Monday, February 28, 2011

Marcellus News for Pennsylvania, Feb. 28

Big NYT story on the hazards from fracking, including information from unreleased EPA studies and an industry report: "The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle."

Not only did Consol Energy treat legislators to Super Bowl trips, they also offered one in 2009 to John Hanger, the acting secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Ed Rendell. Hanger says he turned down the offer. More on this story here.

In New York, landowners are accusing Chesapeake and others of unilaterally extending leases that have expired. Such actions prevent landowners from renegotiating leases and royalty payouts at the current higher rates.

Legislation to improve gas pipeline safety in Pennsylvania was approved by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee Feb. 14.

The Porter Township Board of Supervisors has stated its opposition to any shale gas drilling inside township borders.

Drillers are looking at a formation deeper than the Marcellus  for future exploration, the Utica Shale, although not all experts are optimistic that it would be that productive.

Cabot saw a 35% rise in fourth-quarter earnings due to asset-sale gains, but adjusted profits declined more than expected due to lower prices and higher expenses (full article behind pay wall).

Westmont Resources Inc.has acquired 233 net acres of leasehold in Westmoreland County, including 8 producing wells.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Academy Awards and Marcellus Gas Politics

I haven't seen Gasland and have not had the chance to independently research claims made in the film. But the gas drilling industry is concerned enough by it to lobby the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences to disqualify the documentary from Oscar consideration.

To me, this is a misguided effort on the part of the industry. maybe they are only trying to protect their image from inaccurate allegations, but it has the appearance of confirming that they are trying to silence questions about fracking. And that is the perception people will have.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No COMMONwealth of Penn. when it comes to gas.

Screw the round-up this week, there is one very important Marcellus story for Pennsylvania.

Imagine that one weekend you head for a nice relaxing time to fish, hike, camp and chill-out in one  of YOUR Pennsylvania Parks or Preserves...and there where expect some natural solitude is a an industrial operation going on to extract natural gas. Even worse, you have no rights to the gas and other than lease costs there are no royalties to be collected from the gas recovered from your, my land, OUR land.

This will be the case because Gov. Corbett will lift the moratorium on new natural-gas drilling in state lands
His administration has already and very quietly, removed the requirement that DCNR perform environmental impact analysis prior to drilling in any of these areas.

The need for positive populism.

An Boston Globe op-ed yesterday gibes with what I wrote earlier about how modern progressives fail at populism. I do have a few quibbles with the piece. One is an assumption that populism must be rural-based, demographic trends suggest otherwise. Another is that this is all about whites; many African-Americans and Hispanics I met years ago in the service shared similar thoughts about the liberal leadership being condescending and taking working people's votes for granted.

Gabler ends with, "It’s condescension, stupid. And, by the way, don’t call them “stupid.’’ They hate that." I would add they're not stupid either. There are many intelligent, well-read, and curious people out there who never went to college, let alone have an advanced degree. Oh yeah, they're not all bigots either. My vehement ant-racism does not spring from my college education, but rather being taught by my working class parents that racism was wrong. This I learned from that growing up in a largely Irish-American neighborhood just outside of Boston during the busing crisis in the 70s.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


In Dennis Lehane's The Given Day, we are shown a picture of  the lives of ordinary working Americans at the end of World War I. The story revolves around the struggle of Boston policemen (public servants) to obtain a living wage and work conditions. Their work situation was unthinkable by modern standards: wages frozen at 1905 levels despite massive wartime inflation, 75-83 hour work weeks (and no overtime), no money for uniforms or equipment, overnight on-call duty periods in run-down, unsanitary stations, no compensation for those felled by the flu and no collective bargaining rights. The police finally did strike, and consequently were labeled Bolsheviks and anarchists, even though they were just ordinary working Americans who wanted a fair deal for dangerous work that included dealing with real violent anarchists. It would take many decades for public servants and other Americans to be given decent pay, benefits and working conditions they tried unsuccessfully get then. Looking at life back then who the hell would want to return America to 1919?

