CNX Steps Up to Monitor for Methane @ Drilling & Fracking Pads

by Duane Nichols on December 17, 2023

PA Governor & CNX officials sign agreement

CNX and Gov. Shapiro find agreement where legislators cannot

From an Article by Anya Litvak, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, November 2, 2023

Every new natural gas well that CNX Resources Corp. drills from this day forward will come with a real-time public portal into its air emissions. The Canonsburg-based gas producer said that it will place air monitors at or near well pads and compressor stations that will transmit readings to a public website, like a scaled-down version of fence-line monitors required at large industrial facilities like refineries.

The same will be true for water quality sampling done before and after drilling, upstream and downstream of a well — it will be publicly posted and, according to CNX and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, will serve as a basis to evaluate whether stricter regulations on shale gas development are needed.

CNX’s CEO Nick DeIuliis and Gov. Shapiro, who have been tossing this around for months, signed a statement of mutual interests on Thursday memorializing these and other voluntary steps CNX has pledged to take, based on the recommendations of an investigating grand jury convened by then Attorney General Shapiro.

Of the eight recommendations that have lingered only in the public imagination since the report’s release in 2020, CNX committed to some version of five of them.

The company said it will: disclose all drilling and fracking chemicals before they are used at each site; increase the no-drill zone between its wells and buildings from the mandated 500 feet to 600 feet, and to 2,500 feet from schools and hospitals; monitor the air for fine particulates and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes; increase the number of water well tests it performs before and after fracking and widen the radius of testing to 2,500 feet of a well, wastewater tank or impoundment; publicly post its radiation protection plans and annual self-assessment of waste handling; and agree not to hire any former Department of Environmental Protection staffer that had oversight over CNX for two years after they leave the department.

The company will also open up two yet-undeveloped well sites to the Department of Environmental Protection for a comprehensive air quality study before, during and after drilling and fracking.

Standing on a well pad in Claysville where an air monitor is already recording emissions (a website will go live with the data next week, CNX said), Mr. Shapiro called his partnership with Mr. DeIuliis a ‘historic collaboration.’ “You can be profit-minded and you can meet your obligations to your shareholders and employees and also protect public health and public safety. CNX is proof of that,” he said.

Mr. DeIuliis, a vocal and frequent critic of government, climate advocates and those he says get in the way of the “doers,” said he hoped the open sourcing of data would create the basis for mutual trust. “We’re asking regulators and policy makers to now follow the data,” he said. “It’s imperative for us as CNX to be able to use radical transparency to make the recent rhetoric, speculation and the sensational headlines … obsolete; to definitively confirm for all stakeholders that there are no adverse human health issues related to responsible natural gas development,” he said.

The data CNX plans to make public is unique. “I think they are going further than any other company,” said David Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, even if the kinds of steps CNX has agreed to are what has been needed and discussed for many years, he said. “Are they earth shattering? No. But are they still important? Yes.”

Companies adopting voluntary industry practices that go beyond what is currently required was also the idea behind the now-defunct Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which Mr. Woodwell helped convene in 2013. The center offered certifications to companies that voluntarily met certain standards as a means of building public trust and either informing or warding off regulation.

Critics said that environmental compliance needs to be ubiquitous, not self-selected, and called for the Legislature and regulators to craft stricter limits on the entire industry. But there has been little appetite for that in Harrisburg. Mr. Shapiro lamented that the General Assembly has yet to take up any of the recommendations in the jury report, which also recommended aggregating air emissions and assessing public health.

Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in Harrisburg held a hearing on a bill that would expand the mandatory setbacks between gas infrastructure and buildings from the current buffer to a minimum of 2,500 feet for wells, and 5,000 for features like compressor stations and gas processing plants near schools and hospitals.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a group that represents the industry, estimated that expanding no-drill zones to a radius of 2,500 would put most land out of reach. In Washington County, the group’s president Dave Callahan testified, drilling is prohibited on 43% of acreage. With expanded setbacks, that would rise to 99%. He called it a de facto ban on the oil and gas industry. The bill is unlikely to advance — State Sen. Eugene Yaw called the idea “stupid” and said “it would not be considered in the Senate.” Still, its introduction has spooked the industry.

However, Mr. Shapiro’s compact with CNX states: “The administration will follow the facts and data provided through this air and water quality monitoring, along with all other relevant facts and data, to inform the necessity of any additional setbacks or other future policy changes.”

The study period for this collaboration is two to three years. Environmental and community groups were split on the announcement on Thursday. Some praised the collaboration and welcomed Mr. Shapiro’s actions, which also included directing the DEP to craft new rules for chemical disclosure, methane emissions and gathering pipelines.

Others chaffed at the sight of Mr. Shapiro, the voice behind a grand jury investigation that did not look kindly on the gas industry’s conduct and impact in the state, echoing some of the same points that natural gas companies have been making for the past 20 years — that there’s not enough data, or not the right kind of data, to support environmental and health concerns and regulations.

While CNX’s real-time public data will be a first in the region, air-monitoring studies and water-quality analyses have been done before, including by university researchers, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and Pennsylvania’s own DEP. A number of health studies have also been performed, many showing links between adverse health outcomes and proximity to shale gas.

The most recent were the cancer and asthma analyses done by the University of Pittsburgh on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They concluded there was a higher likelihood of certain types of childhood cancers and an increase in asthma severity near oil and gas infrastructure.

But the research wasn’t particularly well received by either the residents of shale fields or the industry. Although their objections diverged, both groups complained about the lack of direct measurement of pollution and exposures — or even direct engagement with people living next to shale gas infrastructure.

CNX’s voluntary disclosures are intended to address the emissions part of that equation. Mr. DeIuliis and Mr. Shapiro said they hope other companies will join as well.


IN OTHER NEWS ~ CNX Resources pulls out of Adams Fork ammonia project, Reuters News Service, December 15, 2023

CNX Resources said on Friday it had pulled out of the Adams Fork ammonia project and is evaluating several alternative sites in southern West Virginia for clean hydrogen projects. The natural gas producer cited delays and increasing uncertainty over implementation tax credit provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and an inability to reach final commercial terms with project developers, for ending its participation in the project.

Adams Fork was an anchor project in the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) and its construction was expected to begin in 2024. The project would have initial annual ammonia production capacity of 2,160,000 metric tons, with an optional additional production capacity.

CNX said on Friday it remains committed to ARCH2, adding that “final investment decision(s) remains contingent upon tax credit guidance that unambiguously supports low carbon intensity feedstock projects that will facilitate development of the regional clean hydrogen hubs, including ARCH2.” The ARCH2 project includes several partners, and the consortium was selected by US DOE to develop a multi-state clean hydrogen hub.

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PA Enviro Digest December 17, 2023 at 6:03 pm

CNX Ends Coordination On West Virginia Adams Fork Ammonia Energy Project, Anchor Of ARCH2 Hydrogen Hub Application

On December 15, CNX Resources announced it has ended coordination with the Adams Fork “clean ammonia” project in Mingo County, West Virginia and is evaluating several viable alternative sites in southern West Virginia for clean hydrogen projects.

CNX cited an inability to reach final commercial terms with project developers and delays and increasing uncertainty over implementation rules guiding the use of the 45V hydrogen production tax credit provisions of the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).


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