Energy In Depth Posts
Since Marcellus development began seven years ago, it has provided billions of dollars of investment and tens of thousands of jobs for Pennsylvanians. From Williamsport to Washington, the positive impact shale development is having on our state, counties, and municipalities is simply astonishing.
Over the past several months, there has been plenty of chatter about the oil and gas industry paying its “fair share” in Pennsylvania. After looking at the recently released impact fee revenuefor counties and municipalities, one thing is certain: the industry is generating significant tax revenue for the Commonwealth.
In 2013, Pennsylvania’s natural gas impact fee revenue totaled $225 million, bringing the total impact fee revenue since its inception in 2012 to a staggering $630 million for local governments. And, according to Governor Tom Corbett, “The impact fee is in addition to nearly $2 billion in corporate and personal income tax revenue paid by oil and gas companies in the past seven years.”
Last week marked another milestone for shale development in Pennsylvania, with thegroundbreaking ceremony for the “Liberty” power plant in Asylum Township. The natural gas-fired facility will be the first power plant in Pennsylvania specifically developed to use Marcellus gas and will generate enough electricity to supply over a million homes.
Governor Corbett announced at the groundbreaking ceremony:
“According to a third-party economic analysis, the Liberty power plant will contribute an estimated $5.97 billion to the area’s economy during construction and the facilities first 10 years of operation.”
The power plant will also help put Pennsylvanian’s back to work – after all, Pennsylvania energy means Pennsylvania jobs. The project will create approximately 500 jobs during the construction phase and an estimated 27 skilled jobs to operate the facility and 45 indirect jobs within the community to support the plant.
Last week President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made a trip to the heart of Marcellus Shale country to tout job training programs offered at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). Much like President Obama’s last trip to the region, he and the Vice President credited domestic shale development for the re-shoring and expansion of American Manufacturing.
Vice President Joe Biden had this to say on American manufacturing in the region:
“This year 53 percent of the American companies … in China said they’re either planning on coming back to the United States and set up manufacturing, or they’re thinking about it — investing, hiring here at home.”
This is something we’ve been following here at Energy In Depth for a long time. Abundant and affordable supplies of natural gas and associated liquids, which manufacturers use as feedstocks for many of the products we use in our daily lives, have made the United States one of the lowest cost countries in which companies can invest.
It must be a slow week for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), since they have once again decided to re-open the closed book that is the Hallowich case in southwest Pennsylvania. Despite all of the court documents being public information, NRDC staffer Kate Sinding still disregards the facts involving the case. Her recent blog post titled “Oil and gas industry must stop silencing victims” attempts to vilify a gas company for something that was mutually agreed upon, and alleges impacts that are not only speculative, but actually demonstrably false.
A plan to develop the Marcellus Shale beneath Deer Lakes Park has been a heated topic of discussion in Pittsburgh over the last few months. Why it’s a heated discussion is unclear, though – especially since, according to the lease summary, “no drilling activity to extract oil, natural gas and other hydrocarbons shall be conducted anywhere on the surface of Deer Lakes Park.”
Yes, you read that correctly. The only disturbance to the park will be a horizontal lateral that will run under the 1,180 acres of Deer Lakes Park – 7,000 feet below the surface. Any wells needed to be developed in the area will be on private property, which has already been leased and ready to move forward with development.
A new study released by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) confirms once again that natural gas has clear environmental benefits. The study finds that the greenhouse gases emitted during the production and use of shale gas are still low enough for it to retain its well-established environmental advantage.
One of the study’s key findings is that, at the point of combustion, “Shale gas is 30 percent to 55 percent less intensive than traditional fuel sources.” Given that natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, this makes sense. And what about emissions during natural gas production?
In a recent Washington & Jefferson College presentation titled, “Thirst for Power: the Nexus of Energy & Water”, Michael Webber detailed the relationship between energy production, electricity generation and it’s need for water. Webber traveled from the University of Texas at Austin, where he is the deputy director of the Energy Institute and an associate professor of mechanical engineering.
