As Gov-er-nor Cor-bett pushes to give Royal Dutch Shell a $1.65 bil-lion tax credit, the Depart-ment of Envi-ron-men-tal Pro-tec-tion is inves-ti-gat-ing a poten-tial methane migra-tion prob-lem in Union Town-ship, Tioga County, involv-ing the company’s nat-ural gas drilling arm.
A Shell spokes-woman says the company’s tests show “a very low haz-ard risk to peo-ple, veg-e-ta-tion, and fish in the imme-di-ate area,” but Shell has nev-er-the-less asked peo-ple who live within a one-mile radius of the drilling site to tem-porar-ily evac-u-ate their homes.
DEP spokesman Daniel Spadoni con-firmed the probe in an email to StateIm-pact Penn-syl-va-nia. “DEP was noti-fied of the prob-lem by Shell on June 17,” he writes. “Shell is fully coop-er-at-ing with the response and investigation.”
Accord-ing to Spadoni, a drink-ing water well located 4,000 feet from a Shell drilling site began over-flow-ing this week-end. “Shell has sev-eral well pads in the area in var-i-ous stages of com-ple-tion. They stopped all oper-a-tions in the area when noti-fied of a prob-lem,” he wrote, not-ing “bub-bling was also noted at mul-ti-ple loca-tions in a nearby stream.”
The Wells-boro Gazette has posted a pic-ture of that “bub-bling,” which looks more like a minia-ture geyser shoot-ing fluid more than a foot above the ground.
Methane migra-tion occurs nat-u-rally, but has also been asso-ci-ated with faulty well cas-ing. DEP blames well con-t-a-m-i-na-tion prob-lems in Dimock on the issue.
Mean-time, Cor-bett and leg-isla-tive lead-ers have reached a ten-ta-tive agree-ment to grant Shell a $2.10-a-barrel tax break on ethane pur-chases. The bill would save Shell up to $66 mil-lion a year if it builds an ethane cracker in Beaver County. Shell would already ben-e-fit from a 15-year tax exemp-tion, due to leg-is-la-tion passed ear-lier this year.
You can read the rest of Spadoni’s state-ment below. We’ll post more infor-ma-tion when we have it.
DEP Oil and Gas staff col-lected water and iso-topic sam-ples from the hunt-ing club well and stream on June 18. A Shell con-trac-tor drilled a hole in the water well cas-ing and installed an over-flow line to stop the over-flow, installed methane alarms in the cabin, and will vent the well to the out-side today. DEP has rec-om-mended the cabin not be occu-pied until fur-ther notice.
Addi-tional sur-face expres-sions of gas along the road lead-ing to the hunt-ing cabin were dis-cov-ered on June 18, and Shell has placed secu-rity guards at both ends of the road to limit access. Shell is mon-i-tor-ing con-di-tions con-tin-u-ously in this area for any changes that may require addi-tional controls.
On Tues-day, June 19, Shell’s con-sul-tants had sev-eral teams begin screen-ing within a one-mile radius of the hunt-ing camp to check for methane gas and sam-ple any pri-vate drink-ing water wells poten-tially impacted. That screen-ing con-tin-ued yes-ter-day, June 20, within a one-mile radius of the three Shell gas well pads in the area. Shell is con-duct-ing fur-ther inves-ti-ga-tion and oper-a-tions on their nearby well pads. Yes-ter-day, June 20, DEP Oil and Gas staff mon-i-tored the hunt-ing cabin and sur-face expres-sions. No deter-mi-na-tion has been made regard-ing the source or sources of the methane, and the inves-ti-ga-tion is continuing.
Link to Wellsboro Gazette pictures: