natural gas

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

The future of the Cayuga coal-fired power plant in Tompkins County remains up-in-the-air, almost three years after plans to close the plant were announced.

The local utility, NYSEG, opposes a proposed conversion to natural gas and wants to invest in their transmission system instead. Either way, the cost will be added to ratepayers’ bills.

Nicholas_T / flickr

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf is poised to sign an executive order restoring a moratorium on new natural-gas drilling leases on Pennsylvania's state parks and forests.
Wolf's office says he'll sign the order Thursday at Benjamin Rush State Park in Philadelphia.
It will supersede an order former Gov. Tom Corbett signed in May and restore the ban on new drilling leases that former Gov. Ed Rendell implemented in 2010.

Matt Richmond / WSKGNews

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania state environmental regulators have released a study on radiation levels in oil and gas industry wastewater and byproducts that they say shows little potential for radiation exposure to workers and the public, but recommends follow-up study.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Much of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale drilling takes place in rural areas. Over the years, gas companies and farmers have had to learn how to co-exist. Sometimes those relationships are positive. Other times, they can be rocky.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

State officials have decided to ban hydrofracking within New York, but battles continue over the infrastructure projects that support the natural gas industry. One such project is the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline, which would carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to lines in New York state that run on to northeastern cities.

The project was first proposed in 2012. Federal regulators approved it in December. It would start in Susquehanna County and pass through parts of Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Schoharie Counties in New York.

The project has seen intense opposition since it began, with the group organized against it encouraging landowners along the route to refuse access to their land. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation is now conducting its own review.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

Pennsylvania is littered with old oil and gas wells that date back to the 1860’s. Unmapped and unmonitored, these wells can turn into pollution pathways for oil, gas and brine. About 12,000 of an estimated 300,000 wells have been found and plugged. But the peer reviewed report out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows even the plugged wells are leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

On the first cold day this season Fred White is turning on the heat. He could fire up the gas but today he’s using his wood furnace. He pours in a bag of wood pellets.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

Marcellus Shale drilling companies have agreed to pay millions of dollars in back pay to workers, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Labor Department found significant violations, mostly related to overtime pay.

More than 160 companies were involved, from major drillers to smaller support service vendors. Alfonso Gristina oversaw the investigation, and says the companies have agreed to pay nearly $4.5 million dollars in back wages.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has awarded a 150-thousand dollar grant to a natural gas industry group to study the effects of drilling. The money was put into last year's state budget for independent research.
The grant recipient is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit partnership between industry and academia called the Shale Alliance for Energy Research, also known as SAFER PA. Its board has three representatives from Pennsylvania universities and five members from the oil and gas industry.

DEP awarded the grant on a non-competitive basis—meaning it didn’t shop around for other proposals. Barry Kauffman finds the deal concerning.

Severance Tax In PA's Environmental Future

Dec 8, 2014
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / The Allegheny Front

This week, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf took questions on the state's budget crisis. The Allegheny Front also asked Wolf about his proposal to create a severance tax on well drilling.

Inside the Capitol, packs of children and tourists traipse through the building snapping selfies with the big state Christmas tree. But elsewhere, in and around Harrisburg, state government’s preparing for another bearded man to arrive after Santa.

A half-hour away in the tony suburb of York, Wolf's hometown, the conversation got a little Scroogish.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The developer of a $750 million natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania into New York is threatening to seize land from reluctant landowners through eminent domain.

A letter obtained by the Albany Times Union tells landowners who have refused to sell rights-of-way for the Constitution Pipeline that they have until Wednesday to accept offered prices. After that, developers will take them to court to force such sales for possibly less money.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Federal energy regulators have approved a $700 million pipeline project designed to ferry cheap Marcellus Shale natural gas from Pennsylvania into high-priced markets in New England and New York.
The project's backers said Wednesday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval means the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline could be operational by next winter.

Karen DeWitt / WSKG News

Opponents of hydrofracking say they want Gov. Cuomo to declare a moratorium on fracking in New York. The gas drilling process has been on hold for several years and activists are focusing on Cuomo because of the state’s divided legislature.
A coalition of groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, say Cuomo should immediately issue an executive order postponing any gas drilling in New York for the next three to five years. NRDC’s Kate Sinding says that’s preferable to trying to get a bill passed through a divided state legislature, where the Senate will be controlled by the Republicans in January.
“The legislative process is messy and unpredictable,” said Sinding. “We would prefer to have him take that action and, frankly, own it.”

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf will be at the White House to meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
The White House says Friday's meeting will be with five other governors-elect from around the country. Wolf is the only Democrat among them.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

The company that operates the Chemung County landfill wants to expand its capacity by 230 thousand tons per year. Members of the county legislature will review the proposed expansion one last time tonight, before sending it on to the state for final approval.

Scrutiny of the landfill is usually high because it receives drilling waste from Pennsylvania.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

Janet Geiger and her husband Richard are retirees living in a small Sears Roebuck home in Bradford County—it’s a rural area along Pennsylvania’s northern border. Before the Geigers ever heard of the Marcellus Shale, they leased the mineral rights under their 10 acres, and never thought much would come of it.

That’s proven to be true.

Three Gas Storage Protestors Sentenced To Jail Terms

Nov 20, 2014
Gas Free Seneca / Facebook

In a Schulyer County courthouse on Wednesday, 16 people were arraigned on trespassing charges, for blocking the entrance to a proposed natural gas storage facility near Watkins Glen. Three refused to pay a $250 fine and were sentenced to 15 days in jail, starting immediately.

The three protesters sentenced to jail include a retired air force master sergeant, a prominent scientist, and 86-year-old Roland Micklem, who leaned on his cane and told the judge, “a person’s got to do what a person’s got to do.”

PennEast Pipeline Company

The Delaware River Basin Commission has prevented natural gas drillers from drilling in the watershed since 2010. And now the multi-state commission will now help determine whether a new natural gas pipeline can move forward.
The proposed PennEast pipeline would cut under the Delaware River to deliver natural gas from Pennsylvania to heat homes in New Jersey. It would also pass through reservoirs and state parks. That’s why the basin commission has decided to review the project’s potential impact on the watershed.

A pair of new studies from the U-S Geological Survey show low-to-moderate concentrations of naturally occurring methane gas in private water wells in Wayne and Pike counties.

The two counties fall under the jurisdiction of the Delaware River Basin Commission—an interstate compact which has imposed a moratorium on fracking. U-S-G-S researcher Ronald Sloto says that’s why it’s important to set a baseline before drilling occurs.

Doug Kerr / via flickr

The DEC’s “draft permit conditions”, released on Monday, propose rules that would have to be followed if the state issues a permit to Finger Lakes LPG Storage. Finger Lakes LPG, which is owned by Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Partners, wants to store up to 2.1 million barrels of butane and propane in old salt caverns on the western shore of Seneca Lake, in the Town of Reading.

That’s what the draft permit conditions issued by the DEC are about. The “issues conference” is part of the DEC’s permitting process. It comes after public hearings, but before a judge would decide on major points of dispute.

And, in this case, there have been some points of dispute.

Court Permanently Bars Activist From Gas Sites

Nov 11, 2014
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Susquehanna County judge has ruled a 63-year-old anti-fracking activist will be permanently barred from setting foot on or near gas drilling sites. Vera Scroggins describes herself as a “gas tour guide” and says she wants to expose the environmental violations of Cabot Oil & Gas.

Cabot says she’s repeatedly trespassed on its property and her actions pose a safety risk.

The feud made international news earlier this year when Cabot got a sweeping, yet temporary, court injunction against her – which effectively barred her from about half the county. That order was later revised to be less restrictive.

Now a judge has ruled she must adhere to a permanent injunction, which means she has to keep off Cabot sites and observe a 25 to 100 foot buffer zone.

New York has had a de facto moratorium on fracking for several years. Most recently Governor Cuomo has said he’s awaiting results of an over two years long health review being conducted by his administration.

