Ohio Potential

The Plain Dealer has an interesting article on the potential for Ohio oil and gas resources and proposed legislation for drilling on state lands.  "Ohio's new governor proposed leasing park land in his biennial budget and both the Ohio House and Senate have bills in the hopper that could authorize the state Department of Natural Resources to do so."

WV Task Force Report

The Register-Herald is reporting that a task force consisting of members from the Bipartisan Policy Center and the American Clean Skies Foundation recently issued a report on the benefits of domestic natural gas production, but recognizing the need for reasonable regulation.

CA GHG Law Put on Hold

The LAT is reporting that a court has delayed implementation of California's greenhouse gas law, finding that the governing agency had failed to properly evaluate alternatives:  "In a 35-page decision, Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith said the Air Resources Board had failed to consider public comments on the proposed measures before adopting the plan, which affects a broad swath of the state's economy. In particular, the judge noted, officials gave short shrift to analyzing a carbon fee, or carbon tax, devoting a 'scant two paragraphs to this important alternative' to a market-based trading system in their December 2008 plan."

Very interesting.

Columbus CNG Station

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the city will be constructing a CNG fueling station, to be open to the public by October.  "The city of Columbus is among those helping to change that. The city is building a CNG fueling station at its fuel center on Groves Road and hopes to open it to the public by October. It's part of a plan to add 24 CNG vehicles to the city's fleet this year, with a promise for more vehicles and three more stations over the next seven years."

Natural Gas - The Alternative Energy

The NYT has an interesting article on the likely increased use of natural gas worldwide.  "Still, with the global demand for energy expected to grow by double digits in coming decades, analysts are anticipating a new boom in gas consumption. Given the growing concerns about nuclear power and the constraints on carbon emissions, one bank, Société Générale, called natural gas the fuel of 'no choice.'"

Marcellus: The Origins

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an interesting article on the start of the Marcellus shale boom.  "But a convergence of Wall Street interests, corporate money and academia helped transform Marcellus almost overnight from rock to rock star, spurring predictions of a natural gas bounty in the U.S. and unleashing a massive land rush across the commonwealth."  Nice.

Lesson: The Science Matters

That's the message from the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) to U.S. EPA, according to this article in the WSJ.  After exonerating Range Resources from claims that its operations had contaminated nearby drinking water wells, one RRC Commissioner observed:  "'This is an example of overreaching at its worst,' said Michael Williams, one of three elected commissioners who oversee oil and gas drilling. The EPA 'has a built-in bias against the fossil fuel energy industry.'" (Emphasis is ours.)

We first mentioned the issue here - U.S. EPA had issued an imminent and substantial endangerment order against Range, claiming that its operations had resulted in natural gas migration into nearby domestic water wells.  Range, already investigating the issue with RRC involvement, contested that finding and demanded proof.  The WSJ article addresses the RRC finding - after a hearing on the matter - that Range's operations were not at fault, and that the gas is likely the result of other methane naturally migrating from a shallower formation - something that has frequently been observed in the area.  U.S. EPA never seriously looked into that possibility.

You can find copies of the order and background materials here.  You can find copies of related deposition transcripts and emails from/between U.S. EPA personnel and environmental consultants/activists here.

Naturally, the WSJ is reporting that U.S. EPA intends to continue to move forward against Range.

[Update:  For a related article in the Houston Chronicle, see here.  "Investigators included geochemical 'fingerprints' of the gas in the water wells, which they said show it didn't come from the Barnett shale formation, where Fort Worth-based Range was drilling, but rather the shallower Strawn gas field, which begins 200 to 400 feet below the surface."]

Haynesville Top Shale Producer

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Haynesville Shale has become the largest producing natural gas shale formation in the country.  "The U.S. Energy Information Administration said the Louisiana find, which experts say could have up to 39 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, overtook Barnett's volumes by mid-February even after the Texas site recovered from freezing weather."

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EPA Extends GHG Reporting Deadline

U.S. EPA has extended the deadline to submit greenhouse gas reporting data to September 30, 2011.  For more, see here.

House Moves to Limit EPA GHG Authority

The NYT is reporting that a House panel has voted to limit U.S. EPA's authority over greenhouse gas emissions:  "Moving on a central tenet of the Republican energy and environment platform, a House committee on Tuesday approved a measure to halt the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Republican leaders promised a floor vote on the bill before the Easter recess."  Several Democrats joined in passing the limitation.

Rail Resurgence?

Bloomberg is reporting that there is a resurgence in the use of railroads to transport oil produced out of the Bakken and Three Forks shales (see here - http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9LUG0RG0.htm).  "Trains have quickly become a huge part in hauling crude from North Dakota's oil patch with producers shipping barrels to more profitable markets not served by pipelines."  Very interesting.

