NEWS ARTICLE BY STACI WILSON (Staff writer)Published: October 22, 2013
Some Anti-Drilling Activists Change Tactics, Tone
PITTSBURGH October 6, 2013 (AP)
By KEVIN BEGOS and MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press
For years, activists have warned that fracking can have disastrous consequences — ruined water and air, sickened people and animals, a ceaseless parade of truck traffic.
Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas.
In one northeastern Pennsylvania village that became a global flashpoint in the debate over fracking, the switch has raised more than a few eyebrows.
A few weeks ago, Victoria Switzer and other activists from Dimock endorsed a candidate for governor who supports natural gas production from gigantic reserves like the Marcellus Shale, albeit with more regulation and new taxes. Dimock was the centerpiece of “Gasland,” a documentary that galvanized opposition to fracking, and Switzer was also featured in this summer’s “Gasland Part II,” which aired on HBO.
“We had to work with the industry. There is no magic wand to make this go away,” said Switzer, who recently formed a group that seeks to work with drillers on improved air quality standards. “Tunnel vision isn’t good. Realism is good.”
For Switzer, the endorsement was a nod to reality; for some of her onetime allies, a betrayal. Either way, it was a sign that anti-drilling activism is evolving, with some opponents shifting tactics to reflect that shale gas is likely here to stay.
Plenty of anti-drilling activists still want nothing to do with the industry and continue to call for a ban on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, the technique that drillers use to siphon gas from shale deposits more than a mile underground. In New York state, opponents have so far succeeded in blocking natural-gas development in the Marcellus Shale.
But Pennsylvania residents concerned about drilling no longer have the luxury of simply calling for a ban, Switzer said. Not with the Pennsylvania and West Virginia portions of the Marcellus already yielding more than $10 billion worth of gas annually, making it the nation’s most prolific gas field.
“It’s in full swing, and it’s simplistic to think you could just tell them all to stop,” said Rebecca Roter, another Pennsylvania activist.
The enormous volume of gas flowing from the Marcellus and other U.S. shale formations has turned energy markets upside-down and led to wholesale prices that are about one-third of what customers in Europe or Asia pay. That’s led to lower costs for consumers and industry.
And that, in turn, got the attention of Vermont’s anti-fracking governor.
It was Gov. Peter Shumlin who, in early 2012, signed the nation’s first statewide fracking ban. But now he’s promoting the economic benefits of natural gas. Last month, Shumlin spoke out in favor of a $90 million expansion of the state’s natural gas pipeline system — which will transport fracked gas — saying the project was critical to industry, the environment and people who are struggling to pay energy bills.
Some drilling critics, meanwhile, have become reluctant partners with an industry they dislike.
Robert Donnan had been an outspoken critic of drilling in general and Range Resources, the company that sunk the first Marcellus well in 2004, in particular. In February, he leased his land to Range, according to public documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Donnan didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did members of the group to which he belongs, Marcellus Protest, whose stated goal is to “stop the destruction of our environment and communities caused by Marcellus drilling.”
But one of Donnan’s cousins said family members felt they had little real choice, considering their 296-acre property southwest of Pittsburgh is already surrounded by drilling.
“The choice is either sign the lease and have some control, or don’t sign and have no control” over what happens in the area, said Geoffrey Smith, adding the family will still keep an eye on everything the drillers do.
“We’re watching for any spills, any violation of the lease, for any hanky-panky with the money,” said Smith, who praised his cousin for keeping the industry’s “feet to the fire” on environmental issues.
Donnan is still speaking out, too. In the spring, he published a letter to the editor saying “gas production is filthy business.” He also denounced drilling at a public forum in Pittsburgh — though without telling the audience he had signed a lease.
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company views Donnan’s decision to sign a lease after years of criticizing the industry “as an endorsement” of drilling, since he’s clearly aware of the risks involved.
Some environmental groups are seeking to partner with the industry in a different way.
In southwestern Pennsylvania, environmentalists recently joined charitable foundations and major oil and gas companies to form the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which aims to protect air and water from pollution in the Appalachian region. And in Illinois, industry and environmental groups worked together to support a bill on fracking that both sides could support.
