“What Makes Bucks and Montgomery So Special?”

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Damn right, Jesse.

Pennsylvania needs a tough comprehensive statewide policy for regulating fracking. Fancypants southeastern counties shouldn’t have been allowed to carve out a special moratorium for themselves now that they’ve got gas.

What’s goes for western PA should go for Bucks and MontCo. If representatives there want a moratorium or stricter regulations, then they should be pushing for a statewide moratorium and stricter statewide regulations.

Or better yet, a statewide severance tax and huge well bonding requirements that effectively limit the gas drilling game to a handful of large well-capitalized firms.

This entry was posted in Budget, Environment.

21 Responses to “What Makes Bucks and Montgomery So Special?”

  1. Alex L says:

    How about, just stop fracking in PA and move on to something permanent, sustainable, clean, and respectful of residents?

  2. Mike Knapp says:

    Its refreshing to see such honesty from the liberal side. Coming right out and saying that you want to destroy tens of thousands of local jobs by regulating the local independents out of existence. Kudos for showing your true colors… Ironically, Jesse White suggested to me just a few weeks ago that it was the MSC that was trying to push us small local companies out of existence .

    • Jon says:

      One of the most terrifying things I’ve heard Tom Corbett say is when he compared the Marcellus Shale to the gold rush. The idea was that we would see thousands of small fracking operations popping up all over the state. This was the explicit rationale of keeping well bonding requirements way too low. If small companies actually have to be able to cover the cost of an accident, it will keep a lot of small companies out of the market. I think that’s a feature, not a bug, of high well bonding requirements. I only want to see the drillers who can afford to cover the cost of an accident in the game. I definitely do not want any taxpayer dollars going to clean up people’s messes because they can’t pay, like we are seeing with the thousands of abandoned wells all over the state.

    • Sue from Fairless Hills says:

      Fracking does not create “tens of thousands of local jobs.” That sounds like corporate propaganda. At least half the jobs go to traveling workforce from other states and most of the gas is pumped OUT of our state. The actual number of jobs is much lower. Most of those jobs are temporary, as well.
      Did your gas bill go down? Mine did not. PA does not charge severance tax and gives these companies huge breaks while they pollute our water. How about property values? Some properties have become worthless and property values around wells decrease drastically.
      There’s nothing “liberal” about the need for safe drinking water and the need for fairness and safety as well as ethical conduct by companies reaping the benefits of extracting our natural resource for their gain and our loss.

      • Mike Knapp says:

        Sue,

        Gas drilling absolutely does create tens of thousands of local jobs. The number of jobs on the actual rigs in a nearly insignificant number compared to the bigger picture, which includes all of the ancillary industries. As far as gas bills going down, yes they sure have. As well as my electric bill.

        http://mobile.philly.com/business/?wss=/philly/business/homepage/&id=160072335&viewAll=y

        We’re not getting “huge breaks”. We’re susceptible to every tax than any other industry is burdened with, plus the legislature just gave us our very own impact fee, which will cost the industry several hundred million dollars every year. And home values are actually INCREASING around gas drilling areas, not decreasing. The apocalyptic vision you’re trying to push is simply a figment of your imagination. Over 5,000 Marcellus wells, and over 400,000 conventional wells have been drilled in the state. And it’s still a beautiful, wonderful place to live.

        Mike

        • phillydem says:

          The 400,000 conventional wells are not where the problem lies. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but these wells are coventional, direct vertical wells tapping into “dry” natural gas.
          It’s disingenous to cite them.

          The Marcellus Shale wells are completely different animals requiring a much more complex drilling operation. No one knows if this is truly “safe” or not. Duke along with a CA college (can’t recall off the top) just completed a study showing gas and liquids, albeit unrelated to drilling, are moving through the Marcellus Shale layer in new and surprising ways. This pretty much debunks the argument that the waste is buried so deep it “will never escape”.

          FTR, here’s another side of the story: http://beavercountyblue.org/2012/06/27/fracking-myth-meets-realties/

          • Mike Knapp says:

            I will correct you, and you are wrong. It’s not the least bit disingenuous to cite them. Most of the Marcellus wells are “dry gas” wells. Not that it matters in the least. The well bore is constructed the same way. In fact, it’s constructed in the same way if we are drilling a conventional well or if we’re drilling a shale well. The contamination we are seeing is coming from methane migration, which results when you provide a conduit that links a gas bearing formation with a aquifer above. Methane migration doesn’t care if you’re drilling a gas well, an oil well, a geothermal well, a coal mine vent, or a regular old water well, which, by the way, have absolutely ZERO regulations here in Pennsylvania (the only state in the country without such regulations on water wells).

            The other place we are seeing contamination from is from surface spills. Companies have responded to this, and have started lining their well pads with thick rubber/plastic liners so that if there is a spill, it’s contained, and constructing additional catch basins and things like that.

