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A useful post is now up at Boatrocker, which has the agenda, minutes and documents from the last meeting, and more info about Task Force members.

Well worth perusing if you want to be up on local developments for the May 10th meeting:

http://boatrocker.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/centre-county-natural-gas-task-force-info/

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The first meeting of the full Centre County Natural Gas Task force has been scheduled for May 10 at 4 p.m. at the Bald Eagle Area High School Cafeteria.
Evidently there was an April 12 public meeting, which even some subcommittee members did not know about.
They will continue to discuss current legislation for taxing natural gas extraction in PA.  Road maintenance agreements will also be discussed at the upcoming meeting.
I think much more needs to be on the agenda, don’t you? How about local ordinances?

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I’m still trying to track down a story that possibly involves this well. I’ve heard that in late 2008, a spring went turbid near Pine Glen (…Burnside, Snow Shoe) and that there were concerns about the aquifer. It was never reported to the PA DEP. If anyone has more information, please contact me.
It also bears repeating that while Engelder is a PSU professor, he also doubles as a paid consultant to the gas industry. The figures cited by the CEO are also figures the industry paid for.

COUNTY WELLS TAP MARCELLUS GAS

Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) – Thursday, December 11, 2008
Author: Nick Malawskey nmalawsk@centredaily.com

STATE COLLEGE — The first natural gas extraction wells drilled in Centre County are showing promise, placing the county in a very positive position as commercial interest in the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserve increases. The shale occurs in the subsurface beneath much of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York and has the potential to be the largest natural gas field in the United States. One of the first wells in the area to explore the shale — owned by Exco Resources near Snow Shoe, was planned for 3,500 feet.

“And here’s the punch line for Centre County,” Penn State professor Terry Engelder said Wednesday at a natural gas summit. “Exco said it was going to drill to 3,500 feet … in fact they only went to 1,700 feet and hit a fault.” That fault allowed for the extraction of gas — 1,800 feet higher than expected and at a rate of 1 million cubic feet a day, according to the company’s third quarter results statement.

Exco has had “really, really good results,” from the well, results on par with those in other areas of the state that are producing high quality wells. That means Centre County is “very, very well positioned,” for future exploration, Engelder said.

Even as the economy slows down, the exploration of the Marcellus Shale region is expected to increase, said Range Resources CEO John Pinkerton. Range Resources, Exco and Rex Energy are three companies that are exploring the Marcellus Shale in the region. Pinkerton said the recession is having an effect on the exploration — speculation and investment are slowing down, the price of gas is decreasing — but he said he still expects 2009 to be a busy year for the industry.

Demand for alternative energy is focusing attention on natural gas and the Marcellus Shale. But instead of pushing for new leases, Pinkerton said he expects the number of lease offers to decline in 2009 as extraction companies shift their focus to developing drilling operations to provide a return on their investments.

Still, in the long run, the resource could create up to 100,000 jobs and an nual revenue for the state in excess of $8 billion, he said. “It will have a huge impact in terms of economics,” he said, as new projects bring direct and indirect jobs into the Pennsylvania economy.

Pinkerton admitted he did not know how much gas might be underneath the Appalachia region of the United States, but Engelder did hazard a guess. Engelder said new studies indicate that the Marcellus Shale region may have enough natural gas to provide 363 trillion cubic feet of gas to the United States — seven times his estimate of earlier this year.

“There’s a lot of gas out there,” he said. That number, he admitted, doesn’t mean much to most people. Instead, he used the example of a CATA bus, running on the natural gas found in the shale region. “How far would a CATA bus go? … About 88 percent of the way to Alpha Centauri,” he said. “That’s your headline.

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On March 2, 2010, the Centre County Commissioners appointed 12 advisors to sit on the Centre County Natural Gas Task Force, plus 16 residents to subcommittees. Here are the 12:

Susan Benedict, Woodland Owners of Central PA
Dan Fisher, Bald Eagle Area School Superintendent
Bob McDaniel, Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc (POGA), Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County
John Yecina, Snow Shoe Township Supervisor, maintenance at PSU Office of the Physical Plant
Jeff Kern, Senior Appraiser with Resource Technologies Corporation (appraise mineral rights)
Stan LaFuria, Executive Director, Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership
Greg Myers, Engineer/Geologist with DMS Environmental Services (petroleum engineering and geologic consulting services)
Tim Ziegler, Field Operations Specialist for PSU Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads Studies
Steve Greer, environmental engineer, Director of Business Development of The WHM Group
Ken Hall, realtor with Coldwell Banker University Realty, rep to Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization
Bob Norbeck, Burnside Township Supervisor
Jack Tobias, Bald Eagle Assistant Principal and football coach

They work with the Centre County Planning and Community Development Office, led by Director Bob Jacobs and Assistant Director Sue Hannegan (814-355-6791)

The committee is charged with collecting information, identifying issues, and educating the public about natural gas development.

