Thursday, September 28, 2023

Member Of Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group Briefs DCNR Advisory Council On Siting Of Shale Gas Well Pad On State Forest Land To Accommodate Taking Gas From Private Land In Tioga County

On September 27, Bryn Hammarstrom, from the
Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group, expressed concerns with locating a Seneca Resources shale gas well pad on State Forest Land to accommodate taking natural gas from private land in Tioga County.

According to John Norbeck, DCNR Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry, 25% of the natural gas from development of the 30-well shale gas well pad will be from private land.

“Our concern that the exploitation being proposed by Seneca jointly with the Bureau of Forestry in [an undisturbed] part of Tioga State Forest is contrary to the State Supreme Court decision mandating that state employees taking care of state property protect and preserve it for future generations,” said Hammarstrom.

Hammerstrom’s comments were made to DCNR’s Conservation and Natural Resources Council during a meeting in Lycoming County.

During his comments he read portions of a letter to DCNR Secretary Dunn in May on the issue and a response from John Norbeck, DCNR Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry in June.

Hammerstrom noted the Group advised DCNR Secretary Dunn by letter in May of their concerns about the approval of the shale gas well Pad L on Mt. Nessmuk in Tioga State Forest.

He said on a tour of the area on May 1 with DCNR Bureau of Forestry and DEP Oil and Gas Program staff, a map they were shown of the proposed Pad L development clearly had the proposed shale gas well pad in a presently undisturbed area of the Tioga State Forest.

Originally, Seneca Resources, the drilling company that leased State Forest Land for development, told the Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group the location of the Pad L site was “necessitated’ by geologic considerations.

However, on the tour the Group learned from Bureau of Forestry staff that placing the Pad L site within a section of State Forest Land was to allow Seneca’s shale gas wells to reach privately owned natural gas leases outside the Tioga State Forest.

DCNR staff  said as “state employees negotiating implementation of a state [shale gas lease” with Seneca …. “their obligation is to benefit both state and private property owners equally.”

Hammerstrom said, “They keep stressing this has minimized greatly the proposed number of pads and the proposed acreage of disturbance. But the pads are massive. They're industrial, lights on all night, crude. The pads are proposed to have up to 30 wells on a pad and they're going for Marcellus shale and Utica shale.”

“Placing Pad L where Seneca and Bureau of Forestry Oil and Gas section employees propose would cause immediate HARM both to nature and to public use and enjoyment.  

“Mt. Nessmuk is criss-crossed with numerous hiking trails, is the water source of the pristine aquifer which fed the USGS Trout Fishery Research Station [and many private wells], and is home to 'interior-forest-dwelling' wildlife, from birds to reptiles.

“It includes part of the annual 'Green Monster' trail course, and is used extensively both by local folks and by tourists, for hiking, birding, mountain biking, hunting in season, and for solitude as well.  

“PCHPG believes that Pad L placement MUST be as close to Baldwin Run Road as possible, since that route has become an "industrial highway" (Seneca employee terminology), and already a major fault-line dividing TSF [Tioga State Forest]  into northern and southern sections.”

Hammerstrom said, “Now, [Baldwin Run Road is] a 50-, 60-foot wide highway with that water pipeline along the side and then 12-inch of a big huge black one of pipelines.”

“PCHPG strongly objects to the (mis)understanding of BoF [Bureau of Forestry] [state] employees' role, particularly in light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision of June, 2017.  

“In its ruling, the Court found that DCNR/ Bureau of Forestry "must at all times fulfill its role as trustee...[of] our public natural resources", which entails complying with all the legal/ fiduciary requirements of a trustee.

“Equating their responsibility to state-owned as opposed to privately-held properties is a clear failure by state officials to act in compliance with the Supreme Court decision. Their obligation under the ruling is unequivocal: to give maximum protection to state property for future generations' enjoyment and benefit.”

Click Here for a copy of the letter to Secretary Dunn.

Hammerstrom noted a response to the Group’s letter on June 2 from John Norbeck, DCNR Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry, says that 25% of the area being developed by Pad L will produce natural gas from private land not State Forest Land.

Norbeck also said, “During the May 1 tour that PCHPG [Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group] participated in, Department staff emphasized that the pad location would avoid or minimize adverse impacts to public natural resources and State Forest lands, uses, and values.

