Responsible Drilling Alliance

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Fallacies and Notices, Lawsuits and Laws – Nov. 29th 2010 Newsletter

Fossil Fuel Factual Fallacies: New York Times Called Out by Renowned Geoscientist

Rarely is the public treated to such inaccurate, misleading and unhelpful journalism as in “There Will Be Fuel” by New York Times correspondent, Clifford Krauss, even in this era of political spin and smoke and mirrors surrounding energy. With respect to shale gas production in the U.S., which the author hypes along with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), U.S. gas production in 2009 was still four percent below the 1973 gas production peak. The U.S. is still a net gas importer via pipeline from Canada and via LNG from many countries. Despite the hype of people like Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of shale gas producer Chesapeake, who was recently featured on 60 Minutes, and who testifiedbefore Congress that U.S. gas production could increase by 50 percent or more in the next decade, the realities of shale gas make this unlikely. Shale gas wells have very high decline rates, between 65 and 85 percent in the first year, are high tech and hence expensive, utilize large amounts of water, and have environmental costs that are now becoming evident. The EPA has begun an extensive investigation of the environmental issues surrounding “fracking,” upon which shale gas production depends. In summary, oil and gas are finite resources that are being consumed at unprecedented and growing rates. Despite what Krauss’ article says, the U.S. is the worst offender and is highly vulnerable to future energy price and supply shocks. The growth trajectory of the already high consumption levels in the industrialized world and the rapid growth in consumption in the developing world is patently unsustainable. Articles such as this falsely promote complacency and thus are an extreme disservice to understanding the energy sustainability dilemma facing the World. The premise of this article that the U.S. is approaching “energy independence” could not be further from the truth. Source: J. David Hughes – Fellow, a geoscientist who has researched, published and lectured widely on global energy and sustainability issues in North America and internationally. He is a board member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, Canada and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.

“Guinea Pigs Atop The Marcellus Shale”

A public meeting, presentation, Q&A 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Tuesday November 30th Watsontown United Methodist Church 1319 Eight Street Drive, Watsontown

A recently formed group, “Warrior Run Residents for Responsible Development” (WRRRD), invites the public to attend a slide presentation by Barb Jarmoska from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30th at the Methodist Church on Eighth Street Drive, Watsontown. WAARD is sponsoring this presentation because of a growing concern about the expansion of gas drilling to the Watsontown area.  Especially troubling is the permit application by a Texas Company seeking to build a tank farm to mix and store 500,000 gallons of drilling mud on Matthew Street in Watsontown.  The tank farm would be on land leased by Moran Industries, a company that has already established gas drilling storage services in Montgomery.

RDA Writes to the Borough of Watsontown

RDA mailed the following letter to the Borough of Watsontown on 11-27-2010

As members of the Board of Directors of the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA), we are very concerned about the natural gas industry’s industrialization of Pennsylvania’s farmlands, forests, small towns, and rural communities.  Our concerns are shared by a group of residents in your area known as the Warrior Run Residents for Responsible Development” (WRRRD).

We are troubled by the proposed construction of the National Oilwell Varco (NOV) tank farm in Watsontown.  With such construction comes greatly increased truck traffic and its accompanying air and noise pollution, congestion, and loss of property values for all who live nearby.

Although many media sources and public officials are proclaiming the gas industry will bring wealth and prosperity to our region, many PhDs and experts in the fields of economics, engineering, and environmental sciences are saying precisely the opposite. What lies in store may be more accurately described as a privatization of wealth in the hands of a few and the socializing of costs that will be born by many who are negatively impacted by this development.

RDA understands that the Watsontown Borough zoning ordinance states that local officials are bound to:  “…prevent overcrowding of land, blight, danger and congestion in travel and transportation, loss of health, life or property from fire, flood, panic, or other danger of people in the community.”

RDA believes the only way to adhere to this pledge is a full and open public discussion of the matter, a comprehensive study of all the ramifications this development will bring, and a consensus about what this tank farm will mean to area residents both now and in the future when the gas rush ends.

RDA intends to resist the NOV project, believing the development is not favorable to the health and way of life enjoyed by Watsontown area residents.

