Marcellus Shale

Marcellus Shale: We All Have Responsibilities

Last week, I had the opportunity to once again return to my alma mater, Lock Haven University, to hear a discussion as part of the Women’s Studies Speaker Series. Sister Nora Nash, Director of Corporate Responsibility for the Sisters of St. Francis in Aston, Pennsylvania spoke on corporate responsibility in the Marcellus Shale. It was refreshing to catch up with several of my former professors, and to be present for such a thought-provoking discussion. Unfortunately, some parts of the presentation were also misleading or inaccurate portrayals of the operation of companies in the Marcellus Shale, something I found quite ironic considering the topic was on being responsible members of a global community.

Corporate Responsibility

Corporate responsibility is:

A company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates. Companies express this citizenship (1) through their waste and pollution reduction processes, (2) by contributing educational and social programs, and (3) by earning adequate returns on the employed resources.

Sister Nora Nash

It is something Sister Nora Nash has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to improving across the world. While taking on this highly admirable task she has helped to make great strides in raising and shattering the glass ceiling for women, ensuring safe work conditions and adequate pay for employees, and making companies more aware of their community and environmental impacts. The organization she represents holds enough stock in each of the corporations they work with to have a substantial voice to represent their financial and ethical interests.  This is how the group works to achieve its objectives and they have had an impact.

Sister Nash, in more recent years, has turned her focus towards the corporations involved in natural gas development, investing in Anadarko, Chesapeake, Exxon, and others, as the Marcellus Shale has become a household name. As the Sister was going through the above definition, I couldn’t help but think of the many ways the companies operating in the Marcellus are already acting as good corporate citizens and I got a little excited to hear about her experience touring the region with Anadarko the previous day. I’m going to highlight just a few of these examples before talking a little more about her actual discussion.

Waste and Pollution Reduction Processes

Eureka Resources Supports New Pennsylvania DEP Standards Encouraging Reuse of Wastewater From Oil and Gas Sites, April 5, 2012, Williamsport, PA
Eureka Resources, LLC, President Dan Ertel said today that new standards set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) under General Permit WGMR123 will help reduce environmental hazards and lower transportation and infrastructure costs associated with storage of partially treated wastewater from oil and gas sites in the Marcellus Shale. Eureka is prepared to meet or exceed the new standards for treatment of oil and gas wastewater, including drilling and production fluids, top hole and flow back waters, as well as those from oil and gas transmission facilities.

Most companies are now practicing 100 percent recycling of their wastewater by using flowback in later hydraulic fracturing operations. Here is a video by Cabot Oil and Gas demonstrating how this is done.

Educational and Social Programs

Chesapeake Energy Donates $50,000 to Lackawanna College Gas Tech Program, April 2010

Chesapeake Energy, who is a major player in the drilling of the Marcellus Shale in Northeastern PA., has made a $50,000 donation to Lackawanna College to be used for equipment in training students who are enrolled in the Gas Tech Program.

Major Cabot Donation to Hospital Project ($1 million initial commitment with another $1 million matching), April 2012

Endless Mountain Health Systems broke ground earlier this year on a $45 million complex along State Road 706, several miles east of its current location. Cabot will be giving a $1 million donation. It is also sponsoring a community match fund. The gas and oil company will match additional funds that come in – up to another million dollars. The pledge from Cabot is the largest single private donation to the Endless Mountains Health Systems project at this time.

One Step Ahead of the President on Disclosure and Marcellus Shale, January 25, 2012

Representatives from all facets of the natural gas industry were on-hand to answer questions from attendees during the mini-expo, including individuals from: America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), FTS International, Halliburton, Universal Well Services, Big West Oilfield Services, Larson Design Group, RETTEW, ShaleDirectories.comCabot Oil and Gas, Chesapeake Energy, Chief Oil and Gas, Shell, Talisman Energy, and XTO Energy, as well as attendees from companies across the state participating in all aspects of shale development. This enabled people to get all kinds of answers from trade associations, hydraulic fracturing companies, water treatment companies, geologists, exploration and production companies and more. It was incredible to witness so many vendors coming together with the same educational goal!