According the 2010 outllook document, one member should be from each of the following categories:

  • Economic Development: Commercial and Residential Real Estate / Business and Industrial Development Opportunities; Financing; Transportation: Roads and Bridges, Rail; New wealth life-style changes or lack thereof, Workforce Development
  • Education: Property Owners; Workforce Development; School District Issues
  • Environment: Ground Water / Water Treatment / Drinking Water; Forest Fragmentation and Public Land Impact; Stormwater; Reclamation / Site Restoration; Impoundments; Agriculture; Historic Resources; Traffic, Lighting, Noise and Dust
  • Planning and Zoning: Land Use; Housing; Infrastructure; Pipelines / Gathering Lines; Compressor Stations
  • Public Policy and Legal Issues: Road Bonding; Financing; Impact Fees; Leases; Local Ordinances; Tax Matters; DEP / Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) Regulations; New Legislation; Property Rights; Media Releases
  • Property Owner / Lease Holder
  • Local Government Official

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I noticed that this story about north central PA railroads was covered up by The Centre Daily Times, Lock Haven Express, Clearfield Progress, and the Elmira Star Gazette.

They sure made it easy for the reporters, who just had to show up to a county commissioner’s meeting and get a non-controversial story straight from the CEO!

I think it’s great that railroads are doing well–it’s better than hauling sand from the midwest on trucks.

But I do worry it’s symptomatic of how industry self-promotion gets reported as news, while tougher stories are often ignored.

Gas boom adds to local rail traffic – SEDA-COG gives commissioners report about growth of use on short lines

Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) – Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Author: Anne Danahy adanahy@centredaily.com

BELLEFONTE — Rail lines in central Pennsylvania have seen a steady increase in industrial traffic in the past 25 years, and the boom in natural gas business is adding to that.

SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority representatives gave the Centre County Board of Commissioners a report on the industrial short rail lines it owns and the growth in use since the authority was formed in July 1983.

Authority Executive Director Jeff Stover said he would be hard pressed to find one company served in 1984 that is still around. But the use of the rail lines has grown, along with the number of people employed by companies that use the lines. Centre County was a charter member of the authority.
“Keeping the infrastructure there is really important because you really cannot predict what’s going to happen in the future,” Stover said.

In 1986, 1,900 carloads crossed the authority’s rail lines. In 2010 that number grew to 26,500 car loads. Looked at another way, that is 22 rail cars per mile of rail line in 1985 growing to 132 in 2009.

“Last year, a lot of short line railroads saw a significant decline in business. Our business actually went up, and a lot of it was due to the Marcellus Shale gas impact,” he said.

The authority has been leasing pieces of land to use for unloading pipes and the special type of sand used in the fracking process used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

The authority serves Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland and Union counties.

Stover said most of the rail line use for natural gas is happening in Lycoming and Clinton counties, but that could expand. In Centre County, the challenge would be finding land next to the rail lines that trucks could access.

“You have to have the right mix of location and land,” he said.

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News: Gas Testing Shakes Ground

GAS TESTING SHAKES GROUND–SEISMIC CHECKS AIM TO PINPOINT BEST SPOTS TO DRILL

Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) – Friday, January 30, 2009
Author: Anne Danahy adanahy@centredaily.com

BURNSIDE TOWNSHIP — Recently, small sections of wooded state land in northern Centre County have been trembling. That shaking might have been unusual, but it wasn’t un expected. It was part of a natural gas company’s effort to pick the best place to drill.

“It’s like taking an MRI of the underground,” said Steven Anest, permit agent with Dawson Geophysical Co. A crew from Dawson’s Midland, Texas, headquarters has been conducting three-dimensional seismic testing on 22 square miles of state game land and forest for North Coast Energy, an Ohio subsidiary of Exco Resources Inc. The re sults are images of the underground as deep as 20,000 feet. That data will help North Coast narrow the field as it decides whether and where to tap into the millions of cubic feet of natural gas floating deep inside the ground. The area is part of the Marcellus Shale region, which stretches from New York to West Virginia. Dawson finished its work Monday, and crews have been collecting the equipment this week. The company’s seismic testing involved its 40-member crew laying 25 receiver lines across the snow-covered property, with what’s known as a geophone about every 10 feet. A pair of large trucks — buggy-mounted vibrator units — would make their way down paths near the receiver lines, stopping to send sound waves into the ground. That’s when the shaking happened. It’s also when the geophones collected the vibrations that were being reflected off the rocks underground. That information was sent through the cable lines to boxes that relayed it to the recorder. That recorder is stationed in a truck, with an observer to make sure everything in the operation runs smoothly. The reports will help North Coast engineers decide if and where to put new drill pads on land to which it holds the gas rights. “It’s a way to look without drilling,” said David Cox, North Coast manager of geosciences. Two wells the company drilled in the Snow Shoe area last year are already producing natural gas. Cox said that gas flows into a nearby Columbia Gas transmission pipeline. While the search continues, the price for natural gas has dropped. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the spot price average was $9.13 per 1,000 cubic feet in 2008 but was $5.99 per 1,000 cubic feet in December 2008. It is expected to drop to $5.78 per 1,000 cubic feet in 2009. According to the DOE, the economy, together with the growing domestic supply of natural gas, are factors in the drop in demand. “Exco-North Coast continues to map and we continue to permit wells,” Cox said. “The collapse of the natural gas price has certainly changed the picture, and of course we’re keeping an eye on any rules and regulation changes that may come from the (state) and the regulatory process involved in permitting wells in the Marcellus region.”

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DRILLER WANTS 4 MILLION GALLONS

Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) – Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Author: Mike Joseph mjoseph@centredaily.com

Less than a week after streamlined regulations took effect, a natural gas driller gave notice Monday that it wants to withdraw up to 4 million gallons of water “in any day” from Centre and two other counties.

The water would be taken from two places in Centre County — from Foster Joseph Sayers Lake in Liberty Township and from Burnside Township, which is partially bounded by the West Branch Susquehanna River — and from four other sources in Clinton and Lycoming counties.

Texas-based Anadarko Exploration & Production Co. told the Susquehanna River Basin Commission that it needs the water for drilling and hydrofracturing natural gas wells, according to a public notice about its application.

The company has about 300,000 net acres under lease in the Appalachian region, mostly in central Pennsylvania, an Anadarko spokesman said.

Pennsylvania has a deep gas-bearing rock layer, the Marcellus Shale, that has a rich potential for natural gas production. It takes 1 million to 3 million gallons of water to “frac” a natural gas well, though procedures differ from region to region.

Anadarko spokesmen said it is still too early to estimate how frequently the company would want to withdraw up to 4 million gallons of water from the six sources.

They said the water-withdrawal application was filed Dec. 29 and would have been filed by year’s end regardless of the basin commission’s newly streamlined regulations.

The commission, the governing agency to protect and manage Susquehanna River water, adopted the new rules last month to simplify the application and approval process for a heavy load of natural gas industry requests to withdraw water from the basin.

The new regulations, which took effect Jan. 1, expand the type of sources the natural gas industry can use to include public water supplies and discharges from wastewater treatment plants.

Sayers Lake is a 1,730-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control impoundment on Bald Eagle Creek 15 miles northeast of State College. It is also the centerpiece of Bald Eagle State Park, which is run by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The lake water is drawn down each fall and winter to create enough room for high water in spring, and it is possible that Anadarko’s withdrawal could coincide with that practice.

“I’m sure we would probably be evaluating that,” basin commission spokeswoman Susan Obleski said Monday.

The DCNR plans a major improvement of the fish habitat at Bald Eagle State Park. Both DCNR and the Corps of Engineers said they had not known of Anadarko’s water-withdrawal application before Monday.

Four million gallons of water is about four-fifths of the amount the State College Borough Water Authority uses every day in the borough, Patton, Ferguson and Harris townships and part of College Township. If a 120-yard football field were turned into a big swimming pool, it would have to be dug 9 feet, 3 inches deep to hold 4 million gallons.

“It’s a lot of water — it’s something to be concerned about,” said Max Gill, executive director of the water authority. “When that water comes out of the ground, it’s contaminated. It has to be captured and disposed of. It can’t just be disposed back to the ground.”

Natural gas drillers add sand and chemicals to water before injecting it in a sort of sandblasting procedure thousands of feet into the ground. While there, the water picks up other chemicals such as magnesium chloride from deep salt formations.

“You inject it into the ground under very high pressure and that cracks the rock and then the sand keeps it open,” Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said.

The Williamsport Sanitary Authority, which treats sewage, is experimenting with a process to help clean up such “frac water.”

“It’s a very expensive treatment because of the need to get it down to water quality standards,” said Walt Nicholson, the authority’s director of operations.

Retired Centre County Planning Director Bob Donaldson, now a leader in local water quality conservation organizations, said the application to use water for natural gas drilling illustrates the need for effective government oversight.

“These are concerns but they’re balanced by the demand for energy,” he said. “The concern is that they be properly reviewed and permitted.”

PUBLIC COMMENT

Comments or questions about Anadarko’s application can be submitted to Paula Ballaron, regulatory program director, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 1721 N. Front St., Harrisburg, PA 17102- 2391; or by e-mail to pballaron@srbc.net.

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