Energy In Depth builds on our earlier post to reveal some stunning facts about the Cabot Oil and Gas commitment to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.
Earlier this week I wrote a post responding to Deborah Hughes, of Jeromesville, Ohio, who recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Ashland Times-Gazette attempting to denigrate Cabot Oil and Gas generally as well as its economic contributions to Susquehanna County. My work built on an earlier letter by Kelsey Mulac of Cabot Oil and Gas to the paper. As I noted, there was much more to be said and Nicole Jacobs at Energy In Depth has delivered with this must-read post.
What Energy In Depth has assembled is really a primer on the impact Cabot and Oil Gas has had on Susquehanna County. Here are some of the economic highlights:
Cabot has actually paid $1 billion in royalties to residents of Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties as of the summer of 2017, a vast majority of which has been distributed in Susquehanna County, where Cabot has developed all but two of its Pa. shale wells.
To be clear, a $1 billion infusion is huge for a county with a population of less than 42,000 people. For perspective, Ashland County’s population of roughly 53,000 people isn’t much higher.
And that’s just the royalties. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of some of Cabot’s overall community investments:
Royalties More than $1 billion as of June 2017 Bonus Payments More than $476 million as of June 2017 Capital Investments More than $4.6 billion as of June 2017 Impact Fee Payments More than $88.2 million since 2012 Road Repairs More than $49.5 million since 2009 Lackawanna College $2.5 million endowment Endless Mountains Health System $2.2 million of the $4.4 million total raised
That chart alone represents more than $6.2 billion in investments, and doesn’t even include things like the yearly “Give a screening, get a screening” program, Junior Achievement educational partnerships, annual toy and food drives, time, equipment and monetary donations to the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center, increased natural gas local distribution campaigns, and various other grants over the last decade.
Then, there is this:
In fact, a 2017 PricewaterhouseCooper study found that the oil and natural gas industry directly and indirectly employed more than 300,000 people in Pennsylvania in 2015.
From local hotels and restaurants to truck drivers and excavation companies, and of course the employees working directly on a well site, the natural gas industry has helped to spur unprecedented employment and business growth in the Appalachian Basin.
And, this responding to Hughes claims about Dimock methane migration problems:
It was not “overwhelming evidence” that led to Cabot being held responsible for claims of methane migration for several households within a nine-square mile area in Dimock known as the Dimock Box. The company fell under Pennsylvania’s “presumption of liability” law, meaning that a company is held accountable for any contamination within a certain distance from a well regardless of whether it had anything to do with it. In the absence of baseline water testing that went above and beyond the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) required circumference from the well in 2009, Cabot had no solid evidence under the law to prove it did not cause methane to migrate under the law.
Cabot entered a “Consent Agreement” with these households that halted drilling and completions in the Dimock Box, required the company to supply water for a period of time, pay for treatment and regularly test the water quality for those households. It also led to some monetary settlements and cases of litigation – the most recent of which was sent for retrial in March 2017.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DEP and Cabot’s water testing all showed that levels of methane were reduced with and without treatment in these households. In fact, the EPA’s 2012 testingconcluded that water quality did not pose a threat to human health and no further action was warranted by the agency.
Equally important to understand is that a myriad of water studies, historical accounts and expert testimonieshave concluded the county has a long history of naturally occurring methane in its water supplies. A 2018 Yale University study found water quality in Susquehanna County has not been impaired by natural gas drilling, and a 2018 Penn State University study of Bradford County, Pa. found water quality has actually improved since shale development began in the region. Additionally, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s (SRBC) continuous monitoring of the basin – of which Susquehanna and Bradford counties are located – has found “no discernable impacts” to water quality or quantity in the region from oil and gas activities year after year.
Unlike the contradictory data cited by Hughes – data that comes from two organizations with clear agendas to shut down the Appalachian Basin’s oil and gas industry: Earthworks and Public Herald – the Yale, Penn State and SRBC findings are based on actual water sampling and monitoring near shale activity.
Further, a situation like this is even less likely to occur in Ohio because the state has far stricter water well regulations than neighboring Pennsylvania. A recent University of Cincinnati water quality study, which found no increases in methane concentration in water wells in five of the most heavily developed shale counties in Ohio, further demonstrates this fact.
Hughes also channeled Tony Ingraffea with a claim that “Well casing failure rates have not improved; there are still 6.3 percent of new well casings that fail and that number just gets higher as they age.” Here is how that nonsense was addressed:
As EID has previously and extensively reported, the claim that well casing failures are happening at alarming rates has also been thoroughly debunked. EID’s 2014 infographic explains just how rare well casing failures actually are.
And earlier this year, DEP released its comprehensive analysis of the structural integrity of shale wells across the Commonwealth finding that “the majority of wells in the state are being operated in a manner that greatly reduces the risk for groundwater impacts.” Further, DEP explained that gas or fluid migration from a well “has the greatest potential to result in environmental concerns,” but 2014 data demonstrated that this is not a widespread issue for the state’s oil and gas industry. In fact, according to DEP, the data “showed that less than 1 percent of operator observations indicated the types of integrity problems, such as gas outside surface casing, that could allow gas to move beyond the well footprint.”
This as nice a summary as one will find of the impact of Cabot Oil and Gas on Susquehanna County. Every day the naysayers lose more of their luster as Cabot shines ever more brightly.