Earning Adequate Returns on Employed Resources

“Gas Boom Leads to Opportunities for Female Construction Workers”: The pipeline construction industry in the Marcellus Shale region has led to a growth in jobs and as Snyder and Coutts exemplify, the jobs aren’t just for the guys. … Locally, 315 women worked in Marcellus Shale-related construction industries in 2011 and 7,508 statewide. … As a result of the Marcellus Shale industry, Linde Construction has doubled in size in two years and now employs about 300 people, said president Scott Linde. … Joe Latona, co-owner of Latona Trucking and Excavating, said employment at his business also has increased as a result of the Marcellus Shale industry. Of his 180 employees, about 85 work in Marcellus Shale areas, including one female truck driver, he said. His daughter Jamie also drives a truck for his company. Latona said he rarely sees applications from women who want to operate heavy equipment, but he is pleased with the company’s overall growth as a result of the gas drilling. “We’re a very blessed company,” he said. (Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice, 3/29/12)

Keeping the Kids Here with Natural Gas Jobs: JLCNY Hits a Home Run, April 2012
It was fascinating to see so many young people, several of whom were part of Lackawanna College’s Marcellus Shale Training program, meeting with potential employers, while at the same time seeing other young folks who have already secured jobs in the industry manning the tables.  What a great contrast it was.  There’s no doubt keeping the kids here is what Marcellus Shale is all about for those  promoting natural gas development.

Responsibility as Communicators

As individuals who speak to the public on the subject of natural gas development it is important we all ensure the information we share is accurate and up-to-date. Sister Nora Nash’s presentation was engaging and I am certain several of the students present were moved to become more involved in this discussion as a result of her work.  Nonetheless, there were several inaccuracies with what she said, which she and I discussed after, that need to be addressed.

She admitted, during our conversation, she does not know as much about Marcellus Shale development, especially in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, as she would like to, and it is with that knowledge I am going to go through some of her points and provide further information.

Please take a moment to watch the following clip with Sister Nora Nash discussing baseline testing in the Marcellus Shale region.

She says, in this video, “We have only found one company that does pre-drilling testing, that is authentic, and actually that is a company right here, and that is Anadarko.”  She goes on to say most companies haven’t even begun testing. Fortunately for those of us living in this region, this statement is inaccurate.

Anadarko absolutely conducts proper baseline testing and we are happy this was a piece of information she learned while spending the day educating herself on their operations. When she and I were talking she cited Colorado and Oklahoma for her reasons for making this statement, and while I am not as familiar with their regulations, I do not believe they are relevant to a discussion on Marcellus anyway and I told her such. It is misleading while discussing Marcellus operations to use information from other states, when in Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection has had a longstanding regulation to require baseline testing 1,000 feet from a well. Most companies have already taken it upon themselves to test even further than that going 2,000-4,500 feet out and with the passing of Act 13 will now be required to go a minimum of 2,500 feet.

As existing shallow methane and other issues have come to light because of the lack of regulation in Pennsylvania on private water wells, companies have adjusted the parameters of their tests and today most do complete testing for anything that could be present. Companies are working with people like Brian Oram and the DEP to have data available on the state of groundwater in Pennsylvania, and in many cases are offering solutions to existing problems before a rig ever sets up nearby. Chesapeake has even taken it upon themselves to test all of Bradford County as a goodwill gesture to assist in gathering this data and has been successful in gathering samples from nearly every residence and business in the county. Baseline testing is something companies take very seriously and it is an effort that should be acknowledged.

She goes over several aspects of development in the next video and I’ll break those down following the clip.

