Marcellus shale and….bikes??!?

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Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 1:01am #

Crazy development with this marcellus shale story.

i never thought bikes could be used for evil.

Energy company offers to extend Montour Trail

By Matthew Santoni


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Colorado-based energy company will build a 3-mile extension of the Montour Trail in Washington County in exchange for permission to build a railroad spur beside the trail to serve a facility that processes natural gas from Marcellus shale.

MarkWest Energy plans to restore the former Westland Branch of the defunct Montour Railroad through Cecil, Mt. Pleasant and Chartiers to connect a gas-processing facility outside Houston, Pa., to an active Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad line.

MarkWest will build a bicycle and pedestrian trail with a fence to separate it from the rebuilt rail line.

“It’s been our goal to focus most of our efforts on completing the main line of the trail,” said Gil McGurl, vice president of Montour Trail Council. “It would have been quite a long time before we got to extending a branch toward Westland.”

No cost estimate was available Tuesday. Engineering details and deals with some property owners between the trail and processing facility are being worked out, MarkWest attorney Christopher Rimkus said.

The trail council bought the former railroad land in the early 1990s but hasn’t made improvements to it. The spur will branch off from the existing trail near the intersection of Southview Road and Route 50 in Cecil, then run south and west parallel to Route 50, Hornhead Road and Johnson Road, ending just outside Westland, McGurl said.

MarkWest will lease the land for 30 years from the council. McGurl would not say how much the council would get annually, except that it would be in the “low six figures.” The money would not be nearly enough to complete the mainline trail but could be set aside for long-term maintenance of existing trails and bridges, he said.

“From what I know, it’s a heck of a deal,” MarkWest spokesman Russ Moran said. The company processes raw gas from wells into usable natural gas and other products, such as methane and butane, that are shipped by truck.

“Rail delivery of these products … is a whole lot safer than moving them in tanker trucks,” McGurl said. “The plant’s there, it’s producing a lot of material, and putting this railroad in will provide a safety improvement. … From our perspective, it’s a win-win.”

A public meeting to explain the project is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Cecil Township Municipal Building on Millers Run Road.


The Montour Trail Council also just announced a successful negotiation with another energy company, Range Resources, for a gas lease on more than 180 acres of land owned by the trail council. The council will create an endowment fund with the initial $511,000 payment on the lease. You can learn more about this arrangement in the latest edition of the Montour Trail-Letter.

The Montour Trail Council stated they are aware of the many environmental and community concerns associated with drilling for natural gas, but they feel they have been diligent in protecting the interest of the trail.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 1:33am #

With regard to the Westland branch: my understanding is that the processing facility is a done deal, which had nothing to do with the Montour Trail Council; the railroad spur merely means that the crap will be transported by rail instead of road. I’m no fan of the shale processing, but I’d rather have the gas and leftover pollutants move by rail than via heavy trucks.

I’m less than thrilled about the Range Resource gas lease deal in principle, but I haven’t read up on any of the details.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 1:37am #


Google the vp of the Montour Trail Council quoted above. He seems to be tied to the energy industry.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 2:36am #

Oh snap! This sounds like a bad episode of Batman…The evil villain posses as an environmentalist and becomes a VP on the Montour Trail Council. Then leases away properly right of ways and the mineral rights to gas companies he may have interest in…


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 2:40am #

Well there’s only so much you can decipher by “googling.” After all, sometimes there’s more than one person with the same name. Internet info can be inaccurate, outdated, etc.

I still smell a rat, though.

Anyway, sounds like there will at least be a scenic fence to separate cyclists from truck traffic.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 2:44am #

but..but…bikes are so pure.

i think this single handedly quadrupled the carbon footprint of the cycling industry

Google the vp of the Montour Trail Council quoted above. He seems to be tied to the energy industry.



Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 3:19am #

This sort of game happens w/ roads in State and National Forest land all the time.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 5:34am #

This was hashed from several different perspectives at I don’t think any one individual can hijack the Board, and I don’t see proof that anybody has acted in bad faith. FWIW, I do not support this fracking industry, which I think is going to ruin the environment for generations.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 2:05pm #

There may be a silver lining to this cloud…..or several.

If you separate out the specific industry, this is not really news — an industry wants to make use of railbanked corridor. That’s what the corridor was railbanked FOR, quite honestly. We see the same thing happening in Armstrong County right now. In the case of the Montour, however, the trail group and the industry have agreed that the trail has value, and the industry will replace the trail – at their expense – and will create an endowment that will provide for trail maintenance down the road (trail maintenance dollars are hard to come by….) So, pretty much all is good for the Montour Trail and Washington County, which gets a new industry, with jobs. Pretty good too for the railroad, which gets another customer.

Looking beyond the immediate impacts, Pennsylvania gets ANOTHER “rail with trail.” Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania railroads have been fighting this concept for as long as I can remember. While other states frequently feature an active (low volume, low speed) railroad and a trail in the same corridor, it is something that PA has resisted. You can count the PA examples on one hand. Railroads cite security concerns.

Getting one here, on the Montour, may put Armstrong in a better position in their efforts to get the railroad in their area to consider a rail with trail configuration, at least where the corridor is wide enough to accommodate both.

So yes, we all understand the “evils” of marcellus shale and fracking for gas and all that. But, if you separate out the specific evildoer here, I see the glint of silver in the rain clouds.

As for participation on the Montour Trail Council Board, they are free to invite/elect anyone they feel is a good fit. Maybe this is a case of keeping your friends close, and your enemies closer? or an effort to make friends of potential adversaries?


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 2:47pm #

just don’t drink the water


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 2:54pm #

Swalfoort, You are correct it takes more then one person to sway a board. Is there not one environmentally conscious person in that group to stand up and refuse to take the gas company money?

Not one person on that board to bring the lease of the gas rights to the public’s attention before it’s to late?


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 3:21pm #

If you separate out the specific industry, this is not really news — an industry wants to make use of railbanked corridor. That’s what the corridor was railbanked FOR, quite honestly.

the problem is you can’t separate out the specific industry when it’s so destructive.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 3:53pm #

@Swalfoort, Greasefoot – I dunno – I’ve been on boards where it was pretty much one person with an agenda, and everybody else was there for fundraising. I totally think one person can hi-jack a board (apologies to the Montour Board, which I know nothing about).

@Swalfoort – I’m not sure we all do know all of the evils, but like erok says: don’t drink the water. Fracking basically results in our drinking water becoming cancer causing. All of us.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 4:01pm #

Did they have to meet at a crossrads to sign the deal? Just asking.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 4:17pm #

IMHO the damage was really done in Harrisburg. We just get to feel the effects of this statewide over the next generation or so. Pretty much the same thing happened 120 years ago with coal and railroads, 90 years ago with oil, 60 years ago with roads, and the last 30 with suburbia on steroids. Once a generation, a different reason to rape Mother Nature. All with the assistance of a bought-and-paid-for legislature.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 4:35pm #

I thought I would add my $.02 here.

1. This is apparently a railbanked corridor. The railbanking law provides that banked corridors can be “unrailbanked” for productive economic use.

2. If a corridor is unbanked, the law provides that the parties involved are to attempt to provide an alternative trail route to replace the existing one that has been unbanked.

3. In PA, both public and private railroads have a statutory power of condemnation. (This is a carryover from the days when the steel, coal, oil and lumber industries relied on railroads to transport their materials and products.)

The railroad holds the trump ace here with its power of condemnation. Since the Montour Trail Council knows this, it behooves them to see what kind of a deal they can work out instead of allowing a condemnation and letting the railroad possibly take absolute title to the corridor forever.

So what did the Council negotiate out of this?

1. The railroad does not get outright ownership of the corridor. The Council retains ownership and gave the railroad a 30 year lease.

2. The Council gets a 30 year cash flow stream instead of lump sum payment. That gives them al lot more flexibility in planning since they have a guaranteed income base for 30 years. (We’ll see what that does to their funding otherwise, but that’s another story.)

3. They got a replacement trail.

Considering that the railroad holds that trump ace, this seems to me to be as good a deal as they could get.

This paragraph may get me in trouble with some of you, but it seems to me the real question here is whether the Council did the best it could with the circumstances it had to deal with. We can reasonably disagree over the merits of Marcellus shale drilling, but I think it’s an overall context and is tangentially relevant at best to the issue here. We could also debate and disagree with whether the railroad should have taken the opportunity to make money in this manner and further the Marcellus shale industry. But that’s moot since they already have decided to do so.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 4:35pm #

@Stu — +100.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 4:54pm #

thanks for the insight cdavey. all good points. i was sure that there was more of a back story to it, and considering how volatile the whole marcellus issue is right now, i was surprised that there wasn’t more info out there on this…in the news, in their newsletter, etc. it just seems like stating the case better would help them in the long run.

i always thought about what would happen if the railroads decided that they wanted the trail land back. i don’t think anyone thought that the trails would be as popular and actually provide the economic boost to some of these towns like they have.

but then there’s the second issue where they are leasing the gas rights as well. again. considering the volatility of the subject, it seems that unless the case is stated, it’s coming across like more people jumping in on the gold rush.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 5:20pm #

it seems like they leased the gas rights without consulting the public on this. have you seen THIS:

thats pittsburgh mills mall. so that’s whats going in next to the bike trail. apparently people have gotten nose bleeds, headaches, nausea, sore throats.. i know this stuff severely poisons the water. but did they consider the impact this will have on air quality? this is especially important next to a bike trail. i feel like these people let us down.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 5:25pm #

“I know this stuff severely poisons the water.” The shit water they pump into the ground to “fracture” and release the gas is full of every despicable kind of chemical you can imagine. That is now all a part of the water shed. The entire Allegheny valley, the Monongahela valley – you name it, because it is happening all over the state, is being poisoned. Once that water reaches water treatment facilities, the chlorine that is normally used combines with these THM’s to form salts called bromides, which cause cancer. All the brita filters in the world can’t protect you from this.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 5:28pm #

it seems like they leased the gas rights without consulting the public on this

according to their own newsletter, that wasn’t considered.

The MTC Board, after carefully considering the matter and evaluating the best course of action for the trail and our users, decided that if we could be guaranteed that there would be zero negative impact on the trail, we should pursue the matter.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 5:34pm #

well, here’s the whole article to decide for yourselves

Montour Trail Receives Marcellus Money by Mark Imgrund

In early 2009, the Montour Trail Council was contacted by a few of the companies leasing Marcellus

gas rights in southwestern Pennsylvania about leasing the gas rights under the trail in Washington County.

The MTC Board, after carefully considering the matter and evaluating the best course of action for the trail

and our users, decided that if we could be guaranteed that there would be zero negative impact on the trail,

we should pursue the matter. Two of the companies who approached us were selected to negotiate with and

investigate the possibilities further.

An ad hoc committee, comprised of Charlie Beaumariage, Mark Imgrund, Dave Oyler, and Peter

Kohnke, performed considerable research regarding many factors, and recommended Range Resources as

the best choice for the MTC. After more than a year of negotiating, consulting with attorneys, and making

certain that the leases included absolutely no surface rights that might impact the trail, earlier this year the

board unanimously voted to lease Marcellus gas rights under 180+ acres of the MTC’s property in Washington

County. Signing the lease was the first step, at which time Range Resources had to do several months work of

title searches to establish those parcels where the MTC held the appropriate gas rights.

In October, the MTC received the first check from this lease, what is commonly referred to as the

“bonus”, but which is really a 5-year paid-up lease payment, in the amount of $511,000.00. The MTC board

has already voted to appropriate $50,000.00 of this to the trail endowment fund, and with several upcoming

trail construction projects that are likely to be in need of capital funds, is holding the rest in reserve. Future

board actions will determine where the rest of this money can best be spent to leverage our grant dollars and

make the most positive impact to trail users.

In coming years, it is expected that portions of trail property (several thousand feet below the

surface) will become part of future Marcellus drilling units. If the resulting wells are as productive as those

already drilled have been, the MTC stands to share in gas royalties which could easily amount to several

times the initial payment we’ve already received. The board is aware of some recent concerns being leveled

at the Marcellus gas industry in southwestern Pennsylvania, but is confident that the MTC’s negotiated lease

protects the interests of our trail while providing considerable financial support for future trail construction and

maintenance activities.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 5:35pm #

what stu said plus – the effects are cumulative. Each disaster builds on the one before it.

My in-laws live in Moon. A farmer near them has signed a lease. The gas company approached their HOA with an “information session” that white washed all major concerns, so they asked me for information. Unfortunately I gave it to them before understanding their position fully.

Their “neighbor” already signed the lease. That property, and all the properties around it, will be fracked whether or not they sign a lease, thanks to the single entry point for multiple channels method of extraction. Thus they can either make $20/month for 15 years, or none. Either way, the damage is done, completely out of their control.

The chemicals they are putting in our watershed, either deliberately or not, either legally or not, cannot be removed by any municipal water treatment plant currently in place. But I’m sure the good Governor, who can’t find money to keep the roads paved, will definitely find money to upgrade all our water treatment systems. These chemicals are not vitamins, and will not help our children grow big and strong. And we have absolutely no choice about consuming them, having them flow past our houses, or having them rain down on our gardens.

It’s too late for virtually anybody in PA to “take a stand” agains the gas companies by refusing to sign leases. All they’d be doing is shooting themselves in the foot after their neighbors shot them in the leg.

So I think it’s lovely that the Montour Trail people have found a way to work with the gas company and the railroad to ensure the good people of the area get some benefit from the raping. Industry ties in this instance didn’t deliver any death blow to the watersheds. That was delivered a long time ago.

But hey, the grass still grows in Centralia (well, in some places), so we’ll all be just fine, right?


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 5:40pm #

I hate to say this but the members of this board must be ignorant to what shall drilling is doing to the environment or just did not care.

The Montour Rails to Trails group should have been an enormous obstacle for leasing the mineral rights in Western PA.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 6:05pm #

can i ask what may seem like a silly question? does anyone have any relatively unbiased information on the expected environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing? everything i find has a stated agenda, and statements like “That is now all a part of the water shed.” don’t add up, based on what i know about it.

i know this has been all over, and i have more than a few friends who have attended and even organized protests over this issue, but i must admit that i find myself woefully underinformed.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 6:09pm #

It is hard to get the full picture on environmental impact because the chemicals that are used as part of the process are proprietary. The specific ingredients are a trade secret.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 6:12pm #

does anyone have any relatively unbiased information on the expected environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing?

try wikipedia?


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 6:27pm #

Google THMs, bromides. In the last 6 months bromide levels in PWSA facilities have risen, and although it is too soon for a “comprehensive study” to have been performed, it aint from goose poop.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 6:27pm #

I’m with Ejwme on this. The leasing or not-leasing question is very complicated. Having said that, I think the current gas extraction business needs to be put on hold in PA until our laws and regulations catch up to were they need to be, especially concerning the use of chemicals and the disposal of wastewater. I’m not against drilling for gas, oil, coal or any other resource IF it is done in such a way as to not diminish or harm the environment. Even wind turbines (which I support) can have a negative impact on the environment if construction of service roads, etc., are not done correctly. I will reserve my anger toward our state and federal legislators, not toward landowners who may not have all the facts, or may have limited choices.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 6:32pm #

There’s no readily available information on the effects to groundwater or other common resources from deep well production and completion in the Appalachian Basin.

That is, people are not employing adequate due diligence before inducing fractures, faults and fissures into the ground beneath us. Or at least they’re not releasing proprietary exploration data.

NETL is spearheading a DOE study of deep injections into local geologic formations for carbon sequestration. Kinda queer they worry about the feasibility of the sequestration process, but make no fuss regarding gas extraction at similar depths in high temperature and high pressure environments.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 6:57pm #

this thread is making me want to move before stef and i breed.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 7:07pm #

Try New Mexico. Very little water to despoil there.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 7:14pm #

You might want to stay away from these areas then:


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 7:26pm #

if we do move its going to be to hawaii or the pnw. go big or go home, right?