During a debate in October, Cuomo said the review would finally be completed by the end of the calendar year.

But just one day before elections, Cuomo seemed to be once again moving away from that date. He said an end of the year deadline was set between him and former Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah. Shah resigned in the spring to take another job. Cuomo says he has not yet talked with Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker about the status of the fracking health review.

“I have not had the conversation with him since Dr. Shah left,” Cuomo said. “We had this little issue pop up called Ebola that we were dealing with.”

Feds Subpoena Chesapeake About Royalty Payments

Nov 7, 2014
Matt Richmond / WSKG News

One of the biggest natural gas companies in Pennsylvania has been subpoenaed by the federal Justice Department over allegations it cheats landowners out of gas royalty money.

In a regulatory filing, Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy disclosed  it’s been subpoenaed by the DOJ and several states.

The company is the second largest gas producer in the United States, and one of the top drillers in the Marcellus Shale.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

It all started nearly two years ago, with a celebrity bus tour. Fracking activist Sean Lennon. He was joined by his mother, Yoko Ono, and Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon on one of the many natural gas tours hosted by 63-year-old anti-fracking activist Vera Scroggins of Susquehanna County, a rural area that’s become the center of the state’s fracking universe.

Map courtesy of PennEast Pipeline Company

A new billion-dollar pipeline project is being proposed to bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale to customers on the East Coast.

Kristin McCarthy, a township committeewoman in Delaware, New Jersey, has one request for voters this Tuesday.

"I'm asking people not to vote for me," says McCarthy.

She wants to step down from local government to devote more time to fighting the PennEast pipeline, which would bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in northeast Pennsylvania to customers in New Jersey. That includes electric generation companies looking to switch from coal to natural gas.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Susquehanna County judge has ruled that an anti-fracking activist will not be fined or jailed for allegedly violating a court order designed to keep her away from natural gas well sites.

63-year-old Vera Scroggins is a well-known anti-fracking activist who frequently irritates Susquehanna County’s biggest driller—Cabot Oil & Gas.

Their feud made international news earlier this year after Cabot got a court order, effectively barring her from nearly half the county.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Republican candidate for governor in New York is putting off a visit to a Pennsylvania drilling site designed to highlight the benefits of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

A spokeswoman for Rob Astorino says the drilling operator didn't want reporters to be included and that the visit will be postponed until after Election Day.

Astorino is seeking to unseat Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in next week's election. Cuomo has said he will wait on a state study on the health effects of the drilling practice, known as fracking, before deciding whether it should be allowed in New York.

Astorino says fracking can be done safely and would be a boon to the economy in the state's Southern Tier.

Tom Wolf campaign / via Facebook

Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, is emphasizing his pledge to enact a new tax on natural gas production but Wolf is vague about how much of that money would remain at the local level.

Gas companies are currently required to pay an impact fee for each well they drill.

In three years, those fees have generated more than $630 million.

Matt Richmond / WSKG News

A major oil and gas services company’s breast cancer awareness campaign has sparked a backlash from some women’s health advocates and anti-fracking groups.

Fans packing into Heinz Field for Sunday’s Steelers-Colts game were met by a handful of protestors with signs warning passersby to “think before they pink.”

At half time, the CEO of drilling services company Baker Hughes handed over a $100,000 check to the Susan G. Komen foundation. The company is also distributing 1,000 pink drill bits to its customers around the world.

Dana Dolney is with Friends of the Harmed, a group working with Pennsylvania residents who say their health has been hurt by nearby oil and gas development. She’s also a breast cancer survivor.

courtesy of Cuomo campaign

During Wednesday’s only gubernatorial debate, Governor Cuomo said that the long awaited health review on potential dangers of hydrofracking will be completed by the end of the year.

Cuomo, answering a question on whether fracking, which is on hold in New York, will begin in the next four years if he’s re elected, says an over two year old health review  will be concluded by the end of the year, though not before Election Day. He says he’s told experts at his Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation to “give me a report”.