She first talks about “stress on the infrastructure, stress on the water supply, stress on the roads, stress on the local community.” Again, I have to commend Anadarko for giving her such a complete tour that resulted in her acknowledging them as visibly doing everything right, very transparent and the best operator she has seen. It is a true testament to their commitment to develop natural gas responsibly and be good neighbors in the communities they operate in. Other companies are doing this as well and I hope she will have the opportunity to see this for herself.

When changes occur in a community, there will be an added level of stress and the influx of natural gas development in Pennsylvania has surely brought change to communities. It is how companies work with these communities to alleviate this stress that speaks to their commitment to corporate responsibility. Infrastructural stress such as housing is an issue the industry is working hand in hand with counties, municipalities and housing agencies to find solutions to. One such solution was Chesapeake’s building of a million dollar training facility to house its workers.

It is no secret this industry has brought more traffic into the region. The many “Hiring CDL Driver” signs and a quick drive through our region will demonstrate this. As such, companies have committed themselves to repairing the roads they use and have spent millions in recent years to improve the quality of roads in rural Pennsylvania. In fact, just one company spent $250 million to repair roads in a five county  area leaving many of the roads in a better condition than the way they were found. We are also seeing more fresh water impoundments being built to provide clean water through water pipelines to nearby operations, as a technique for mitigating truck traffic. It is an issue companies are working closely with local communities to remedy.

Given the 70 percent average local hire rate in Pennsylvania, it’s clear many workers in this industry are, in fact, residents of the communities in which they they operate. This has helped alleviate many of the stresses often cited about the original transient workforce we experienced. The biggest sources of stress on most communities now, and I speak from experience, are in adjusting to our residents working longer hours with higher wages. It’s getting pretty difficult to find a contractor who’s not booked and the lines are longer at retail stores.

She also discussed and mentioned the many companies participating in self-disclosure on the site. Her goal is to have all proprietory ingredients listed, but to her credit wants to see this for every industry not just natural gas. She did say this is an incredible step towards transparency, but her organization will not be satisfied until there is a complete use of green frac solutions.

EID Marcellus is a major supporter of and I was thrilled to see her discuss it’s importance and what can be found on it. Green solutions are still in their infancy and will likely one day be common practice, but we are a ways off from this occurring at present. These new innovations will need to be tested thoroughly to ensure they do not compromise well integrity before they will be used by every company in every stimulation.

We have been to several meetings of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and learned quite a bit about the amount of water being consumed for natural gas development. It is actually far less than many other industries, despite the seemingly high amount of water used per well. In fact, since the Marcellus began the natural gas industry has used a  total of 5.6 billion gallons of water which is pretty much statistically insignificant when compared to the 20 billion gallons per day daily average  flow of the Susquehanna River.

In addition, companies are invested in finding ways to reduce the amount of water they use by changing their practices to include recycled water, and most recently acid mine drainage impacted water sources. What’s more, this water is all actually returned to the hydrological cycle when methane is combusted or burned by the end user. I encourage you to read Tom’s post on this if you have not already done so.

Citizen Responsibility

Sister Nora Nash brought up some very good points in her discussion and gave the students and professors present some important starting points to do further research to become more involved in this discussion. As citizens living in this region we actually have a responsibility to ourselves and our communities to educate ourselves on the development happening around us, and I couldn’t agree more with the Sister on this point. It is through her own efforts to spend the day with Anadarko that she became so well-versed in their operations and can now speak from experience about the company, and that really is commendable. I hope she will continue to learn from other companies as well.

You do not have to be a famous activist to learn more about natural gas development, though. There are numerous meetings held across the region, universities have devoted themselves to conducting research, and a simple Sunday drive can all be resources to increase your awareness of what is happening in your community. And if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask. Companies have hotlines available for residents to ask them questions about their operations. Trade associations like the Marcellus Shale Coalition, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the American Petroleum Institute or the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association all have resources available to help you become more educated on the very scientific process of developing natural gas. And we’re always happy to be a resource if someone has a question.

My hope is if you take nothing else away from this post, you remember the important role you play in your community and the responsibility you have to stay educated on the issues impacting it.

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