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 7:54pm #

also: “air pollution created by Barnett Shale gas drilling and production in Texas is equivalent to all the air pollution created by vehicular traffic in the Dallas-Ft Worth metroplex”

-from here citing thisstudy


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 8:15pm #

My impression is that the chemicals used in fracking are incredibly hazardous if not handled correctly, but the actual watershed damage from fracking is almost non-existent. The companies that work the gas do not comply with current regulations for dealing with those chemicals. The current regulations are also inadequate to protect us.

New regulation are being fought by the entire well-funded right wing mainstream media. (presumably using money from the energy companies – someone has to buy all those tea bags and it sure isn’t like that is truly a populsit movement)

The energy comapies don’t really mind the argument that goes back and forth:

“We shouldn’t allow any fracking”


“Fracking done appropriately is relatively benign”

The reason the companies dont’ mind that conflict is this fight distracts from the truth that these companies ARE NOT handling the fracking chemicals appropriately. The regulations are not being enforced and the regulations need to be upgraded.

It’s like someone driving 130 mph down the turnpike arguing that cars, when driven appropriately, are relatively safe. (well, there aren’t, but that is a differnt thing)


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 11:06pm #

@Mick – the municipality I represent was notified by PWSA of increased levels of bromides in the water, which they attribute to Marcellus Shale fracking in the Allegheny valley. Similar notifications have been sent in the Mon and Yough valleys. So, on what do you base your assertion “actual watershed damage from fracking is almost non-existent” ?


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 11:19pm #

I suppose “damage” is relative to the level of increase. Hard to say, without understanding what the previous levels were, what the increased levels are, and at what point they cross the line into hazard territory.

Personally, I’d be a lot happier if the burden of proof of safety was on the drilling companies as a prerequisite to any further drilling, but that ship has apparently long since sailed. “Hey, you can’t prove that it’s dangerous, and you can’t even prove that anything in the water came from us, so we’ll just forge merrily ahead. JobsEnergyDomesticJobsSecurityJobsEconomyJobs.”


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 11:30pm #

I was in a meeting on Monday with a guy whose specialty is environmental permitting. The topic of Marcellus permitting came up with regard to job possibilities. His response: There aren’t any. Any other sort of mining work, you’re looking at $100K in fees and six months of studies (which is what he does). Marcellus, he says, you want to drill, you sign some forms, swear on a Bible that you’ll try real hard not to do anything bad, pay $4,500 or so, and 3 weeks later, your permit arrives. End of story.


Private Message

Jan 19 2011 at 11:44pm #

@almklm – the municipality I represent was notified by PWSA of increased levels of bromides in the water, which they attribute to Marcellus Shale fracking in the Allegheny valley.

If my impression is correct, an increase in harmful chemicals due to frucking would be mroe due to haphazard treatment of hazardous chemicals on the surface. The gas companies have been well-docuemented for being lax in that.

Surface spills are a whole lot more likely to lead to bromides in rivers and drinking water than high pressure fracking chemicals injected one to 4 miles deep.

I don’t know a lot about bromine chemistry, but I’d guess it would take a century or two -if ever – for those chemicals to leech up to the water table. I’m thinking most of them would bind with some kind of mineral or another.

Spill them – or store them in a sloppy fashion – on the surface? Next time it rains, its in the river.

I’m not an expert on this. This is just my impression from doing an afternoon of net-surfing a few months ago.

Wiki lists this incident in it’s fracking entry.

“A well blowout in Clearfield County, PA on June 3, 2010 sent more than 35,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids into the air and onto the surrounding landscape in a forested area. Campers were evacuated and the company EOG Resources and the well completion company C.C. Forbes have been ordered to cease all operations in the state of Pennsylvania pending investigation. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has called this a ‘serious incident’.”

This is what I would expect – not fracking fluids properly used migrating througha mile of bedrock, but rather thousands of gallons spewing out on the surface.

I don’t know, but I would guess there is a long, long list of established procedures that EOG Resources failed to follow.

Again I don’t know, but I’d guess: The penalties on EOG resources were so mild that 1) the company is still doing business and 2) none of the managers that allowed this to happen is in jail.

So, the companies spew their toxins all over the valley -generally by showing a disregard for current regulations. Next time the legislature has a hearing, they trot out their experts, who can say that “if proper procedures are followed” fracking is safe.

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