Appalachian Basin

*Update* PennFuture Desperately Grasps for a Fracking Win

UPDATE (2/17/2015; 10:54 am ET): This past weekend, an anti-fracking group called Allegheny Front released an article titled, “As Fracking Nears Schools, Parents Push Back.” Like Penn Environment’s release – discussed in the original post below – Allegheny Front fails to acknowledge that shale development is already occurring near Fort Cherry High School. And, while the article does mention the air quality study commissioned by Fort Cherry High School, it doesn’t acknowledge the results which found:

“Furthermore, a basic yet conservative screening level evaluation shows that the detected volatile compounds were below health-protective levels.” (p. 6; emphasis added)

As previously mentioned, these results fall in line with what other regulators across the country have also found in air monitoring reports dealing with shale development.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Allegheny Front is funded by well-known fracking foes: the Heinz Endowment and the Park Foundation.

UPDATE (2/4/2015; 3:57 pm ET): Yesterday, PennFuture attempted to take credit for Range Resources’ decision to withdraw three well pad permits in Mt. Pleasant Township citing “community opposition.” But that’s not what the township said.

In fact, school districts in Mt. Pleasant Township have even referred to themselves as “the latest shale success story.” As Mt. Pleasant Supervisor Gary Farner explained, the community strongly supports shale development:

“There are a lot of landowners looking for drilling, and there are a lot of people for drilling, but when it comes to economics, I can understand that, too. It’s not cheap to drill those wells.”

And as previously stated, with 95 percent of the township’s mineral rights leased, Range Resources will be back to operate in the township when commodity prices increase.

Original post, February 3, 2015

Without question, the recent increase in domestic oil and natural gas production in has been an economic game changer for communities across the United States. But due to currently low commodity prices, exploration and production companies across the country have had to cut capital expenditures as they move into the New Year. One of the most significant producers in Pennsylvania, Range Resources, is no different. Because of these cuts, the company changed its development plan for the next year and removed three well pads that were originally going to be developed in Washington County’s Mt. Pleasant Township. As stated in a letter from Range resources to Mt. Pleasant’s Attorney Charles M. Means:

In light of the deterioration in the commodities markets and reduction of Range’s capital expenditures since the August 2014 submission of the applications, we have reprioritized our drilling plans, and as a result, removed these wells from our 2015 planned activity.

Range is hopeful that the next year brings forth the circumstances that will provide us with the opportunity to conduct activity on these or other locations in the Township. We thank you for the time and effort that you and the Supervisors have put forth over the last several months and look forward to working with the Township and community in the future.” (Emphasis added)

Despite these facts, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) released a press release today claiming a victory for Range Resource’s decision to withdraw the applications for the three well pads in the township. As stated in the release:

“Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) has represented residents opposed to the pads, two of which would have been located within one mile of the Fort Cherry school campus in a residentially zoned district.”

PennFuture appears to have forgotten about the wells previously developed and without incident in Mt. Pleasant Township. One well pad was even 900 yards north of a Fort Cherry School District campus. Because of the proximity to the school, the district commissioned an independent company to perform air monitoring during hydraulic fracturing and flaring operations at that pad. As stated in the air monitoring report:

“The results of the fracking and flaring sampling periods were similar to the results obtained from the baseline monitoring period and likewise, did not show anything remarkable with respect to chemicals detected in the ambient air. When volatile compounds were detected, they were consistent with background levels measured at the school and in other areas in Washington County. Furthermore, a basic yet conservative screening level evaluation shows that the detected volatile compounds were below health-protective levels.” (Emphasis added) (Page 6)

For Fort Cherry School District and other school districts in Washington County, shale development has brought a windfall of economic benefits that otherwise wouldn’t have been realized (Energy In Depth previously highlighted the economic windfall experienced by school districts across the Commonwealth from shale development here). And, quoted in an Observer Reporter article is Fort Cherry School Districts Business Manager, where he states:

“Thirty-thousand dollars at Fort Cherry just doesn’t fall out of the sky, I’ll take it. And if this year it’s $100,000, I’ll certainly take it.”

From the same article:

“He said that money will likely be used to help offset the deficit and pay for pension and medical care costs for employees.”

Separately, in a transcript from a “This American Life” radio interview:

“That’s why Range has leased 95% of Mount Pleasant’s land for mineral rights. 95%, which means pretty much everything but the tiny downtown. They’ve already drilled 100 wells there.” (Emphasis added)

It would appear that Mt. Pleasant Township has been very supportive of the shale industry — and once the market clears and commodity prices recover, Range Resources will be back operating in the area as they have done for years.

Despite these facts, PennFuture’s acting president and CEO made this bizarre statement in response to today’s news:

“Mount Pleasant citizens got involved in the permitting process in order to exercise their constitutionally protected right to ensure their children will have clean air, land, and water.”

It’s not unlike PennFuture to malign the natural gas industry and work to stop development in its tracks. However, it’s clear that desperate times call for desperate measures, especially when the organization feels the need to take credit for market forces it doesn’t control.

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