District Attorneys go to Court to Block Flow of Contaminated Gas Drilling Leachate to Treatment Plant

Two Western Pennsylvania district attorneys in May took the unusual step of going to court to block a Westmoreland County landfill from sending water contaminated with gas drilling waste to a nearby treatment plant. The contaminated water, known as leachate, from the
Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill, is primarily precipitation that soaks through the landfill contents, picking up contamination. It is collected and piped to the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority’s treatment plant, and then discharged into the Monongahela River, which is a source of drinking water for residents in
four counties.

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.

What are “Superemitters” & Why are they Important to Keeping PA’s Air Clean?

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.

API Report Shows Decrease in Pipeline Incidents while Productivity Rise

The American Petroleum Institute has released their Liquids Pipeline Performance Report, tracking various metrics related to oil and natural gas pipelines over the past five years. Using data provided by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the report’s findings indicates a positive trend in production, while incidents have fallen. Pipeline safety is an ever-salient topic in the minds of Pennsylvanians. As natural gas development continues to sweep across the Commonwealth, many residents have developed a fear of the industry, especially pipelines. Their fears are not unwarranted, however.

Sunoco Settles Suit with Chester County Residents out of Court

Sunoco and parent company Energy Transfer will not have to appear before a Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to defend themselves against allegations of negligence. The energy giant has settled out of court with three Chester County residents who created a class action lawsuit against Sunoco after a medley of problems they claimed were avoidable. The situation began in late 2017, after the construction of the Mariner East pipelines in a West Whiteland Township neighborhood. The residents had concerns about the location of the pipeline’s path, and ultimately, their worry proved valid in early 2018 when sinkholes began forming under parts of the pipeline. As the pipeline was in close vicinity of the plaintiffs’ homes, they feared future subsidence would potentially damage or engulf their homes.

Texas Petrochemical Plant Inferno Finally Extinguished

Holding tanks in a petrochemical terminal facility in Deer Park, Texas caught fire earlier this week. The facility is owned and operated by Texas-based petrochemical transportation and storage company Intercontinental Terminals Company or ITC. According to multiple reports, the fire began in a single petrochemical holding tank which was storing products used to make gasoline. What began as a single tank fire soon spread, eventually igniting eight tanks all storing different types of petrochemicals. Residents of Deer Park and other local communities could see plumes of black smoke pouring from the ITC facility.

Pennsylvania Legislature Expected to see Buffer Zone Legislation

Natural gas wells are not hard to find in Pennsylvania. Though they may be tucked off of the beaten path, one would be hard pressed to not personally know, or know someone who knows where a natural gas well pad is located. The Shale Gas Knowledge Hub even has an interactive tool that shows well locations across the state that is free for anyone to use. There is also much debate about where exactly a well can be spudded, and given the nature of unconventional drilling, what the horizontal portion can drill under. Unconventional wells only take up a few acres on the surface, but the drill typically plunges over a mile into the earth, and then several miles horizontally in order to access the shale formations.

ME2 to Begin Operations Again after Chester County Water Controversy

Natural gas drilling will likely resume in Chester County in the very near future. Energy Transfer LP, the parent company of Sunoco and owner and operator of the ever-controversial Mariner East pipeline projects have recently made their plan to restart the drilling portion of their operation in the Chester County area after they left as many as fifteen households waterless by damaging a local aquifer. The incident began in the summer of 2017 when residents of Whiteland Township who use well water reported that their tap water was cloudy, according to NPR’s State Impact. After an investigation, it was determined that the cause of the cloudy water was a break in the aquifer that supplied the well water as a result of Sunoco’s drilling and pipeline construction. Sunoco halted all operations in July of 2017 and has remained inactive in the area ever since.

PA PUC Plans to Bolster Pipeline Safety

Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission Chairman Gladys Brown is requesting more state and federal dollars to ramp up pipeline safety efforts. In a testimony made before the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee, Chairman Brown requested $81.08 million in funding for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, an increase of $1.36 million from the previous fiscal year. In her testimony, Chairman Brown stated her intent to bolster natural gas pipeline safety through the hiring of at least four additional natural gas safety inspectors to the current roster of fifteen inspectors. Currently, these fifteen natural gas safety inspectors bear the responsibility of monitoring 48,100 miles of distribution and transmission lines in the Commonwealth. Of the 47,000 miles of distribution line, Chairman Brown notes that 11,000 miles of the pipeline are of “at-risk” status, meaning they are “comprised of unprotected steel and cast-iron lines”.