SGKH Parent Organization, Center for Energy Policy and Management, Hosts Students to Learn About Energy

About 20 local high school students visited Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) June 28 to tour the Clark Family Library as part of the W&J Center for Energy Policy and Management’s (CEPM) Living Energy Laboratory, supported by the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund. The CEPM is the parent organization for the Shale Gas Knowledge Hub. The students are part of a summer lifeskills class in the Upper St. Clair School District. During their visit, they took part in an interactive discussion about where energy comes from including a discussion of energy sources (coal, natural gas, and renewables).

Pennsylvania Takes Steps to Strengthen Gas Liquids Pipeline Safety Rules

The PUC on June 13 announced it is considering two separate rule-making proposals involving safety of pipelines carrying petroleum products and other hazardous materials.

The first is seeking public comment on an advance notice of rulemaking order to be considered in making potential changes to comprehensive safety regulations. The areas that may be addressed include a number of subjects that were problems with the Mariner East II pipeline, which was built across the state, but also resulted in spills, water damage, several shutdowns, and fines.

The second proposal would require that pipeline public utilities would be required to file annual reports of a pipeline’s service life, capital investment plans and other financial reports.

Gov. Wolf’s Restoration Plan Aims to Benefit PA Parks with new Shale Gas Tax

The 121 parks that make up the Pennsylvania State Park system hope to receive a facelift in the coming years. However, funding for that facelift is contingent upon the passage of Governor Tom Wolf’s “Restore Pennsylvania” infrastructure plan—a $4.5 billion initiative funded through a new severance tax on unconventional natural gas. The State Legislature has rejected the establishment of a severance tax multiple times in the past. According to officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the agency that oversees Pennsylvania’s State Parks, facilities throughout the system are in dire need of renovation. A number of picnic areas, restrooms, and bathhouses are old, outdated, and/or unsafe for public use.

PA Employment in Shale Gas Extraction Declines

Data made available by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that employment in Pennsylvania’s natural gas extraction industry declined in 2016, the most recent year for which numbers were available. The number of workers dropped from 6,324 employees in 2015 to 5,423 employees in 2016—a decrease of about 14 percent. Numbers have not yet been released for 2017 or 2018. Employment figures were collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The QCEW provides quarterly counts of employment and wages from across the United States and covers about 98 percent of U.S. jobs.

Shale Gas Knowledge Hub Sponsors Annual Planning Conference in Erie

The Shale Gas Knowledge Hub, an initiative of the Center for Energy Policy and Management at Washington & Jefferson College, recently served as a Diamond Sponsor for the Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association. The conference was held at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, PA from October 14 through October 16, 2018. The conference featured over 40 concurrent sessions on a range of topics pertaining to urban planning and management. Topic sessions included: revitalizing urban neighborhoods through creative transportation investments, measuring blight impacts, and the legal limits to zoning. The Shale Gas Knowledge hub exhibited at the conference and provided outreach and information to planners from across the Commonwealth who were looking for information about shale gas development.

Study Examines Links Between Shale Gas, Sleep, and Depression

In a recently released study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University explored the potential impacts shale gas development may have on depression and sleep disorders in individuals living near wells. Evidence from previous research suggested that environmental hazards caused by shale gas development, such as potential air pollution and water contamination, could lead to depression and anxiety in individuals. Furthermore, sleep disorders could potentially result from noise and light generated during daily operations of shale gas companies. The study included 4,932 participants living in counties with shale gas development activity in central and northeast Pennsylvania. The researchers used surveys and electronic health records to collect information about the participants.

Well Permit Fees Would More Than Double Under Proposed DEP Guidelines

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hopes to more than double the permit fees for shale gas wells in a proposal that was recently released. In the new proposal, both vertical and horizontal unconventional well permits would cost drillers $12,500 each. Previously, vertical well permits cost $4,200 while horizontal well permits cost $5,000. The Department outlined the need for fee increases in its 3-Year Regulatory Fee and Program Cost Analysis Report. In that report, the Department justified the fee hike by arguing that the “DEP’s inspection and program administration responsibilities have increased; however, the number of well permits submitted to DEP does not generate sufficient revenue to cover the costs of administering DEP’s oil and gas program.”

West Virginia Energy Deal Hits Snag Due to US Trade Policy

In November 2017, the West Virginia Secretary of Commerce, who accompanied President Donald Trump on his trip to China, penned an $83.7 billion agreement with the President of China Energy to expand shale gas production and chemical manufacturing in the State. As a part of the deal, officials at China Energy were reviewing proposals for a natural gas power plant as well as storage and trading facilities for ethane and butane. Leaders in West Virginia expected the injection of capital from those projects to spur job growth as well support ongoing research at West Virginia University. The agreement was largely viewed as a boon for the State, which has struggled with structural unemployment over the past several years. The November deal was supposed to be followed by a meeting in late June.

Study Reveals Risks of Using Wastewater on Roads

Pennsylvania is one of thirteen states that permitted the use oil and gas (O&G) wastewater to treat unpaved roads for the purposes of maintenance, road deicing, and/or dust suppression. In a recently published study, researchers from Penn State found that Pennsylvania had the highest spreading activity of O&G wastewater, with millions of liters spread annually. Analysis of the O&G wastewater revealed elevated concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS) – which are minerals, salts, and metals such as lead, radium, and several other elements. Researchers also found the O&G wastewater to be highly mobile, meaning that wastewater sprayed on unpaved roads could transport to water bodies and potentially cause water contamination that could harm aquatic life and pose serious health risks to humans. Monitoring the quality of drinking water is crucial for the health and wellbeing of communities.

Natural Gas Executives Optimistic About Future Shale Gas Supply

This week, representatives from the Shale Gas Knowledge Hub attended the World Gas Conference in Washington, D.C. where natural gas executives sounded optimistic about the supply of natural gas in the United States. According to the executives in attendance, US natural gas production is expected to grow by about 7 billion cubic feet per day in the next several years. Additional growth of about 60 percent is expected in the next 20 years. Even with the ramp up, experts expect US supply to last for another century. The rise in US natural gas production has had global impacts.