The so-called "Tea Party", that's who. For 1919 was a time when rights and protection of the law was determined mainly by wealth (the antithesis of the Enlightenment ideals the country was founded on). Their tactics are the same used in that time period, strike fear into the bigoted and stupid by associating any reasonable request by groups of workers to the most extreme elements around, manufacture budget crises,  demonize the opposition and use violent rhetoric and tough guy posturing, the last two are characteristics of authoritarian personalities BTW.

We are told by Wisconsin Governor Walker that the state faces a huge deficit due to to overpaid government employees who refuse to give up lavish salaries and benefits. BUT, it turns out that Wisconsin public employees make less than privately employed counterparts. How about that? And the projected budget shortfall there is not simply due to the economy, the tipping point was tax cuts the gov and new legislature enacted. Of course those cuts are what the majority of people who bother to turn out to vote wanted, of course those people probably also believe that taxes are higher than ever and there's not enough jobs cuz the Mex-a-cans take them all.

In reality the "....unions agreed to cuts in health care and retirement benefits that could reduce take-home pay for many workers by about 8 percent, and it was time for the Republican governor to compromise."  Amazingly, in the commentsbelow  immediately the article I link you to,  some yahoo (whose avatar is a Obama as a monkey) writes, "Where is the cry for democrats to compromise and work with Republicans? I guess only Repubs and independents are supposed to always give in to the democracks, but it's never the other way around." Reading comprehension is not these folks strong suit, and the willful ignorance, bigotry, poor education (evidence by bad spelling and grammar), blustering posture and admiration for tough guys who put people in their place is classic authoritarian "Tea Party".

Anyone who reads this blog knows I have no patience for corruption, knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and laziness and incompetence in the field of education. My rant here then is not some unthinking reflexive response from a dilettante academic leftist. Ultimately this is not about unions and pensions, its about taking away rights of ordinary Americans. Many TP authoritarians would love to eliminate the 40 hour week, benefits, safety regulations and minimum wage laws, even child labor laws. Stripping unions of collective bargaining is the first step, the next is to overturn the laws on the state and then federal level. This affects everyone, not just unionized public workers.

The question then is not just which side are you on, but do you want to move ahead in the 21st century, or back to 1919?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Marcellus News for Pennsylvania, Feb.14

Politics and Policy Debate
Hey look at this, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson got a free trip to the Super Bowl from Consol Energy. Perfectly legal BTW, as were their contributions to his campaign. Nuthin' to see here folks, keep moving. PoliticsPA has some more thoughts on this. UPDATE: Sen Scarnati says he will repay Consol for the Super Bowl trip -see no ethical problems...yeah

A Farming for the Future Conference in State College held discussions on Marcellus drilling, with particular attention paid to water issues.

Democrats in the State House are pushing once again for a severance tax on gas withdrawal.

State Reps. Greg Vitali and Tim Briggs will hold a hearing on taxing Marcellus drilling at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23 in the Upper Merion Township Building.

Buffalo, NY has banned hydrofracking,  a moot point as the Marcellus and other gas-bearing shale do not underlie the city.

Canton township is starting a Water Monitoring and Protection program. Meanwhile at the Palace Theater in Canton, there was a free screening of Gasland.

Allegheny Township's environmental advisory commission will study zoning and other issues surrounding gas shale drillimg.

Professor Abby Kinchy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will discuss local perspectives on Macellus issues during the upcoming American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C.

The DEP found no hazardous levels of volatile hydrocarbons from drilling ops during a four week study.

Planning to study: the EPA released their draft plan for a study of hydrofracking.

Business, Economics and Operations
Timber industry reps are hoping to reap some economic benefits from drilling operations in Pennsylvania. At the same time, drilling has been blamed for damage to forests in West Virginia.