That’s similar to what Switzer is trying to accomplish in Dimock, the tiny crossroads where pro- and anti-drilling forces descended after state regulators held a gas driller responsible for contaminating residential water supplies with methane.
More than a year after Switzer and other residents settled their lawsuit against Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., the rancor has mostly subsided. And Switzer settled on a new approach to the industry that she calls her “landlord.”
“You have to sit down and not be the enemy,” she said.
This year, Switzer and Roter co-founded Breathe Easy Susquehanna County, an organization that seeks to persuade companies to use advanced technologies to limit emissions. The group has won plaudits for its non-confrontational style.
It’s a small, quiet effort to set aside philosophical differences over the wisdom of natural gas production and focus on how the negative impacts can be minimized. The group has even attracted pro-drilling residents who had clashed with Switzer and others who spoke out against the industry.
Switzer and Roter said it’s time to move past the pro-gas, anti-gas dichotomy. The reality, they point out, is that thousands of wells have already been drilled, new compressor stations are going up and pipelines are being laid.
At Breathe Easy, Roter said, “we decided our first goal was to make concern about air quality mainstream as mainstream as going to church in this rural county.”
Rubinkam reported from northeastern Pennsylvania
Cabot’s production volumes have taken a hit in recent weeks as the company has decided to hold back due to recent lower prices.
By Claudia Assis, MarketWatch
Sept. 26, 2013, 5:18 p.m. EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Energy stocks rose on Thursday, with Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. taking the lead after the exploration and production company said it sees production growth of up to 50% next year.
The independent E&P company also reaffirmed guidance of production growth around 44% to 54% this year over last year’s production. Cabot /quotes/zigman/221094/quotes/nls/cog COG +4.36% is confident in its ability to provide “best in class” production growth for 2014, the company said in a statement.
In a recent presentation to investors, Cabot said it produced about 268 billion cubic feet of natural gas equivalent.
Cabot’s production volumes have taken a hit in recent weeks as the company has decided to hold back due to recent lower prices for Marcellus shale natural gas and maintenance projects, it said in a statement. These, however, “are short-term phenomena that will not have an impact on our production growth in 2013 and beyond,” Cabot said. Shares of Cabot rose 4.4%.
Natural gas driller seeks sanctions in water contamination lawsuit
By TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER (STAFF WRITER)
Published: September 15, 2013
Pictured Above: Scott Ely’s new 7,000 sq. ft. house – thanks to his natural gas royalties
Fighting a giant energy company with unlimited legal resources, Scott and Monica Ely eagerly accepted when an attorney offered free legal help in their federal water well contamination lawsuit against Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.
The Dimock Twp. couple, left to fend for themselves after refusing to join a settlement Cabot reached with 40 other township residents, knew they stood little chance against the sophisticated law firm Cabot hired. They saw nothing wrong with accepting the offer by attorney Leslie Lewis of New York, a former associate in the firm that previously represented them.
Attorneys for Cabot saw plenty wrong with the arrangement, however. They recently filed court papers asking a judge to throw out numerous legal documents the Elys filed based on the fact Ms. Lewis and another attorney, Carly Jannetty of New York, secretly assisted the couple in drafting the papers.
The practice, known as “ghost-writing,” is prohibited by the rules of professional conduct lawyers must follow, Cabot’s lead attorney, Jeremy Mercer, said in court documents. The conduct is so egregious, Mr. Mercer said, that all documents the attorneys assisted in filing should be stricken from the record. He is also seeking legal sanctions against Ms. Lewis and Ms. Janetty.
The Elys deny they did anything wrong. Cabot’s action, they say, is a heavy-handed attempt to divert attention from the issues in the case and get them thrown out of court prematurely.
“Cabot has done anything and everything they can possibly do to try to steer the federal courts away from what’s actually going on here,” Mr. Ely said. “I just want to get this in front a judge and let it be judged on the merits.”
Mr. Mercer did not respond to two emails seeking comment.
