Cabot recently hosted the Wayne Lackawanna Forest Landowners Association, an environmentally concerned group of landowners in Northeast Pennsylvania. Following the site tour, which also included a visit to Cabot’s CNG fueling station, two members of the group, Mike Uretsky and Peter Whynne, took some time to recap their experiences to share on WellSaid:
What is the name of your group, its mission and history?
The Wayne Lackawanna Forest Landowners Association was formed about ten years ago. Its purpose was to assist people who owned forest land with resources that would enhance their investments. Their interests ranged from people investing in forest land for the income it provided, to people interested in hunting, to people who were simply interested in aesthetics and the environment.
Has the group taken a position on natural gas development? If so, what is it?
The organization’s explicit mission does not include taking positions on activities such as natural gas. At the same time, it should be noted that many of the members are also members of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance and they have leases on their land. Some of the land is in conservation easements and the related leases are ‘no surface disturbance’ leases. There is active drilling on some member properties.
Your group is in an interesting position with membership spread out across multiple counties. Can you elaborate on the dichotomy that exists between Wayne County where development is currently prohibited and counties like Lackawanna, Wyoming and Susquehanna where it flourishes?
The current natural gas situation has adversely impacted many of our members. They see developments in Lackawanna, Wyoming and Susquehanna and they feel that they are being denied fair use of their property. This situation has been exacerbated by the current economic conditions and the unreasonably long time being taken by both DRBC and New York State to formulate any regulations!
Recently your group traveled to Susquehanna County to tour Cabot's operations. During the tour you visited three separate locations. Can you elaborate on the first location, a drilling operation in Auburn Twp.?
The first location that we visited involved a drilling rig that was in the final stages of construction and testing. We had full access to supervisory personnel, operators, and the rigs themselves. There were opportunities to talk to people about their backgrounds and training and responsibilities. The informal presentations focused on adherence to regulations as well as steps taken, over and beyond those regulations – adherence to both Marcellus Shale Coalition recommendations and additional Cabot guidelines. We were impressed by the openness of the discussions. We were particularly impressed by a totally unplanned event. While we were on the rig itself, there was an indication on a monitor that there might have been a problem starting somewhere on the rig. The indication may have been ambiguous, but the operator took immediate precautionary steps to make sure that nothing critical was taking place and that the difficulty was immediately eliminated. No supervisory instructions were necessary – a clear indication of good training.
Since some of your group has visited other operators throughout the Marcellus region can you elaborate on any differences between Cabot's operation and others?
I have visited operations run by Cabot’s competitors. While I am not a petroleum engineer or drilling specialist, and this site was between stages (several wells on the pad had been drilled and the last one was in the final stage of preparations), I was very impressed by the on-going reference to adherence to MSC guidelines and Cabot guidelines regarding both operations and sensitivity to the environment.
Please describe your visit to the production site and elaborate on the overall environmental footprint?
We entered the site through a security post, signed in and then went to the operations trailer. We were greeted by the supervisor (don’t remember his exact title) who took us inside and explained how the site was managed, including a focus on concern for potential environmental issues. We then toured the site, including climbing the rig itself.
We took particular notice of the contained footprint. Essentially nothing visible in the residential viewscape. Considerable attention to the placement of the pads and other related items in terms of potential impact on the environment.
Your group also had the unique opportunity to visit Cabot's CNG refueling station. What major differences did you observe during the refueling of vehicles at the station? From start to finish how long did it take to refuel the Chevy 1500?
The visit to the CNG refueling station provided an opportunity for people to see this part of the distribution operation. The refueling time and effort is essentially the same as it would have been for gasoline. No additional skills were needed. This part of the visit also provided an opportunity to examine the engine conversion on Cabot’s trucks at the station. We also had a chance to speak with other Cabot employees refilling at the station regarding convenience, performance and maintenance. All in all the CNG refueling station is very impressive!
Some of your group had an opportunity to drive around in the Chevy 1500 after it refueled? Did any of them notice differences in the performance of vehicle?
Nobody commented about the performance being anything less than they were getting on their gasoline powered cars. The only noticeable difference was the engine noise, much quieter.
Finally, what is the biggest take away from your visit to Cabot's operation?
We all came away from the visit impressed by the sensitivity shown by Cabot to regulations, to the environment and to sensitivity to the surrounding community.
Mike Uretsky (NYU Professor) and Peter Whynne (Journalist) are both members of Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance – a landowner coalition fighting the DRBC daily to allow natural gas exploration and development in Wayne County. Both are proud supporters of responsible natural gas development. And each is featured in the documentary FrackNation – if you haven’t seen it check it out!