In yet another intersection of timber harvesting and gas extraction, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reports that they have seen an increase in revenue related to gas drilling, but not enough to offset decreased timber harvest revenue.

Consol Energy said its proved reserves at the end of 2010 were 3.7 trillion cubic feet(Tcf), nearly double the 1.9 Tcf reported at the end of 2009.

In a sign of operations shifting from NY to PA, National Fuel is transferring twenty to thirty people from Amherst, NY to their Pittsburgh office.

Research and Markets report that natural gas production in Pennsylvania was 143bcfe (billion cubic feet equivalent) during calendar year 2009.

 A lack of pipeline infrastructure is hindering gas development up near the new York state line.

A puff piece on is touting economic rewards and low environmental  impacts from Marcellus drilling.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another Sunday and another round of Wackos and Strange News

A combination family law practice and gun dealership, what could possibly go wrong?

Speaking of penial substitutes, they'll be tryin' to take away yer second 'mendment rits and put yer in dem der FEMA death camps.  Maybe they'll process you first through the secret New World Order base - the Denver Airport! The Beckster is on top of it.

I'm not surprised that crooks are dumb in Rho D'islan, but they're not usually this laid back when hit with a setback

People are dumb everywhere, not just in the US.

A contagious disease at the Playboy Mansion?

Weight and name redundant Chris Christie doesn't want anyone polluting pristine Jersey.

It was cold down south in January -so climate change is debunked, right?

NASA's GISTEMP site has just released the January surface temperature anomalies :
Temperature anomalies for Jan 2011 based on comparison to 1951-1980 trends (click to enlarge).
So despite what people in, say Texas, think, it hasn't been colder than normal everywhere. In fact both polar regions were warmer than the base periods. in particular the Arctic has had an extraordinarily warm winter due to a warmer than usual Arctic Ocean and record low sea ice levels.

This in turn has pushed the cold winter air that forms in the polar regions towards the mid-latitudes.  
Not surprising, as 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record. But maybe its all due to high solar activity, which is reflected by sunspot abundance. Let' see:
Monthly sunspot numbers since 1750, from Solar Physics, Marshall Space Flight Center (click for larger image).
Guess not...although its probably all a calphiate-marxist-L.L. Bean-Suguaro cacti plot against freedom.

BTW:  It may hit 65 F here in SE Pennsylvania this Friday.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quick takes on Energy

With a schedule change in my life I hope to be back to consitently providing Marcellus news upadates net Monday. Meanwhile, there are a couple of quick updates to make on the energy front.

1) Oil supplies- my opinion on Wikileaks has mainly been, "tell us something we don;t already know." A leaked cable from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh shows that back in '07 the staff there was concerned about the Saudi's ability to meet demand and that they may hit peak oil in 2012. Nothing new for those who've been following this, but it is significant in that U.S. officials privately agreed with the PO scenario.  It also seems to have gained some traction as the story is on my Yahoo front page.

The other story is that the EPA is releasing information on how it will study fracking. The EPA's announcement states. "The scope of the proposed research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced or used water and its ultimate treatment and disposal."

Weather Woes and Climate Change Denial

Snow and ice in Dallas means that climate change is a fraud...or so some desperately believe.

But of course the key (in terms of temperature) to looking at the global climatic system is the avenge global temperature and temperature anomalies (departures from long term averages). This NASA animation shows the change in the five-year average anomalies from 1880 to 2010:

One consequence of over all warming is a change in the pattern of heat redistribution, which affects the way that air masses typically move and interact, in other words weather. Once again, climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. In a stable climate you can still get unusually cold, hot, wet, dry etc weather patterns, but overall those will not change what you expect over the long-term. But if these unusual events become more frequent, then what you would expect long-term would also shift, and you have climate change. As Chris Rowan at Highly Allocthonous pointed out recently, these unexpected events are the ones that have the greatest consequences, because we don't plan for them. Paul Krugman touched on a similar theme in a good synopsis of the current global weather situation, and what if may portend if it is indeed the result of growing climate instability. Not that a Keynesian economist will convince sociopathic denialists.  The extreme weather is partly responsible for the rise of food prices globally (oil prices figure in as well), and ongoing drought in China is threatening their vital wheat crop