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Article on Potential Ohio Development

The Dayton Daily News has an interesting article on potential development in Ohio.  "The major new target is what geologists call the Utica Shale, a deep rock formation beneath eight states with untapped potential here. Speculation runs high that it could amount to a major deposit."

This is Cool

According to this article in the Herald-Dispatch, West Virginia geologists have created an interactive online map of the Marcellus Shale.  "The map shows completed and permitted well sites, thickness and depth of shale, and other information. It also has a list of frequently asked questions."

You can access the map here.

PA Not Only State Discussing Severance Taxes

The Houston Chronicle has an article looking at the exemption from severance taxes for shale operations in Louisiana.  The issues are those faced by other producing states.

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PA Rebuts Radiation Claim

We noted earlier the articles recently published by the NYT regarding shale development, including the claim that it involved the discharge of radioactive wastewater in PA (see here).  Well, you would think they would have waited for the facts - right after those articles came out, the PA Department of Environmental Protection announced the results of in-stream monitoring that was done months earlier:  "DEP Announces Testing for Radioactivity of River Water Downstream of Marcellus Water Treatment Plants Shows Water Is Safe."  (See here.)  More:  "“We deal in facts based on sound science,' said DEP acting Secretary Michael Krancer. 'Here are the facts: all samples were at or below background levels of radioactivity; and all samples showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228.'”

For a more in-depth take down of the NYT articles, see the posts from former PA DEP Secretary, John Hanger (here).

Ohio EPA Proposed Budget 2012-2013

The Ohio Governor's proposed budget was released yesterday, including the proposed two-year budget for Ohio EPA and the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission (ERAC).  The proposed budget outlines the Governor's environmental objectives/priorities as well as provides some clue as to where the Governor wants and does not want to spend money.  Overall, Ohio EPA's funding for 2012 will decrease 11.8% from 2011 numbers, plus an additional 2% decrease for 2013.  Some significant changes include:  97.4% reduction in Air Pollutions Control Administration; 97.3% reduction for RCRA Corrective Action (this is a one year reduction with an increase planned for 2013); 73.3% reduction for scrap tire management; 51.9% reduction for Construction & Demolition Debris; 95.9% reduction in Groundwater Support; and 70.7% reduction in Water Pollution Control Administration.  The proposed budget also discusses the consolidation of Ohio EPA's Hazardous Waste Management, Emergency and Remedial Response and Solid and Infection Waste programs.

It is proposed that ERAC receive a one year, 19.1% increase in its budget, which will likely allow it to buy some technology/equipment to bring its docketing system (currently all hand-written) into the 21st century.

"Personal Injury" Insurance Coverage for CERCLA Clean-up Costs?

Relying on an interpretation of Washington State Law, the federal district court for the eastern district of Washington opens the door for potential coverage of CERCLA clean up costs under the "personal injury" section of a CGL policy.  The decision may be significant because pollution exclusion clauses generally do not apply to personal injury coverage.  The opinion, Newmont U.S.A. Ltd. v. American Home Assurance, Case No. CV-09-0033-JLQ, can be found here.

GHG Reporting: Deadline Extended

U.S. EPA has extended the deadline for reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from March 31, 2011, to an unspecified date later this summer.  For more, see here.

WV Drilling Legislation

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel is reporting legislation on Marcellus drilling in the state is looking more likely (without forced pooling provisions).

DRBC Hearings

We noted previously the regulatory proposals of the Delaware River Basin Commission (see, e.g., here).  Hearings on those proposals have started and have generated quite a bit of coverage.  If you are interested - DRBC gas regs not popular, on either side of the natural gas drilling debate; Delaware River Basin Commission listens as it weighs new natural gas drilling rules (NJ Star-Ledger); DRBC extends comment period on draft natural gas development regulations.  For video, see here.

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NYT Articles

The NYT recently had a series of articles on E&P operations.  Notice a trend?

The follow up NYT article - perhaps illustrating the purpose of the earlier ones:  Pressure Grows for Answers on Fracking.  It observes:  "Congressional Democrats are demanding answers from the Environmental Protection Agency about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, a form of natural gas drilling also known as fracking, after revelations that wastewater from such drilling, which contains radioactive material, is regularly dumped into rivers and streams without proper treatment."  (Emphasis is ours.)

No agenda here, certainly.

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West Virginia Gas Industry

The Register-Herald has a good article on West Virginia's natural gas industry, focusing on non-Marcellus assets.

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You Want to be Heard on Regulatory Review?

For those of you who have something to say about USEPA's regulations, here is your chance.  USEPA has given notice that it is accepting comments on designing the plan it will use for periodic review of its regulations.  Comments must be received by March 20, 2011.

New MACT Standards for Boilers

In case you missed it, last week the USEPA issued the new MACT standards for Boilers.  A link to the USEPA announcement can be found here