Research Studies Impact of Shale Development in PA State Parks

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), natural gas extraction takes place on approximately 700,000 acres of state forest. While Governor Wolf issued a moratorium that stopped new leasing of state lands 2015, these lands remain impacted today. State lands are maintained by the DCNR, and much of it is open for recreational use. The DCNR monitors shale gas activities on state lands. Its Gas Monitoring Program works to track and monitor the effects shale gas development has on the natural resources, land uses, and the changes in monetary values that development causes to state forest land.

Rail Traffic Linked to Chemical Production

While natural gas is not considered a chemical, it is a
feedstock for the chemical industry. Natural gas is used to make chemical such
as ethaline, propylene, and methanol – which are all chemicals that are widely
used in manufacturing to create items that we use on a daily basis. Chemicals derived from natural gas tend to be manufactured near
supplies. While Beaver County, PA has an ethane cracker plant currently under construction,
there are other local chemical producing plants utilizing natural gas. According to the AAR, the chemical/energy hubs near the Ohio River Valley,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia are already the third largest
chemical production markets served by railroads; this is before Shell’s ethane
cracker plant begins production.

EQT Violations Raise Awareness for Sedimentation Control

In dealing with the Municipal Separate Strom Sewer System (MS4), which are state-level stormwater requirements to meet federal Clean Water Act standards, and its permitting requirements, local communities understand better than most how important sediment control is to water quality and how strictly these permitting requirements are regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Local governments, however, are not the only sector beholden to state-level stormwater permitting and regulation. Recently, EQT was fined just over $330,000 for a series of DEP permit violations including failure to control sedimentation runoff, as well as failure to report the runoff. The violations were discovered in February of 2018 in Forward Township, Allegheny County. EQT, based in Pittsburgh, is the country’s largest producer of natural gas.

As Energy Exports Increase, Renewables Fuel the Domestic Grid

The United States is producing more energy than ever before, which has allowed US companies to export its natural gas overseas. Companies are able to export excess natural because of the US’s energy grid and the country’s diversity in energy generation methods. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2019 (published in January 2019), the US is set to become a net exporter of energy in 2020 due in part to historically low natural gas prices combined with historically high natural gas production, growing renewable generation levels, and increased output of nuclear power plants. While the US is producing more energy, energy efficiency technologies used across end-use sectors has kept consumption steady, allowing for natural gas and natural gas exports abroad. Understanding the Grid

Energy is created at a generator, which may be powered by renewable means (solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, biomass incineration), by nuclear processes, and by burning fossil fuels (coal and natural gas).

Common Ground Alliance Releases 2017 DIRT Report

Common Ground Alliance, the organization behind Pennsylvania 811, the One Call Center, released its 2017 Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) Report. The DIRT Report provides information about dig-related damages to underground utility lines, including natural gas, telecom, cable television, water, sewer, liquid pipelines, and steam lines in the United States and Canada. The report is based on information confidentially and voluntarily reported by facility operators, utility locating companies, one call centers, contractors, regulators, and other community members. Common Ground Alliance estimates that there were about 411,867 dig related accidents in 2017, which is a 5% increase from the previous year. In 2017, the most commonly damaged facility was Telecommunications (49%).  This was followed by Natural Gas (28%) and Cable Television (11%).

PHMSA Reports Mapping of Only 11% of PA Pipelines Available to the Public

According to PHMSA, mapping for about 11% of Pennsylvania’s pipelines are made readily available to the public. While natural gas pipeline operators are required to partake in public outreach efforts to educate property owners about nearby pipelines, only natural gas transmission line maps are required by Pennsylvania law to be publicly disclosed. Pennsylvania is home to three different types of natural gas pipelines: large transmission lines, medium-sized gathering pipelines, and small distribution lines. Transmission pipelines, which transport the extracted natural gas to the distribution utilities. Transmission pipelines may either be interstate (conveying gas among several states), or intrastate (conveying gas entirely within one state).

Impact Fees Revenues Up For 2017

For the first time since 2014, the Public Utility Commission reports that it will distribute over $200 million in natural gas impact fees. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission was charged with the responsibility for administering the impact fee program established under the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act of 2012 (Act 13). This impact fee is collected from the operators of unconventional gas wells in the Commonwealth. In accordance with Pennsylvania’s Act 13, the PUC collected $209 million in impact fees for 2017, which was $36 million more than was collected in the prior year. The Impact Fees are collected by the state every April for the previous year’s production.

Chemical Fire Suppressants May Warrant Stricter Drinking Water Standards

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is under the federal Department of Health and Human Services, published recommendations on how to better protect the public from chemicals that are linked to causing illnesses that include thyroid diseases and hormone disruptions, fertility issues and low birth weights, immune system issues, and cancers. The publication sets standards for a set of chemicals in the PFAS family. PFAS chemicals are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that are persistent in both the environment and the human body. This means that they cannot break down and can accumulate.

Pipeline Explodes in West Virginia

Earlier this month, a newer pipeline outside of Moundsville, West Virginia exploded. The pipeline, which is part of the Columbia Gas transmission system and is owned by TransCanada, was commissioned for use in January 2018. The explosion occurred in a rural area, and no injuries related to the event were reported. Called the Leach Express, this pipeline is 36 inches in diameter and has a maximum operating pressure of 1,440 pounds per square inch. According to TransCanada, it covers 160 miles and cost $1.6 billion to build.

Columbia Gas Seeks Rate Increase

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is looking to increase user rates. The utility is requesting that the Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) approve a rate increase that will raise its average customers’ monthly bills by approximately 9%. This increase will effectively add  $46.9 million to the utility’s revenue annually. Gas utility bills are comprised of gas costs and distribution rates. The price of natural gas is determined by the market for it.