Oil and gas companies are making efforts to reduce their
carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One company in this push
is Dominion Energy. At a recent conference in West Virginia, a representative from
spoke about the new initiatives and outlined their future emissions goals
and methods to achieve them. Dominion Energy is a major player in the American energy
sector. The Virgnina-based company and its 16,200 employees generate and transmit
energy for customers in 14 states, with a $42.93B market capitalization.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro is taking
aim at the state’s oil and gas industry. As promised in his 2016 campaign,
now-Attorney General Shapiro is following through on promises
to “hold oil and gas companies criminally liable” for any offenses committed
during unconventional natural gas development in Pennsylvania. Environmental
crimes typically include air pollution, improper dumping of hazardous
materials, groundwater pollution, and any other violation of the state’s
environmental regulations. The Attorney General’s efforts to hold companies accountable began with an investigatory grand jury convened to explore any “environmental crimes” that may have been committed. The Attorney General’s actions come amidst a host of incidents across the Commonwealth caused by companies engaged in upstream and midstream development.
Comfortable weather is causing uncertainty in the natural
gas futures market. Natural gas futures, one of the metrics commodities traders
use to gauge the market, have fallen after a steady rally. Natural gas is used year-round for residential and
commercial energy needs but fluctuates with the seasons. In the winter, demand
increases as households use more natural gas for home heating. Demand then
decreases in the spring as it warms up before rebounding in the summer when
much more electricity is used to power air conditioners.
The energy landscape of the United States is changing. Motivated
by environmental concerns such as air quality and climate change, cities,
states, and the nation as a whole have adopted policies and processes to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions and move away from fossil fuels toward renewable
energy sources. In California, the governor and legislature have moved
aggressively to curtail utilization of fossil fuels, including natural gas. In fact, researchers argue that California has
already begun to completely “wind-down”
natural gas consumption in the State and pushed residential and commercial
developments toward renewables. The start of this “wind-down” occurred in 2017.
Salaries for occupations in the shale gas industry in Pennsylvania
are trending downward, according to data made available by the Bureau of Labor
Statistics. Using data from 2016, the latest year provided, average salaries
dropped by $1,187 since 2015, and by $12,647 since 2014. Salary 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. The data reflect wage figures from 2014 to 2016, the most recent
year available from QCEW.
A representative from the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) recently spoke on the issue of secondary road maintenance in West Virginia. Speaking to members of the oil and gas industry at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA), Assistant Deputy Secretary Marvin Murphy discussed the relationship between the O&G industry and the increased need for road maintenance. Mr. Murphy discussed the roles of both the DOH and O&G industry in road maintenance and stated that “the public sees [the industry] as partially to blame” for the increase in need. As the O&G industry started developing in West Virginia, the state’s infrastructure experienced the same wear that similar states have experienced. The near constant need for trucks to travel to and from well sites does take its toll on local infrastructure.
On Thursday, May 9th, the Center for Energy
Policy & Management hosted a Shale Gas Knowledge Hub event at Waynesburg
Central High School in Greene County, Pennsylvania. The event featured a
presentation by CEPM Director Corey Young. The agenda of the presentation was a
comprehensive background and discussion of the shale gas industry in
Pennsylvania, the Act 13 Impact Fee, and opportunities for municipalities,
townships and counties related to shale gas. Following the roughly one-hour
long lecture, Corey and other staff of the CEPM took questions from the
audience which ensued into a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion. The CEPM and SGKH are committed to being a resource for cities, municipalities, government officials and citizens of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is a state that has seen both economic ebbs and
flows tied with its industries. The state that is famously credited for
suppling the steel that built the nation’s great cities and the coal used to
power industry. Though more recently, Western Pennsylvania is better known as
the home to many giants in medicine and technology, the state still plays an
integral role in providing for the nation’s materials and energy needs. Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and deeper Utica shale plays have
the potential to provide cities across the globe with energy. Though not a
green source of power, natural gas is a cleaner power source that can be used
while the race to reliable and affordable renewable energy drives onwards.
Many see nuclear energy as the best alternative to coal. Two bills to subsidize nuclear energy to the tune of approximately $500M, which would help save historic sites such as the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, are stagnantly in the hands of legislators. There is a growing fear within those in the nuclear energy industry, including the roughly 600 people who work at TMI, about the future of nuclear. But nuclear may not be the most cost-effective option. Nuclear energy in whole is a capitally expensive energy source.
The rapid development of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania has induced a series of new concerns for those living in the state and Marcellus region. Of these worries, emissions from well sites have garnered much attention, particularly methane emissions. Methane is one of the main components of the natural gas harvested through unconventional drilling’s hydraulic fracturing process. Though extractors have safeguards to prevent any leakage of the gas, these systems do have failures. The EPA reports that the natural gas and petroleum industry were responsible for 31% of the total methane emissions in 2017, the highest of any category recorded.