Respectfully yours, RDA Board of Directors

PA Municipal Water Authority Files Suit Over Drilling Activity

The Brockway, PA Borough Municipal Authority has filed suit against three firms involved in Marcellus Shale drilling on the authority’s watershed. Named as defendants are Flatirons Development of DuBois, Force Inc. of Indiana, Pa., and New Growth Resources of Kane. Flatirons is building a 10-million gallon impoundment pond and clear-cutting 23 acres of timber in preparation for Marcellus Shale drilling. The Water Authority claims there is no agreement or easement for the property where Flatirons will build the impoundment. They express concern over potential water pollution from timbering and fracking fluid and argue that the project constitutes a “public nuisance.” The action seeks an injunction to prohibit the construction of any impoundments, wells, pads, electric or pipelines until Flatirons demonstrates that the Brockway water supply will be protected. It also asks that Flatirons be required to conduct a groundwater study to assure that the water supply will not be polluted; that it prepare and implement a site-specific sedimentation and erosion control plan as well as a storm water management plan; that it be required to give the authority 120 days notice of any construction activity on authority property and that Flatirons be required to submit copies of applications for any permits to the authority when they are submitted to regulatory agencies. The suit also asks that Flatirons be prohibited from cutting any trees on the property; that it be prohibited from engaging in construction within 2,500 feet of any authority well or surface impoundment; that it be required to remove all drill cuttings, frac material or waste material, including brine generated by its gas-drilling operation; that it develop a contingency plan for addressing pollution of any borough water supply and conduct water quality monitoring now and on a monthly basis by sampling wells and reservoirs. Source: The Courier Express, 500 Jeffers Street, DuBois, PA. For a copy of this lawsuit, contact RDA

EPA Will Require Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Despite industry opposition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a rule that requires the oil and gas industry to join EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. Producers will have to begin measuring their emissions in 2011 and reporting them in 2012. EPA will now mandate a comprehensive look at the industry’s emissions by requiring reporting from all equipment under common ownership or common control in a geographic area. A comprehensive approach is critical to get accurate information on the greenhouse gas emissions from this industry. EPA also included the emissions from contractors and portable equipment. This is essential, because the gas industry outsources much of its work to contractors and subcontractors, including drilling, hydraulic fracturing, waste management, pipeline construction, and more. Source:  Amy Mall, National Resources Defense Council

Can You Sue Your Neighbor Over a Gas Well?

When you bought your house you didn’t buy just dirt and bricks; you bought what lawyers call a “bundle of rights”. This includes the right of quiet enjoyment. Quiet enjoyment means more than the right to sit on your porch and watch the sunset; it includes the right to enjoy the value of your property. If your neighbor does something to hurt this right, he has to pay you the before-and-after difference — to make you whole, as they say. It’s called nuisance law, and means everybody has the right to do what they want with their property — as long and they don’t hurt anybody else. If they do, they have to pay. So, since banks won’t lend money on a house near a gas well unless the owner can prove their water supply will always be safe, and that can’t be done — i.e.: where there’s gas drilling, property values collapse – does it follow that if your neighbor leases his land for gas drilling, you should be able to sue to make you whole? Source: Andrew Reinbach, Huffington Post

The Trouble With Cement…

Cement has been used since Roman engineers made early concretes from pumice based cements. [Cement is not concrete, but rather a constituent of concrete.] Cement is used in gas wells to act as a structural support for the steel casing, to act as a sealant to contain gas and retard and or stop migration of gases, to plug a well either temporarily or permanently, and as a general construction material. The composition of the cement used, the preparation of the space to be cemented, the additives to the cement, the method of placement, the possibility of injecting an inert gas such as nitrogen to achieve a foamed cement, and the testing of the resulting seal from cementing are all complex issues and subject of much research. A scholar search for just the last two years turned up over 1000 hits. Not only is the initial cement placement of cements an issue, the subsequent performance of the cement is also. Consider that the cement is subjected to high pressure, assaulted by acid conditions, bathed in high temperature fluids, and has had its integrity compromised by shooting and fracking under very high pressures. This means a great deal of uncertainty about cement permeability.  Schlumberger writes in 2003 “The entire process of gas-well drilling—from mud selection through cementing—can be difficult. A high percentage of wells in the US, Canada and other locations around the world show signs of gas leakage long after completion.” See the paper by clicking here. Source: Professor Edward Kokkelenberg, Cornell University

Quote of the week

“We’ve been through 3 1/2 years of what I can only describe as pure hell with these people.” Hiram Lewis, referring to Chesapeake Energy and the farmers whose drinking water wells have been polluted by gas drilling.

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