Business as Usual cannot continue, changes will come in the way things are done, of that I am certain. What I do not know and what no one can know is how is will occur.  Part of the American mythology is the idea that we can as individuals and a country re-invent ourselves. Many who tells us that this happened in the past ("people got things done")believe that all the argument, foot-dragging and denialsim means we can longer do so. What they never learned is that past past challenges and change were accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of the teeth similar to what occurs today. The past then is both sobering and reassuring.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fear and Loathing over Egypt

Today we may be seeing revolt wash across the Arab world. In the mid-to late Eighteenth century, a wave of revolution began in the British North American colonies and over several swept through France, Ireland, Haiti, Poland and Latin America, the so-called Atlantic Revolutions. What happened then provides us with a lesson on how these waves behave and we it is foolish to attempt to control them or predict the outcome.

The Atlantic Revolutions all had intellectual roots in the Enlightenment, but the aspirations, goals and circumstances of the ordinary people who revolted varied considerably. The Thirteen Colonies were a unique collection of settlements, each founded with different motivations and possessing varying degrees of local democracy. The British settlers overall shared a level of prosperity and individual opportunities not available in the mother country and were imbued with a belief that they had certain inviolable rights as Englishmen. In comparison, the average French person lived in considerable poverty and under the threat of famine. The government was autocratic and medieval and levied the most oppressive taxes on those least able to afford them. In turn, conditions in Ireland, Poland and Latin America all had their own unique characteristics. In all cases the reasons for revolt existed, but it required one successful example to encourage the others to follow suit.

While the Enlightenment provided a common basis for the Atlantic revolts, each ran a different, unpredictable course and had different outcomes. The American Revolution established the United States, which exists as a stable democracy to this day, while France tore itself apart as their revolution turned increasingly radical. In contrast to the US, France has had two Empires, a restored Kingdom and five republics since 1789. Ireland and Poland's revolt utterly failed, and the Latin American revolts did not establish long-lasting, united and stable democracies.

To me, these examples show two things about a revolutionary wave. First, while ideals may be shared, the outcomes are uncertain and cannot be predicted. The US could have easily been subject to disunion and autocracy,  and France may have set a up a stable republic if not for foreign intervention trying to turn back the revolution. It is foolhardy to say with certainty where one revolution will lead based on another.

We now see a revolutionary wave beginning  in the Arab world. Tunisia provided the successful example. Jordan, Yemen and Egypt have degrees of unrest. The latter is the most developed (with a huge march demanding Mubarak's ouster going on at this moment) and is the one that has the most importance to the world as a whole. Looking at this situation, those who prefer order over democracy have raised the spector of a radical and terrorist friendly regime taking power. Some have stated a preference for a friendly dictator over the uncertainty of change, keeping Mubarak while managing reform and good ol' Rick Santorum claimed that the downfall of Mubarak is equivalent to the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of the Iranian Islamic state.  This is ridiculous and arrogant. No foreigner has the right to tell Egyptians what type of government they should have and there is no way of knowing how the revolution will pan out. The idea that an Islamic state is guaranteed to arise is unfounded. as is the notion that a post-Mubarak government would be friendly to Iran. The Iranian regime is not only hostile to the west and Israel, but also Arabs and Sunni Muslims - Egypt is Arabic with a majority population of Sunni Muslims.

No one knows what will happen and interference from the outside would probably provide popular support for any radical elements. All we can do is hope for the best and make sure to support a new democracy if it emerges as much as we supported Mubarak.

Update: More stupidity from Bolton.  These neo-con yahoos would love the US to turn into late 19th century Britain.