Misleading Misconceptions

Last week, we asked, and were hoping that the MSC would shed more light on their Radiation Study efforts that has been stated would complement and augment DEP’s comprehensive Radiation Study.  DEP  has been very transparent regarding their study, and we were really hoping that MSC would issue a bullet point listing of their complementary efforts.

While we asked for the bullet point listing, we were still somewhat ambivalent regarding MSC providing such a list.

Very nicely, I received a reply from MSC that essentially said they are adding additional data – gathered in a similar way – to add to what DEP is doing.   And we’re being completely open and transparent about it, by releasing the sampling plan. http://marcelluscoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Field-Sampling-Plan_FINAL.pdf    Last week, we included the MSC Plan link on this Blog.

Ok, so, I get it. If anyone wants a condensed version of what the actual complements are, they have to compare the Plans.  There will be no Bullet Points produced by the MSC.   It would’ve been a nice gesture for them to provide the Bullet Points Listing, however, in light of other industry [not MSC or PIOGA]  information provided during the week, it is perhaps best  they just leave that be.


And, thus what I want to write about this week, Misleading Misconceptions.  Two items passed by me this week that were disappointing.  I’m perhaps not so different from most Northern Tier folks.  We’ve had sufficient dealings with many different people in the gas industry.  We really want to believe them, we want them to tell us the truth, we really want them to be fair in their dealings, and not just in PA but everywhere they operate as, what they do and how they do it elsewhere, they will do it here as well.  We’ve seen that corporate personalities don’t really vary state to state, they are quite static.


Misleading Misconception #1

I received an industry based email earlier this week, and it concerned gathering lines.

In part, this email stated:  FACT: Effective February 2012, Act 127 gave the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission power(PUC) to regulate all pipeline operators in Pennsylvania for pipeline safety purposes. The PUC will now apply all new safety standards to the design, installation, operation, inspection, testing, construction, extension, replacement, and maintenance of pipeline facilities. 

Here is a case, that I’m hoping is purely misinformation on their part. I really want to believe that they made an error, and hope that they will sufficiently inform those that received this week’s email of their error.  Please, make no mistake, nothing has changed with Act 127 of 2011 (signed by Governor Corbett December 2011, became effective, February, 2012).

Several times, this or a similar sentence appears in Act 127:  The commission shall have general administrative authority to supervise and regulate pipeline operators within this Commonwealth consistent with Federal pipeline safety laws.

Now, I’m going to consider this as inexperience regarding the writer of the email I received.   Reading legislation is not easy, it takes a certain amount of experience.  Since I’ve been doing this for many years now, I’ve learned much, and I’ve learned that in a sentence structured in such a fashion, it behooves the reader — especially one who is sharing information –  to review what exactly the Federal pipeline safety laws are.   Had they done this, and understood how to read them, they would have understood that Class 1 Area locations, remain as unregulated gathering lines.  Also, the Report to the General Assembly on Pipeline Placement of Natural Gas Gathering Lines from Governor Corbett’s Office last year states on page 16:  Pipelines and pipeline facilities regulated under Federal pipeline safety laws include gathering and transmission pipelines within Class 2, 3, and 4 as well as transmission pipelines within Class 1 locations.  So, there you have it folks, the condensed version, Class 1 Area locations are not regulated by Federal pipeline safety laws.

Should you have further doubt, or questions, please refer to our webpage PIPELINES/REGULATION & SAFETY ISSUES.  All this information can be found on that webpage.


Further, I was discussing this issue with another Marcellus Shale leased landowner this week, and they felt that regulating Class 1 Area locations would necessitate that eminent domain be attached.  I want to be very clear on this issue.  It is not necessary to apply eminent domain to Class 1 Area locations.  First, eminent domain is not attached to Pennsylvania’s regulated gathering lines in Classes 2, 3 or 4.  Secondly, it is fairly evident by the amount of gathering lines being constructed that the industry is not having problems dealing with landowners when they negotiate fairly.  Thus, there is no need for eminent domain to be attached with any gathering lines.


Misleading Misconception #2

So often we read statements made by industry that are so authoritative, that if we have no way to verify, we mistakenly ‘assume’ we are being provided with the facts.  Such a one happened this week in an article that I read from Alaska.

In the article  it states:

Kara Moriarty, executive director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, said she was concerned Foerster was overreaching on some regulations, namely those concerned with water testing.

“The rules would require monitoring and testing of water wells and notification of landowners within half a mile of a well,” she told Platts. “All other states require monitoring of wells within a quarter of a mile.”

Since the provisions of  Act 13 of 2012  became effective, Pennsylvania has been doing almost half a mile (2500 feet).  This has been in effect closing in on almost 2 years now.    The presumption area behooves Operators to test the water, otherwise Operators have no defense.  (Please refer to Act 13 of 2012  Section 3218 (d) for defense provisions.)  In Pennsylvania for water issues within the presumption area, the Operator is considered guilty until proven innocent.

Act 13 of 2012   Section 3218

(c) Presumption.–Unless rebutted by a defense established in subsection (d), it shall be presumed that a well operator is

responsible for pollution of a water supply if:

(1) except as set forth in paragraph (2):

(i) the water supply is within 1,000 feet of an oil or gas well; and

(ii) the pollution occurred within six months after completion of drilling or alteration of the oil or gas well; or

(2) in the case of an unconventional well:

(i) the water supply is within 2,500 feet of the unconventional vertical well bore; and

(ii) the pollution occurred within 12 months of the later of completion, drilling, stimulation or alteration of the unconventional well.

It would seem that anytime industry would make such a statement, they’d have access to such data to support their statement.  It is reasonable that most folks would believe such a statement as ordinary folks generally do not have direct  and easy access to investigate such facts relating to every oil and gas producing state.  Welcome to the land of the internet and a time when there are actually ordinary folks who do know and have access to such information.  Industry needs to do a better job when proclaiming facts.


During the week, I had been making notes to write a more positive blog.  I really wanted to do that this week, having noticed a few lately have been somewhat negative.  However, one issue that is always on my mind is the need to reach that delicate balance where all  can thrive – this includes industry, landowners,  economic development and those that live directly within the gathering fields with gathering lines, well pads and facilities in too many cases having poor sitings too close to homes and sometimes even schools.  Economic development and quality of life issues need to balance and co-exist to the point there are not issues.  We need to reach a delicate balance where gathering lines, well pads and facilities located too near are either regulated to better ensure public health & safety, or mitigated to ensure that there are not unreasonable noise impacts within folk’s homes.  In view of this week’s Misleading Misconceptions, it seems that industry can start by sharing the real facts rather than misconceptions.

Emily Krafjack, President