During his presentation Webber covered water use across a multitude of energy sources, but focused a good deal of time talking about shale development, something we’ve covered many times at EID. See here, here, and here.
Shale development continues to be a huge economic driver and job creator for states where development is taking place. Recent reports in Pennsylvania and across the country show that states with shale development continue to reap the benefits of low unemployment and a surge in well-paying jobs that support economic growth.
The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows the Marcellus Shale has created 15,114 direct jobs in Pennsylvania, marking an amazing 259.3 percent increase since 2007. While some believe this number should be higher, it’s important to note that these are only direct jobs.
This winter, many Americans felt the chills of frigid temperatures. Luckily for residents of states benefiting from the Marcellus Shale, many did not feel the pain of higher energy costs in their pocketbooks.
In fact, despite not having any natural gas development in the state, New Jersey’s energy bills have been slashed due to its proximity to Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale.
The state of New York recently released its draft 2014 energy plan, which calls for the increased use of natural gas despite an almost six year moratorium on shale gas development within the state. According to the plan: “The Department of Public Service is to encourage and support oil-to gas- conversions by collaborating with other state agencies and regulated gas utilities to accelerate investments in natural gas distribution.”
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released its February 2014 drilling productivity report for tight oil and shale gas regions. Like previous months over the last few years, Marcellus Shale production has continued to increase exponentially. The report finds that “Pennsylvania natural gas production more than quadrupled from 2009 to 2011 because of increased development of the Marcellus Shale.”
A new poll released yesterday by Franklin and Marshall College shows strong support for continued natural gas development throughout Pennsylvania. Out of the 580 people surveyed, the poll found that a whopping 64 percent strongly favored natural gas development, compared to only 27 percent who were opposed.
Poll director G. Terry Madonna stated, “The voters of the state say, yep, we like the natural gas folks, but we want it done environmentally safely.”
Yesterday, President Obama traveled to the Marcellus Shale region and spoke at the U.S. Steel Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, just outside of Pittsburgh. The president touted the resurgence of manufacturing jobs in the area, which has been fueled by abundant natural gas production. Mario Langhi, President and CEO of U.S. Steel Corporation, introduced President Obama and provided some much-needed context into how the steel manufactured there is used in our daily lives.
More specifically, the steel made at this facility is being used to manufacture pipelines needed to bring natural gas to our homes. And while the steel industry manufactures and provides pipelines, the natural gas industry has supplied steel plants like Irvin with cheap natural gas, which keeps production costs down.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett recently released his state energy plan, focusing heavily on continued shale development in the Keystone State. Because of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources, Gov. Corbett called for an “all of the above and below” approach to energy, harnessing the power of traditional fuels and new technologies. The plan focuses on energy as a means toward continued employment growth in the Commonwealth, using the apt slogan, “Energy Equals Jobs.”
According to the details of the plan, Pennsylvania ranks as:
- The second largest energy field in the world
- The fourth largest state in the nation in terms of total energy production (3,858 BTU)
- The second largest natural gas producer among all fifty states
A new report by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds that, thanks to the increased use of natural gas over the last decade, there have been “significant reductions in the emissions of CO2, NOx and SO2.” [NOx = nitrogen oxides; SO2 = sulfur dioxide]
Just how much of a difference has natural gas made?
Allegheny County is poised for growth after the County’s decision to allow oil and gas development at the Pittsburgh International Airport. The move brings with it incredible investment and future opportunity for the county and its economic future.
UPDATE III (12/19/2013; 1:01pm ET): In an effort to reduce air emissions, CONSOL Energy has announced that its will be powering the rigs developing shale under the airport with electricity. This switch from traditional diesel to electricity means less noise and air emissions from the planned development, which is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Due to advances in technology and innovation, we are also seeing more operators like CONSOL shift to duel fuels like natural gas. These efforts have not only greatly reduced emissions on site, but the switch also means less truck traffic.