The court filings are the latest in a contentious battle that began in 2009 when the Elys and dozens of other Dimock Township residents sued Cabot in federal court, claiming their drinking wells were contaminated by methane released during Cabot’s Marcellus Shale drilling operations. Cabot settled the case with 40 of the plaintiffs in September 2012. The Elys rejected the advice of their attorneys, the law firm of Napoli Bern Ripka of New York, and refused the offer.
The Napoli firm withdrew from the case soon after. The Elys said they contacted about 40 other law firms, but no one would take the case. Ms. Lewis, who previously worked for Napoli, did not have the legal resources to take the case, but agreed to help them with research and writing legal briefs at no charge, he said.
“Her heart and soul was in it,” Mr. Ely said. “She had so much faith in us and the travesty that happened here, she didn’t want to see it get brushed under the table.”
That decision could come back to haunt her should Cabot prevail in its motion.
The current dispute lies in the fact the Elys repeatedly told the court that they are proceeding “pro se,” a legal term that means they are representing themselves without benefit of legal counsel. Cabot contends that was a “misrepresentation,” since the couple received help from Ms. Lewis and Ms. Jannetty, who previously worked with Ms. Lewis at another law firm.
In court documents, Ms. Lewis and Ms. Jannetty each admit they researched and wrote some documents for the Elys, including a response to Cabot’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. They contend their involvement was limited and does not violate any legal or ethical rules.
Attorney Sam Stretton, who is representing Ms. Lewis, said he believes a recent ethics opinion released by the Pennsylvania Bar Association supports the position that attorneys can ethically assist pro-se plaintiffs. If anything, the courts should encourage such assistance, he said.
“It gives people who can’t afford a lawyer a chance in federal court,” Mr. Stretton said. “The courts should some day encourage it. Hopefully, this court will start to think that way.”
In addition to representing Ms. Lewis, Mr. Stretton recently agreed to represent the Elys in the Cabot lawsuit. He said he’s hopeful the case will eventually make it to trial, but various pre-trial motions, including Cabot’s motion for sanctions and to strike documents, must be ruled upon first.
Cabot has asked a judge for a hearing on the matter. No ruling has been issued yet.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Press Release Source: Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC.
Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC received Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission certificate to natural gas to the public in Susquehanna CountyThursday September 27, 6:30 pm ET HARRISBURG, PA—Sep. 27, 2012 –
At its public meeting today the Pa. PUC approved Leatherstocking’s application 5-0. Chairman Powelson and Commissioner Gardner both had positive written statements they summarized stating they were “very pleased to support the application,” emphasizing that local gas for local customers is a great idea, and that it is a “win” for businesses and residents in the application territory. Chairman Powelson stated that he “applauds Leatherstocking’s management” (mentioned Corning and Mirabito as well known and well run companies) for investing in PA.
Under Docket No. A- 2011- 2275595 LGC can provide service to the Townships of Bridgewater, Forest Lake, Great Bend, Harmony, New Milford and Oakland and the Boroughs of Great Bend, Hallstead, Lanesboro, Montrose, New Milford, Oakland and Susquehanna Depot. The new service territory is approximately 210 square miles.
LGC will begin constructing natural gas distribution networks in the summer of 2013. Initial construction will be from existing gathering lines in the region to larger volume anchor customers such as hospitals, schools, commercial areas and municipal buildings. The Company will connect residential customers along the initial route. Customer demand in the form of received applications and transportation agreements will provide future development. Company official believe providing one of the area’s most abundant natural resources to the people living above it makes good business and environmental sense. The company will be able to provide a lower cost cleaner burning energy source to the people of the region. This will create the greatest benefit for the most people.
Company officials are pleased with the news and excited about the prospect of serving customers in 2013. LGC would like to thank local and state legislators and business officials with the help they have provided throughout the filing process. Leatherstocking CEO Mike German stated “the level of support provided by the community has been outstanding. We feel obligated on a personal level to provide gas service as quickly and economically as possible”.
LGC currently has gas supply agreements in place with Cabot Oil & Gas and Williams. The company will continue to expand its supply portfolio in the region with other producers and energy marketers. The LGC system will be an open access system that provides customers to opportunity to purchase gas supplies from the most economical provider.