“The proposed location prevents the need to construct another pad within the landscape, minimizes wetlands impacts and reduces the effects on recreational resources in the area.”

“The Department has an obligation to review and approve infrastructure proposals associated with the Tract 007 lease after the Department’s confirms that the proposal best protects public natural resources.

“In making that determination, the Department’s primary focus is preserving the integrity of State Forest lands.  But State Forest land does not exist in isolation.

“The Department’s Bureau of Forestry must manage that land mindful of potential adverse impacts to the larger landscape.  Those broader considerations include how the Department’s decisions effect private property, nearby communities and conservation of natural resources.

“Accounting for these interconnected issues is consistent with Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

Click Here for a copy of the letter.

Hammerstrom concluded his remarks by saying, “Let me just say, what we said was placing Pad L where Seneca and Bureau of Forestry Oil and Gas section employees propose would cause immediate harm both to nature and to public use and enjoyment. 

“Mt. Nessmuk is crisscrossed with numerous hiking trails, the water source of the pristine aquifer, which fed the USGS Trout Fishery Research Station, and is home to interior forest dwelling wildlife from birds to reptiles. It includes part of the annual Green Monster trail. 

“We strongly object to the misunderstanding by BoF [Bureau of Forestry] state employees, particularly in light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision of June 7, 2017. 

“In its ruling, the Court found the DCNR Bureau of Forestry must at all times fulfill its role as trustee of our natural public resources. 

“Equating their responsibility to state owned as opposed to privately held property is a clear failure by state officials to act in compliance with the Supreme Court decision.” 

The Council typically does not respond to public comments at the meeting, but follows up on them afterward.

DCNR estimates about 10,000 natural gas wells will be drilled on the 137,000 acres of State Forest Land leased to shale gas developers by Gov. Ed Rendell from 2008 to 2010.  Gov. Rendell placed a moratorium on leasing more State Forest Land a few days before the 2010 gubernatorial election.  Read more here.

Only about 35% of the shale gas leases DCNR has with drillers on State Forest Land have been developed so far.  Read more here.

Visit DCNR’s Shale Gas Infrastructure Map and Shale Gas Monitoring webpages to learn more about shale gas drilling on State Forest Lands.

Not The First State Forest Drilling Concerns

On September 28, 2022 Barb Jarmoska from Friends to Save the Loyalsock State Forest and Creek [Keep It Wild PA] advised the Council of significant issues in the development of shale gas leases in the Loyalsock State Forest by PA General Energy.  Read more here. [Click Here to listen to a meeting recording starting at the 5:00 minute mark.]

The construction of PA General Energy Company’s Shawnee Water Withdrawal last summer on the Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek resulted in multiple Clean Streams Law violations, an out-of-court settlement with the Fish and Boat Commission for other violations and threatened the habitat of the rare Eastern Hellbender, Pennsylvania’s clean water ambassador.

The construction resulted in multiple, heavy sediment plumes as PA General Energy constructed the water withdrawal and related freshwater and natural gas pipelines on both sides of the Loyalsock to service planned unconventional shale gas well pads on DCNR State Forest Land.

No monetary penalties or enforcement actions other than issuing notices of violation by DEP have been taken by either DEP or the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for any of these construction violations so far.

PA General Energy came to an undisclosed private agreement with the Fish and Boat Commission covering some of the construction violations.  Read more here.

No enforcement actions have been announced by DEP or SRBC for another set of violations for the failure of PA General Energy to build its water withdrawal and pipeline corridor across the Loyalsock Creek in compliance with its original permits, except for notices of violation.

A response from the Council on November 29, 2022 to Barb Jarmoska and Keep It Wild PA’s  concerns said in part, “A visible corridor across DCNR state forest lands in the Loyalsock Valley will not be permitted should the non-visible pipeline bore across the valley fail.”

“We would encourage you to continue conversations with the jurisdictional authorities to get more detailed answers to your questions: PGE and the township for the use of Butternut Grove Road, and DEP and SRBC [Susquehanna River Basin Commission] for the pipeline activity in Loyalsock Creek.”