After a brief hiatus from the media spotlight, Josh Fox attempted to regain some lost ground recently with a screening of Gasland Part 2 at Slippery Rock University, just north of Pittsburgh. Fox reiterated his usual rhetoric, downplaying any benefits from the development of our shale resources, and then calling for lawmakers to kill jobs for hardworking families by banning hydraulic fracturing.
A national poll released today by Robert Morris University shows strong support for hydraulic fracturing and the responsible development of oil and natural gas from shale. This comes just one month after a poll from the University of Texas showed overwhelming (more than 80 percent) support for natural gas development.
Respondents in the RMU poll were given a presentation on the fracturing process from the perspective of both environmental groups and the energy industry. The results speak for themselves:
- 56.4 percent support hydraulic fracturing
- 43.6 percent oppose the process
Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo recently held a meeting to discuss shale development in Allegheny County parks. The event hosted a panel of “experts” on shale development, but five minutes into the first presentation it was clear that these were self-appointed experts, not real ones.
The panel included Lynda Farrel of the Pipeline Safety Coalition, Erika Staaf from Penn Environment, Dr. Cynthia Walter representing Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group, and former Pittsburgh City Council President, Doug Shields. All one hundred or so people in attendance appeared to be against any sort of shale gas development, which was to be expected given the organizer, Jim Ferlo, is looking to pass a statewide ban on shale.
This week, the anti-oil and gas group Earthworks released a report on water use in the Marcellus region, exhausting nearly 90 pages to eventually arrive at the conclusion that hydraulic fracturing, in its view, uses too much water.
In so many ways, the paper is classic Earthworks. Like other extended press releases it has produced in the past, this report freely switches back and forth between various data points and time ranges – comparing apples to apples when it suits, but then mixing and matching its fruits and data sets either to avoid what they would consider a “bad fact” or to manufacture a separate narrative altogether.
Michael Krancer, former head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), was recently the luncheon keynote speaker at the Energy Inc. Conference in Pittsburgh. Krancer separated his speech on natural gas development in Pennsylvania into three parts: good performance, geopolitical/economic issues, and the environment.
Dead fish, dead bodies, and sulfur are just a few words residents living near a German Township landfill are using to describe the smells they claim are being caused by Marcellus Shale waste. CBS Pittsburgh covered the story and highlighted the concerns of these residents, but couldn’t offer any proof that Marcellus waste is, in fact, the cause of the odor.
A quick aside: Growing up in Rockland County, N.Y., I can remember these same types of smells coming from the landfill near me. The stench of sulfur and rotten eggs often filled the air near my home, and that was with no natural gas development waste entering the landfill.
Impoundments used in natural gas development have been a highly contested issue in Cecil Township over the last few months. Recently, at a Cecil Township supervisors meeting, impoundments were again brought up, mostly regarding the Worstell Impoundment located in the Township. Special time was set aside prior to this meeting to go over what the Township supervisors discussed during a meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding the impoundment. The supervisors then took comment from the public to listen to the residents’ concerns and decide a course of action.
Marcellus Shale gas development has been happening safely in Pennsylvania for the better part of a decade. It’s not only happening on private property, but also on state forest lands, which seems to irritate some people who should know better. For example, some anti-growth folks have been demanding that shale gas development be banned in Loyalsock State Forest, but it’s just too hard to take them seriously: Given the experience of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in safely managing oil and gas development in state forests, the notion that such development poses an unacceptable risk is simply not credible.
Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee voted 115 to 81 to support a moratorium on shale gas development. Yes, a major state party actually voted to put an end to shale development – and all the prosperity it brings – for the entire Commonwealth. But take heart: this was clearly a mistake, and wiser party leaders now weighed in.
Recent headlines about the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania have turned heads and put to rest a few myths about shale gas development. To wit: Thanks to shale development, Pennsylvania is slated to overtake Louisiana and become America’s number two natural gas producing state in 2013, according to Bentek Energy.
Production numbers for shale gas wells have been contested over the years, and some people have even compared shale development to a ponzi scheme. But after taking a look at the actual numbers, it’s clear that the “shale bubble” theory itself has burst.
You’ve probably read about an agreement between natural gas companies and a landowner in western Pennsylvania, an agreement that – if we’re to believe most of the headlines – included a “gag order” on two children. Many stories also suggest the family was pressured into keeping secret the terms of the agreement, including an affirmation that there was no medical evidence to support the family’s claims of health impacts. In fact, much of the coverage has subtly suggested that the family did believe there were health impacts, but agreed to say otherwise to settle the matter.
The facts tell an entirely different story.
This past Monday, Cecil Township held a Board of Supervisors meeting, where attendees discussed a future meeting (scheduled for tomorrow, Aug. 9) that would provide an opportunity for PADEP to answer questions regarding the infamous Worstell Impoundment. While this would appear to be an excellent opportunity for the group of six supervisors to resolve a matter of potential litigation before it gets that far, Supervisor Andrew Schrader took Monday’s meeting as an opportunity to run through a laundry list of bizarre talking points.
A group of New York City residents awoke early last Saturday, left their air-conditioned homes – most likely powered by natural gas – hopped in a diesel-fueled bus and began a three hour journey to beautiful Susquehanna County, PA. While a minority of the group was there to get educated on shale gas development, the latter seemed to tag along just to pose with their signs and hold up traffic.
There is a lot of rhetoric and misinformation that surround the process of developing natural gas from shale. One common misconception is that it only benefits the companies and the “lucky” landowners who receive royalties. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Anyone living in Pennsylvania can drive down the street and see the benefits of shale gas development throughout their communities. As evidence, the McKinsey Global Institute issued a study earlier this month that further demonstrates this. The Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy discussed the report:
The Upper Devonian Shale formation made headlines this week in Southwest Pennsylvania after CONSOL Energy developed its first Upper Devonian natural gas well. Other operators in the area, including Range Resources, have also begun to see the potential of this formation.
The Upper Devonian
A portion of this formation lies in Southwestern Pennsylvania above the prolific Marcellus Shale. At 6,000 to 6,500 feet below the surface, this shale formation lies well below the water table and at a perfect depth to utilize horizontal drilling in combination with hydraulic fracturing.
The school of public health at West Virginia University recently released a study on air quality in the state, which examines the effects of shale gas development on the air quality of West Virginia. The study was conducted at seven well sites to collect data on dust, hydrocarbon compounds and on noise, radiation and light levels.
As I get ready to throw eight dozen hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill, I can’t help but appreciate the ability to flip a couple switches, light the grill and spend time with family and friends – which, if it gets as hot as forecasted, might shift quickly inside to the air conditioned house. This is thanks to cheap and abundant energy sources like natural gas being produced throughout the country, which make our lives better every day.
Nicole reported on Friday about the letter the Wayne County commissioners sent in early June to Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Executive Director, Carol Collier, expressing their frustrations over its delay in approving responsible shale development. This was followed last week with a similar letter from Pa. Governor Tom Corbett to Collier on behalf of his constituents in the DRBC region.
Three New York residents have left their home state in search of work. Their search has brought them to Washington County, Pa., where all three now have good paying jobs in the natural gas industry.
Scott Perry recently came to Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) to talk about areas of improvement and successes of the industry, as well as oil and gas regulation. The lecture brought out around 100 people and was part of the continuing Energy Lecture Series.
Penn State extension educator, Dave Messersmith came to Brooklyn Township and spoke about European shale gas development, it’s complications, and how the continent’s governments are working to develop their shale resources. He also discussed shale development in Pennsylvania and exactly what it’s meant for the agriculture industry.
Last week the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held a public hearing for the proposed Mark West compressor station, slated for Smith Township in Washington County. The hearing filled with residents from neighboring communities – a large majority of whom supported the Mark West expansion.