July 13, 2011 —
‘This American Life’ on the ‘Game Changer’ of gas
This week’s episode of ‘This American Life’ presents the issues surrounding natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale by telling the stories of two professors whose calculations land them differing outcomes. One gets acclaim, the other ends up out of a job.
The first, Terry Engelder, a geologist at Penn State, estimated the amount of natural gas recoverable from the Marcellus shale. The second, Conrad "Dan" Volz, at the University of Pittsburg, estimated the amount of chemicals and pollution that might be getting into water supplies.
The show explores how each was treated by his university and the relationships that have developed between schools, politicians and industry. It also looks at Mt. Pleasant, PA, where Range Resources has leased 95% of the township's land, leading to a standoff starting with zoning disputes and ending in a full scale PR war. Listen at www.thisamericanlife.org .
Multitude of public comments now on DRBC website
DRBC received written comments on the draft Natural Gas Development Regulations through approximately 44,500 form letters (identical or nearly identical letters submitted by two or more commenters); petitions or sign-on letters (comments under which two or more individuals signed their names) bearing a combined total of approximately 19,500 signatures; and approximately 4,800 unique oral or written submissions. Some 80 of the latter included single or multiple attachments.
Oral comment consisted of approximately 18 hours of testimony on the draft regulations during six hearing sessions, for which professional transcripts were created. All of the written and oral submissions received by the Commission on the draft regulations constitute public records and are available for review. A large number of records, including the hearing transcripts, sample form letters, petitions and multi-party sign-on letters, and comments submitted by elected officials, public agencies, businesses and private organizations, can now be viewed online at www.nj.gov/drbc/NGC/index.htm . DRBC staff has also created an Access database which cannot be posted on-line due to limitations on server space. However, the entire database has been loaded onto a dedicated PC placed in the library in DRBC’s West Trenton, N.J. office building. Anyone who wishes to inspect or download items from the database may schedule an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Fish commission to lease waterways for gas drilling
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) said it plans to lease portions of its 43,000 acres of waterways for natural gas exploration to generate money to rebuild more than a dozen dams that are in danger of collapse. The commission estimates it will need $78 million to repair the 16 dams, which are classified as high risk because they cannot hold 50 percent of the maximum precipitation that a region could receive. PFBC spokesman Eric Levis said 14,000 acres — or about one-third — of the commission's waterways are potential drilling sites.
The agency receives no state funds and is supported by license fees and some federal money. It's $17 million annual budget has remained stagnant for the past three fiscal years, according to the state Budget Office. As a result, the commission said it faces a $36 million shortfall for the dam repairs. Levis said the commission will also sell water to the energy companies for use in drilling operations.
Health impacts of drilling to be studied in Marcellus Shale
The non-profit Northeast Regional Cancer Institute (NRCI) will receive a grant of $75,000 to survey at least 500 people in 10 counties, including Pike and Wayne, to begin establishing a baseline with which to determine the health impacts of natural gas drilling in Northeast Pennsylvania. Dr. Samuel Lesko, the Institute’s research director, said the survey will begin before September. NRCI will also survey people in counties with no drilling to establish any differences.
New fracking chemical information website
The Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission have jointly developed a new website—FracFocus—to provide a hydraulic fracturing chemical registry.
The project was started in 2010 in Pittsburgh "to develop and implement a system to enhance access to state and other pertinent information concerning chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing." The website is a non-governmental site designed to supplement, not replace, state regulatory agency websites. The chemical data presented on this site has been submitted on a voluntary basis by the participating oil and gas companies. The website organizes information on fracking by state or chemical and provides links to a frequently asked questions page. Visit http://fracfocus.org/