            Did you know that we’ve been drilling right through the Marcellus to get to deeper formations for over 60 years? Did you know that the chemicals we use for Marcellus drilling are nearly identical (sometimes exactly the same) to the chemicals we have been using for decades in the conventional wells that you say are immaterial to this discussion? Did you know that when fracing, the pressure rates are nearly identical? The only difference is that we’re using a lot more water, and we’re doing it a lot deeper.

            We’ve got 400,000 case studies of wells drilled without any casing, and many wells had their casings removed to be used for the war effort back in the 1940′s. This analogy may be a tad bit crude, but think of being in a 20 mph head on car accident in a car from the 1960′s. No seat belt. No air bags. No crumple zones. No safety protections at all. Now imagine a modern car with all the latest engineering technology and safety measures. Now imagine 400,000 of those crashes in the old car, and not a single injury. If nobody was getting hurt in those old cars, it stands to reason that they wouldn’t in the new cars either, right? Today we have all sorts of instruments to check well bore integrity. Sonic measures, x-rays, bond longs, pressure tests, micro-seismic monitoring, etc. Drilling is as safe as it has ever been, and every day it gets safe.

  3. Mike Knapp says:

    To pan for gold you need exactly one thing. A pan. To drill a Marcellus shale wells you need tens of millions of dollars and a massive amount of infrastructure. I think you are taking the Governor’s analogy a bit too literally. Additionally, well bonds are not supposed to cover the costs of an accident. They are supposed to ensure that the well will be properly plugged and the site properly restored at the end of a well’s lifespan. For accidents, we have insurance. When you drive in your car, every day you have the potential to cause million of dollars worth of damages. Should we ban driving for all folks who don’t have a net worth of, say…. $10,000,000?

    Also, taxpayers aren’t paying for the cleanup of old abandoned wells!!! The orphan well fund is 100% paid for by the oil and gas industry:

    “The Orphan Well Plugging Fund is a separate account in the state treasury which provides money for the Orphan Well Program. The money in this fund comes from surcharges on permit application fees for new oil and gas wells. Taxpayers do not finance the Orphan Well Plugging Fund; the oil and gas industry does.”
    http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/Get/Document-82185/5500-FS-DEP1670.pdf

    In addition, Act 13 impact fee monies will go into an account to make sure that taxpayers are not on the hook for any industry messes that may be left behind. I wish that folks would take a bit more time to familiarize themselves with the actual laws and regulations that we live under. You might be surprised that some of your assumptions are not correct.

    Mike

    • Sue from Fairless Hills says:

      One of the “industry messes” left behind is toxic wastewater that we do not have the treatment facilities or economically feasible technology to purify. There’s no fund that can clean up that mess. Look, in the future, to pure safe drinking water becoming rare and expensive. What a legacy to leave our kids. Mike, tell me how i am wrong on this, please, because this is a huge threat to our health and safety now and in the future.

      • Mike Knapp says:

        Um, for starters, we do have the treatment facilities and they are economically feasible. Secondly, we treat the water as we go. It’s not being hoarded away somewhere, amassing and waiting for taxpayers to have to treat it. Most of it is actually being recycled and reused. A small portion goes to federally overseen deep injection wells, and the rest is treated to safe drinking water standards and released back into the environment.

        This is not a huge threat to anyone’s health and safety. Most of the 400,000 wells that were drilled were done so before any regulations, but our water is still fine. Now, we have much better technology, extremely strong regulations, and rigorous oversight. Right now, there is no viable energy source that has less of an environmental impact than natural gas. And that includes wind and solar.

        • Jon says:

          This must be part of the propaganda effort the papers were talking about re: Bucks and Montgomery

          • Mike Knapp says:

            Are you going to address the glaring inaccuracies I pointed out in your comments Jon, or are you just going to conveniently ignore them while making snide remarks? I find that the former is much more productive than the latter.

    • Jon says:

      Post-Gazette:

      Plug­ging an aban­doned Mar­cel­lus Shale gas well in Penn­syl­va­nia could cost $100,000 or more, and well bond­ing changes pro­posed by the Cor­bett admin­is­tra­tion could stick tax­pay­ers with almost all of that bill, accord­ing to a study from Carnegie Mel­lon University.

      The CMU study found that the new Mar­cel­lus gas well bond­ing fees, rec­om­mended by Mr. Corbett’s Mar­cel­lus Shale Advi­sory Com­mis­sion and now under con­sid­er­a­tion in the Republican-controlled Leg­is­la­ture, would require drilling com­pa­nies to cover only a frac­tion of the costs of plug­ging and decom­mis­sion­ing old, non­pro­duc­ing and aban­doned gas wells.

    • Jon says:

      My bottom line is this. The state is not going to stop fracking. It’s probably not desirable to. I’m not with the moratorium folks on this. What we can do is mitigate the worst environmental risks through a kind of ham-handed monopolistic state capitalism, by raising barriers to entry and making sure only the largest best capitalized firms dominate the market. Those are the firms that can afford to absorb the cost of the very strict environmental regulations we need, and that can afford to pay a hefty statewide severance tax that funds general public services.