Jarmoska reports there is a lot of clearcutting going on in Loyalhanna State Forest and on private land to accommodate natural gas pipelines, especially along the Allegheny Ridge.

A DEP inspection report filed in August of 2023 in response to the land subsidence complaint on the right-of-way of another part of the Shawnee Project-- the Phase 2 Pipeline Project in Fairfield Township, Lycoming County-- clearly shows a 75 to 100-foot wide cleared forest pipeline right-of-way.   Read more here.

Jarmoska believes DCNR’s policy of only “non-visible pipeline” routes applies only to PA General Energy’s natural gas gathering pipelines in a relatively small area of natural gas infrastructure development in Gamble and Plunketts Creek Townships.

New PA State Forester Appointed

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced the appointment of Seth Cassell as Pennsylvania’s 18th State Forester at the meeting of the DCNR’s Conservation and Natural Resources Council meeting in Lycoming County.

[Note: The appointment of Cassell presents the opportunity for a closer look at State Forest Land impacts from shale gas development because of his experience in the Bureau of Forestry.]

Most recently Cassell held the position of Chief of Staff and Director of Planning and Administration and has served as Division Chief of the Resource Planning and Information Division for 10 years and previously served different roles in Planning, Communications, Rural and Community Forestry, and the Gallitzin State Forest District since 2000. 

In his various positions in the Bureau of Forestry and his career with the Bureau, Cassell has been directly involved in analyzing the impacts of shale gas drilling in State Forests, including the development of the Shale Gas Monitoring Reports; the moratorium on leasing more State Forest land for shale gas development; carbon sequestration and addressing climate change in State Forests and public lands; Forestry's Strategic Plan - Forests For all; an Invasive Species Management Plan; and other key issues.

“Seth really brings a wealth of knowledge about planning. He's our land acquisition expert in forestry, outdoors person, conservationist, led our strategic planning efforts,” said Secretary Dunn.  “He's also gained leadership expertise in the military in his role there and is an articulate representative of forestry in Pennsylvania. And we see him as a person who will be out there growing the field of forestry in the public view.”

“When you think about the challenges that our state has, Pennsylvania has, the nation has, forests are the answer to a lot of those challenges. Whether it's flooding, water quality problems, climate change, need for more outdoor recreation, forests provide the answer,” said Dunn. “[Cassell is an]  articulate leader that we could send around the state and around the country to help garner resources for the good work we do is really important.”

Dunn noted the storied history of the State Forester position by saying as State Forester of Pennsylvania, the individual sits at what was Gifford Pinchot's desk.  

Pinchot served as Governor of Pennsylvania and the first Chief of the US Forest Service from 1905 to 1910.  Click Here to view a documentary on Pinchot.

Visit DCNR’s Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council webpage for more information on Council activities.

(Photos: top-- Map of Seneca Resources shale gas development in Tioga State Forest; PA General Energy clearcut forest natural gas right-of-way in Fairfield Twp., Lycoming County; bottom-- Impacts of PA General Energy Shawnee Water Withdrawal Project on the Loyalsock in Loyalsock State Forest.)

Related Articles:

-- Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group Asks DCNR To Protect State Forest Land From Seneca Shale Gas Drilling Well Pad, Comply With PA Supreme Court Decision, Protect Recreation, Wildlife  [PaEN 5.18.23]

-- Exceptional Value Water Quality Designation, State Forest Land, River Honors Were Not Enough To Protect Loyalsock Creek From Natural Gas Drilling & Pipelines In Lycoming County - By Friends Of The 'Sock   [PaEN 9.7.22]

-- NO SPECIAL PROTECTION: The Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek In Lycoming County Is Dammed And Damned - Video Dispatch From The Loyalsock - By Barb Jarmoska, Keep It Wild PA [PaEN 10.17.22]

-- Rare Eastern Hellbender Habitat In Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming County Harmed By Sediment Plumes From Pipeline Crossings, Shale Gas Drilling Water Withdrawal Construction Projects  [PaEN 9.15.22]

-- Citizen Complaints Result In DEP Issuing PA General Energy More Violations At Loyalsock Creek Gas Pipeline/Water Withdrawal Construction Site In Lycoming County  [PaEN 12.16.22] 

