Car Crashes
Colors Of Fall At Their Best This Weekend
Kunkletown Woman Recognized For Environmental Leadership
Storm Sent Sewage Into Little Lehigh Creek
Geisinger Architect Touts Green Building, Costs Savings
Natural Gas Pipeline Owner Has Emergency Plan In Place
Who's Watching Marcellus Shale Activists?
Editorial: Their Royal Majesties, Inc.

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