      • Mike Knapp says:

        We adhere to the exact same environmental regulations that the international companies do. We pay every tax that every other company pays, but since you don’t think we’d be able to afford the kings ransom you want to stick on the big boys, you’d rather just eliminate us from operating before you get to that point. We’re standing in the way of your “Let’s tax the hell out of these billion dollar oil conglomerates” plan. We’re the dolphins in your tuna net. You’d rather get rid of us smaller companies on “environmental” grounds, so our bodies aren’t strewn about for Republicans to point at as victims of the massive severance tax Democrats want to put in place.

        Duly noted. But I’d love for you to come down and explain to the folks that work here, and their families, and their kids, that mommy or daddy can’t afford to pay the bills anymore, because they lost their job, because Democrats purposefully regulated them out of existence. But its cool, because that severance tax of yours will pay for lots more welfare and unemployment, right? Some folks would rather work for a living than be a ward of the state.

        • Jon says:

          That’s a red herring. All that would change is which companies are doing the drilling. Workers from smaller drillers would just end up getting jobs with the bigger firms. You’d probably see less drilling activity overall with the increased cost of doing business, but that’s still better than under the moratorium the folks to my left are pushing for.

          • Mike Knapp says:

            Oh I didn’t realize it was that simple! Why stop there there though? Why not just nationalize the oil and gas industry? Kill two birds with one stone. Perhaps we should get rid of bloggers, and sites like Keystone Politics. I mean, you could just go get a job working for the New York Times tomorrow, right? It’s not a red herring Jon. It’s real life. Real consequences.

            I’m not right or left. I’m a libertarian, but I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon that listen to Rush or Hannity, and I haven’t missed an episode of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert in 10 years. I’d love to see a public option in healthcare, but I loathe gun laws. Gas drilling isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about right or left. It’s about practical and impractical. It’s about not letting the perfect get in the way of the good. Liberals are pissed off at big corporations because of Wall Street. They’re also pissed off at oil companies because of the $4.00 price tag and the BP spill. Understandably so. But natural gas is a gift. A gift that is too great to be spurned by the left because it’s bring brought to them by big bad big oil. The environmental positives FAR outweigh the minor negatives, not to mention the massive economic benefits.

          • Jon says:

            Why wouldn’t workers get jobs with bigger drillers, if smaller drillers went out of business? Assuming no major drop in the total amount of drilling opportunities, wouldn’t the bigger drillers just absorb the smaller drillers’ market share? Wouldn’t the big drillers just drill more, and hire more employees to do that? What am I missing?

            The course of action I’m proposing – limiting the market to a handful of large highly-regulated companies – actually comes from libertarian economist Tyler Cowen, who is a supporter of hydraulic fracturing, and who advocated this approach as the least-bad way to address the environmental concerns. I have no problem with big corporations or natural gas. I agree that it’s a gift, and is very important to America’s energy needs. I just think that we are not fully aware of the environmental risks involved. The information is still coming in. I think that until we know more, we need to be cautious about the environmental risks. Tom Corbett’s gold rush mentality is totally inappropriate. I also think that natural resource wealth should be broadly shared. And as a political matter, Pennsylvanians would be more supportive of gas drilling if a big chunk of the general fund was funded by severance tax revenue, such that we could reduce other taxes on income and sales.

  4. phillydem says:

    Sorry, Mike Knapp, but I have to laugh at you citing data from wells drilled in the 1940s. We both know drilling technology has advanced a whole lot since then. Old straight vertical wells to extract dry gas are different from the “wet” gas wells now being drilled in Washington County and other places. To cite them as evidence that everything is just fine and dandy remains disingenuos and borders on duplicitous.

    Why don’t you address the actual facts in the Sierra Club story instead of blasting us with yet more driller propaganda?

    • Mike Knapp says:

      Here we go, another anonymous know-nothing Google warrior. Sorry person hiding behind a fake name, but again, you are wrong. We drill vertical Marcellus shale wells with the EXACT SAME RIG that we used to drill shallow wells for many, many years before. You drill the well, you insert and cement the casing, you perf, you frac, you flare, you produce. In many places, you don’t even know if you’re going to get wet gas or dry gas until you frac the well.

      Where the sizable increases in technology has come from is the ability to go horizontal, which has NOTHING to do with the way the well is constructed in the vertical bore, which is obviously where the potential for contamination comes from. More of the well bore is exposed to the formation, therefore you do more frac stages, therefore you need more water on site, which means a bigger site.

      As far as the Sierra Club, you’d have to tell me which Sierra Club you’re talking about. Are you talking about the Sierra Club that championed natural gas, took tens of millions from the gas industry, and made it the cornerstone of their BEYOND COAL campaign? Or the Sierra Club that renounced gas drilling in the last 12 months now that it’s chic to be against it?