Leatherstocking Gas Company, LLC is a joint venture between Corning Natural Gas Corporation (“CNGC”) and Mirabito Holdings Inc. (“MHI”). The Joint Venture was formed in November of 2010 with the purpose of providing natural gas distribution service to currently un-served or underserved regions of central New York State and the northern tier of Pennsylvania. The company currently has 6 municipal franchises in central New York along the I-88 corridor. Currently corporate headquarters are 49 Court St. Binghamton, NY 13902. The company will open operational centers through the service territory as the distribution network develops.
Has the Dust Settled on Carter Road?
Monday, May 14, 2012
EPA: Well water in Pa. gas drilling town is safe
EPA says well water in northeastern Pa. gas drilling town is safe; residents dispute assertion
Friday, May 11, 2012
Story found here: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/epa-well-water-pa-gas-165639678.html;_ylc=X3oDMTNucGF1MTQ5BF9TAzExODMzMDAxMDEEYWN0A21haWxfY2IEY3QDYQRpbnRsA3VzBGxhbmcDZW4tVVMEcGtnAzQ1NDM0ODY0LTZlZGEtMzc2MC1iYjY1LTQ4YmMyNTllZjVlYwRzZWMDbWl0X3NoYXJlBHNsawNtYWlsBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3
EPA: Water Quality OK at 20 wells in PA Gas Town
POSTED: Friday, Apr. 06, 2012 The Associated Press
DIMOCK, PA – Testing at 20 more water wells in a northeastern Pennsylvania community at the center of a debate over the safety of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale shows no dangerous levels of contamination, according to a report issued Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA had already tested 11 wells in Dimock, showing the presence of sodium, methane, chromium or bacteria in six of the wells before the results of the latest round of testing.
Three of the newly-tested wells showed methane while one showed barium well above the EPA’s maximum level, but a treatment system installed in the well is removing the substance, an EPA spokesman said.
Featured in the documentary “Gasland,” the Susquehanna County village of Dimock has been at the center of a fierce debate over drilling, in particular the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals deep underground to free trapped natural gas so it can be brought to the surface.
State environmental regulators previously determined that Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. contaminated the aquifer underneath homes along Carter Road in Dimock with explosive levels of methane gas, although they later determined the company had met its obligation to provide safe drinking water to residents.
The EPA is still providing drinking water to three homes where prior tests showed contamination. A second round of tests is under way, regulators said.
A group of Dimock residents suing Cabot assert their water is also polluted with drilling chemicals, while others say that the water is clean and the plaintiffs are exaggerating problems with their wells to help their lawsuit.
A Cabot spokesman said in a statement Friday that the “data confirms the earlier EPA finding that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment.”
“Importantly, the EPA again did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to oil and gas development in the Dimock area, particularly given the fact that any contaminants are more likely indicative of naturally-occurring background levels or other unrelated activities,” the statement said.
EPA Says No Evidence Fracking Polluted Water In Rural Pa.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Pro-drillers in NYC watershed demand $81 B for lost rights. Resolution sets stage for next big battle over fracking ban.
Friday, March 2, 2012
EPA Testing in Dimock, PA, Feeds Drilling Debate
Fill Your Car for $1 a Gallon
New York Post Covers Frack Nation
The New York Post recently allowed Phelim McAleer to tell his story. For those who don’t know, Phelim is the documentarian behind “Frack Nation.” Frack Nation is a film coming out soon to debunk Josh Fox and his crappy lie of a movie, Gasland. You may have heard of Phelim before. He famously taped Josh Fox admitting too leaving out keys facts about the flaming faucet. When Phelim called Josh out on this, Fox responded with something along the lines of; I didn’t think it was relevant. Such a strange concept, right?
Below is the article Phelim wrote for the New York Post.
EPA Says Fracking is Safe
Posted Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Story found here:http://www.wealthwire.com/news/energy/2773
3M & Chesapeake Energy Partner on New Cost-Saving CNG Tanks
Posted on Feb 22, 2012