Growing Pressure on EPA

Jim Brown
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Thursday's scheduled public meeting on hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania was postponed because planned attendance rose from 1200 to more than 8000. The EPA is under growing pressure to halt the fracturing process.

Thursday's public EPA meeting in Binghamton was set to be the largest meeting of its type and attendance plans were skyrocketing. The meeting place, Binghamton University, raised their fee to hold the meeting to $39,000 because of the need for extra security, parking and personnel. They were originally expecting only twelve hundred.

The EPA said it was necessary to move the meeting 77 miles to the Oncenter Convention Center in Syracuse because of the rising attendance and the rising cost. The EPA will pay only $2,500 for the Oncenter.

The meeting is drawing so much attention because of the concerns over drinking water pollution from fracking in the Marcellus shale. The EPA is doing a couple million dollars of research on the problem and has held meetings in Fort Worth, Denver and Canonsburg PA. There will be three, four hour long speaking sessions at the rescheduled meeting rather than just one four hour session in the other events. Gas industry spokesman Jim Smith said the move may have been planned to disrupt protestors who also had spent much time and effort organizing for the Binghamton event. He was hoping the change in venue would add some civility to the process.

The anti-drilling movement is growing rapidly and the EPA is taking fire from all directions as is "officially" tries to determine if fracturing is dangerous or not. Because of the enormous income states and the federal government receives from drilling fees and royalties they don't want to find out that the process is dangerous. Then they would have to do something about it.

I believe we are heading for a showdown and the government is going to have to place a temporary ban on fracturing until they decide how to handle it. This has already been discussed with a 12-month ban in the Marcellus acreage. This would be catastrophic to the gas drillers.

I wrote last week about the drillers trying to dump their gas properties and move into oil properties because of the fracturing debate and the higher profit from oil compared to gas. Check the archives for that in depth article.

There is another attack on the fracturing process. Protestors are attacking the water used by the fracturing process. In Pennsylvania the drillers do not have the right to take water out of lakes, streams or rivers. Only the landowner adjacent to the water can remove water for use on his own land. Fracturing a gas well requires up to three million gallons of water. If the protestors can legally prevent drillers from acquiring the water for use on non adjacent properties then they can shutdown the fracturing process. Suits have been filed in an attempt to halt the use of water they do not own. This is just one more reason why gas drillers are trying to dump their holdings and move to oil production elsewhere.

EOG Resources (EOG) said on Friday they were looking to sell 180,000 shale acres in the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and Haynesville. Originally they sought to find a joint venture partner but conditions are changing so fast they decided on an outright sale. Their reasoning was to avoid spreading their workforce too thin on properties where they were not the outright owner.

EOG hopes to changes their production mix to 25% oil from 10% today by 2015 with the eventual goal of changing from primarily a gas producer to an oil producer.

Jim Brown

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