-- DEP, SRBC Invite Comments On New Permits For PA General Energy Shawnee Shale Gas Drilling Water Withdrawal On The Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming County After Failure To Comply With Its First Permit  [PaEN 8.18.23] 

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Sept. 23 to 29; More Abandoned Wells; Oil & Gas Doesn’t Typically Issue NOVs For ‘Routine’ Venting Of Natural Gas, Will Air Quality Under New Regs?  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - September 30   [PaEN] 

-- DEP Invites Comments On Title V Air Quality Permit For Eastern Gas Transmission Compressor Station In Westmoreland County At Oct. 31 Hearing  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 54 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In September 30 PA Bulletin  [PaEN] 

NewsClips This Week:

-- PennLive Guest Essay: Gov. Shapiro, The Fracking Clock Is Ticking - By Megan McDonough, Food & Water Watch

-- AP: Gov. Shapiro Noncommittal On Greenhouse Gas Strategy As Climate Task Force Finishes Work

-- The Allegheny Front: EPA’s Approval Of 2nd Plum Boro Oil/Gas Wastewater Injection Well In  Allegheny County Raises Fears That More Are On The Way

-- Grist - Will Peischel: Inside The Rough-And-Tumble Race To Clean Up America’s Abandoned Oil & Gas Wells [PA Highlighted]

-- Planet Philadelphia Radio: Cleaning Up Our Energy Systems, Oct. 5 At 4:00 p.m.

-- Observer-Reporter: Pipeline Operator Faces $100,000 PUC Penalty For 2020 House Explosion In Greene County

-- WTAE: Natural Gas Pipeline Leak In Collier Twp., Allegheny County Forces People Out Of Their Homes

-- PUC Commissioner Kathryn Zerfuss Appointed To Presidential Task Force On Evolving Natural Gas Infrastructure Planning

-- Utility Dive: PJM Board Calls For Capacity Market Changes To Bolster Grid Reliability, Resource Adequacy

-- Guest Essay: EPA Further Threatens Grid Reliability By Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants, Including Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants - By Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the PA Senate Environmental Committee

-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Marcellus Shale Gas Industry Coalition Highlights Natural Gas Industry’s Economic Impact In PA; Faces Bills Extending Safety Zones

-- Marcellus Shale Gas Industry Coalition: Natural Gas Generates $41 Billion In Economic Activity, Supports 123,000 Jobs, Produced $6.3 Billion In Landowner Royalties 

-- Erie Times Guest Essay: Marcellus Shale Gas Coalition Wraps Up Conference In Erie - Natural Gas Delivers For All Pennsylvanians

-- JDSupra: Federal Court In Ohio Makes Important Ruling On Post-Production Costs For Oil & Gas Leaseholders Under ‘Market Enhancement’ Clause

Related Articles This Week:

-- Environmental Health Project: How DEP Issues Permits For Shale Gas Facilities Without Considering Cumulative Impacts - How New Facilities Will Add To Existing Pollution Loads And Impact The Area  [PaEN]

-- Member Of Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group Briefs DCNR Advisory Council On Siting Of Shale Gas Well Pad On State Forest Land To Accommodate Taking Gas From Private Land In Tioga County  [PaEN]

-- Gov. Shapiro’s Work Group Concludes A Cap-And-Invest Carbon Pollution Regulation Program Would Be Optimal Approach To Reducing Greenhouse Emissions From Power Plants; Scale Up Solar Energy  [PaEN]

-- On Sept. 27 Families Will Hold Town Hall Meeting In Washington County Seeking Policy Changes After Pitt Studies Link Natural Gas Development And Negative Health Outcomes  [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: DEP Should Invest $33.6 Million In New Federal Funding Wisely To Plug  Conventional Oil & Gas Wells And Not Reward The Industry For Bad Behavior  - By  Russell Zerbo, Clean Air Council  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Updates Times Of 2 Hearings On Interim Final Environmental Justice Policy To Accept Comments In Erie, Philadelphia  [PaEN] 

-- PJM Interconnection Board Proposes Market Reforms Based Largely On Unreliability Of Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants During Winter Storm Elliot  [PaEN] 

-- PJM Interconnection Files Proposed Winter Storm Elliot Settlement With Non-Performing Electric Generators With FERC, Requests Final Action By Dec. 29  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 28, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner