Tuesday, February 24, 2009

City of Clinton may have found a way to clean and recycle water from Fayetteville shale gasp-drilling rigs

Mayor: Method found to purify drilling water
Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2009
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/253313/
Using an idle sewer plant in town, the city of Clinton has found a way to recycle contaminated water used in the natural-gas drilling process, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has learned.

"We have a process that will clean all the drill wastewater," Clinton Mayor Roger Rorie said Monday evening.

In a meeting next week, the mayor, along with Siemens Water Technologies representatives, will present to four of the gas companies drilling in the Fayetteville Shale findings from recent tests the city conducted on water taken from drilling sites. Several elected officials also have been invited.

"We feel like we have the answer for the Fayetteville Shale," Rorie said.

The Fayetteville Shale is a geologic formation where companies are drilling for natural gas in north-central Arkansas.

Natural-gas companies use millions of gallons of water to drill each well in the formation and to break up the rock to release the gas. Some wastewater already is being spread on vacant land in a process called land application or land farming.

Other wastewater from drilling is too salty or laden with chemicals and must be pumped into injection disposal wells. Arkansas, because it's newer to the shale business, lacks infrastructure to adequately process both types of drilling water.

Teresa Marks, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said Monday evening that her agency will have to evaluate several things before the city could begin the water-recycling process.

"That would be wonderful if that could happen because certainly recycling that water would be a wonderful thing for the environment," Marks said. "This may be a viable option, but what we'll have to do is look at the law, the terms of [the city's] permit and the technology they have, to see if they can successfully treat what's in that ... water."

Rorie said his city does not yet have a contract with any drilling companies and has not been paid by any of the companies to conduct the tests. But if the companies and the state approve the idea, Rorie said, the city could move equipment for the process into the sewer plant within days.

The city stands to gain a substantial amount of money if the process is given the go-ahead, though Rorie said he isn't pushing the idea for the city to "get rich." Treating the wastewater could help the city keep its drinking-water supply safe, he said.

The sewer plant, one of two in the city, has been idle since October. It was dedicated to processing waste from the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant until it closed in Oct. 10.

Because the plant offered hundreds of manufacturing jobs, the city took out millions of dollars in debt to build the sewer plant and a 16-inch waterline to serve Pilgrim's. In 2007 alone, the city spent $140,000 upgrading the sewage plant.

Since the processing plant closed, the city has been losing about $30,000 a month in water and sewer revenue. To cope, the city laid off one employee and would have laid off another had he not retired.

The city has lost all of its major manufacturing companies over the past few years. Rorie believes that this water-treatment process would create 50 to 60 new jobs in Clinton.

Natural-gas companies drilling in the area gave the city permission to take water samples of "flow back" from drilling sites. Using filtering equipment from Siemens, the city processed the water at its idle sewer plant.

Samples of the water were pulled out during three different stages of treatment and sent to the private lab, Environmental Service Co.

"We've got potable water," Rorie said.

The city hopes to recycle 80 of every 100 gallons of water it treats by selling it back to the gas-drilling companies.

The rest, he said, would go into injection wells.

A spokesman for Chesapeake Energy said Monday night that the company has been in informal talks with Rorie about the possible water recycling.

"We look forward to learning more," spokesman Mark Raines said.

A spokesman for Southwestern Energy Co. did not return a call for comment.

Asked what gas company officials have said to him about the idea, Rorie said, "They have been jumping up and down wanting to know when we will be in operation."

Information for this article was contributed by Laura Stevens of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Copyright © 2001-2009 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sierra Club to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 24, 2009, for presentation on environmental bills in legislature

The Ozark Headwaters Group of the Sierra Club will be meeting
tomorrow, Tuesday Feb. 24th, at 7 pm at U.S. Pizza Company on Dixon
Street in Fayetteville. The Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks has a fun
and informative presentation planned. Also Bill Kopsky of the Arkansas
Public Policy Panel will be discussing the environmental bills that
will be coming before the Arkansas Legislature this year and the
upcoming rally day at the Capitol building. You do not have to be a
member to attend!
For more information contact Molly at mollyrawn@gmail.com or at 479 527 9499

Monday, February 16, 2009

House committee caps citizen rights not gas wells

Eminent-domain Bill Dies in Committee
By Arkansas Business Staff - 2/11/2009 3:15:01 PM

A bill restricting private oil and gas companies from claiming eminent domain failed to make it out of a House committee on Wednesday.

HB1178 by Rep. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, went before the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development but was killed on a 9-6 vote.

The bill clarified that a pipeline company does not have the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain for the purpose of the construction or operation of a gathering line. Dismang said the purpose of the bill was to provide landowners the ability to effectively negotiate with oil companies over the location of gathering lines and well sites.

The bill is a response to the activity in the Fayetteville Shale play.

More analysis from Capsearch.com Here: http://www.capsearch.com

February 11, 2009
Rep. Dismang’s Eminent Domain bill fails in committee
Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt Price @ 3:11 pm
HB1178 from Rep. Jonathan Dismang went before the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development today. The bill clarified that a pipeline company does not have the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain for the purpose of the construction or operation of a gathering line. Rep. Dismang stated that the purpose of his bill was to grant landowners the ability to effectively negotiate with oil companies over the location gathering lines and well sites. Mr. Don Rainey, an attorney in Searcy, Arkansas testified that he has represented landowners in White County for over 30 years and that he did not believe oil and gas companies should have the power of eminent domain for gathering lines and well sites. Mr. Rainey stated that prior to enacting A.C.A. §23-15-101 the power of eminent domain had never been granted by the Arkansas Legislature to unregulated private corporations.

Mr. Jerry Canfield, Esq., an attorney for Chesapeake Energy, spoke against the bill. Mr. Canfield stated that Article 12, Section 9 of the Arkansas Constitution allowed the power of eminent domain to be given to privately held corporations. Within Chesapeake’s business, the process of “Unitizing” pipelines was essential to the effective transport and production of natural gas. Mr. Canfield further stated that private condemners pay full value of the property easement even if the condemner takes only the easement and not the full fee.

Representatives of groups including the Fayetteville Shale Citizens Association, White County Farm Bureau, Arkansas Conservation Alliance and Arkansas Farm Bureau spoke in favor of the bill while several royalty owners spoke against the bill. Of particular note were statements made by Kenneth May, President of the White County Farm Bureau and Rodney Baker with Arkansas Farm Bureau. Mr. May stated that his 6,300 member group took up the issue of oil and gas companies eminent domain power and at a December meeting unanimously voted to support HB1178. Mr. May said that the complete unanimity with which his group supported this bill and the fact that the bill was being addressed today demonstrates that a real problem exists. Though conservative, Mr. Baker said that Arkansans recognize that there is a need for eminent domain. However, in this instance, Mr. Baker stated that the Arkansas Farm Bureau saw the use of eminent domain as Chesapeake taking advantage of the Arkansas Code to avoid regulation while simultaneously obtaining the power of eminent domain.

The final vote was 9 votes against and 6 votes for HB1178.

FOR: Sample, King, Rice, Dale, Betts, Nickels.

AGAINST: Everett, Reep, Davenport, Wills, Lowery, Cash, Reynolds, House and Patterson.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Arkansas Times reports on arrogance of natural-gas pipeliners

Pipeline company’s right to condemn land contested.
Published 2/5/2009
Beverly Strain-Eads is 70 years old. She's a great-grandmother and a cattle rancher. About 24 years ago, she bought a ranch near Greenbrier called the Circle Z. It was her plan to raise cattle along with the help of Kirk Hicks, a long-time friend and business partner who now works as the ranch foreman, and eventually sell the land for development. This, she thought, would surely be enough to support her family, and the Hicks family, in the years after their retirement.

That was before she got a letter from Arkansas Midstream, a pipeline company owned by Chesapeake Energy. The letter, which she received in March of last year, said a pipeline would be installed on her land. She had seven days to respond to the letter and if she had not agreed by that time the company would condemn the land and file for eminent domain.

Work began in May and was complete in December. The result: “It's torn up my ranch from north to south and east to west,” she said. “They have caused over $200,000 of legitimate damages to my property: fences down, ponds ruined, big valves put up on my land.”

Strain-Eads is not alone: Other landowners across the state have received similar letters. A White County landowner has sued, arguing that pipeline companies' power of eminent domain is restricted to common carriers, lines that transmit gas from multiple sources, across state lines or provide some other public benefit, and not gathering lines, those that take gas from only one company's well to a transmission line. Plaintiffs plan to appeal a Circuit Court ruling in favor of the pipeline company to the state Supreme Court.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission takes the position that it does not have regulatory authority over gathering lines. Landowner advocates say if that's the case, then pipeline companies shouldn't have the power to condemn land to build them.

State Rep. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, agrees, and he has introduced a bill that would keep companies that build gathering lines from using the power of eminent domain.

“These gathering lines are not community lines, they're just for one producer,” Dismang said. “The problem is that eminent domain is being used as a first resort instead of a last resort. Companies have been operating in the state for years and have never used eminent domain to acquire a pipeline easement. But Arkansas Midstream feels that they have that power and they're not really negotiating with our landowners.”

The line going across Strain-Eads' land is a gathering line. Unlike many landowners, Strain-Eads had an advantage: She was able to hire a lawyer to negotiate portions of the right-of-way agreement. But, attorney Bryan Christian said, unforeseeable damages “exceeded the value that we received for signing the agreement.”

“Once they got their foot in the door they just went crazy,” Strain-Eads' partner Hicks said. “They ruined an entire winter crop of hay by leaving a gate open and letting all the cows trample and eat the grass. They've ruined the bedrock under our main watering pond and they cut down about a football field's worth of trees and said it was just a mistake.”

Strain-Eads is worried about the future of her land. Aside from the damage to the cattle business, she's worried the value of her property will decline due to Arkansas Midstream's presence there. She said she's too old to worry about fighting any battles, but somebody had to do it.

“I'm not in this to make money or be greedy,” she said. “I just want them to pay me for what they've messed up. They've offered to buy the ranch a couple of times. And there are a lot of things that mean more to me than just a dollar amount and one of them is that beautiful pristine ranch. You've got to do something to get their attention and money is the only thing they understand.”

Dismang's bill is scheduled to go before the House Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee on Feb. 11. He said he's got some support, but knows it will be a tough fight.

Chesapeake didn't respond to the Times' requests for comment.