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From Backyards to Brownfields: How landscape architects are reshaping the landscapes of Pennsylvania

The term “landscape architecture” might conjure up images of upscale backyards with perfectly manicured shrubbery, colorful flower beds, stone walkways, extended patio decks, fish ponds, pavilions, and perhaps a cabana near the in-ground pool. While some landscape architecture firms focus on residential and commercial projects,

Region’s freight projects approved for $8.1 million in state funding

HARRISBURG, PA – Governor Tom Corbett announced on Aug. 15 that 39 rail freight improvement projects that will help sustain nearly 34,000 jobs across Pennsylvania were approved for funding from two PennDOT-managed programs. The State Transportation Commission (STC) voted to approve nearly  $35.9 million for

Home health services growing with aging population

In the year 2000, there were 600 million people in the world aged 60 and over. By 2025 that number is expected to jump to 1.2 billion and by 2050, 2 billion. It is now the “Golden Age of Aging” In the U.S. census of

Nominations sought for Women Making a Difference!

STATE COLLEGE, PA – Once again, The Pennsylvania and Marcellus Business Central is proud to present the fourth annual “Women Making a Difference” publication scheduled to appear in the Sept. 19 edition. It was announced earlier this week that nominations are now open for the

$haring the wealth: How local governments spend Impact Fee money

By Julie Benamati, MBC Editor Municipalities in the Commonwealth are cashing in on about $135 million in Act 13 Impact Fees that were distributed by the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) on July 1. Local governments received on average about an 11.5 percent increase statewide

From Backyards to Brownfields: How landscape architects are reshaping the landscapes of Pennsylvania

Landscape - pool

The term “landscape architecture” might conjure up images of upscale backyards with perfectly manicured shrubbery, colorful flower beds, stone walkways, extended patio decks, fish ponds, pavilions, and perhaps a cabana near the in-ground pool.

While some landscape architecture firms focus on residential and commercial projects, others design parks, bikeways and town squares. Some work on reclamation projects involving brownfields and acid mine drainage sites, while others have found a new niche in serving the Shale gas industry.

What these various landscape architects share in common is the desire to lead the stewardship, planning and design of our built and natural environments.

The Pennsylvania-Delaware chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) was founded in 1959 in Harrisburg to advocate for members studying and practicing landscape architecture in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The chapter is comprised of 581 members from four geographic areas: western, central and eastern Pennslvania and all of Delaware — plus 189 student members from six colleges including Penn State, which offers degrees in landscape architecture at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Adam Supplee, landscape architect and a principal owner in KMS Design Group, LLC in Phoenixville is the president of the PA-DE ASLA chapter.

A relatively recent trend Supplee has noted is the number of landscape architects who are doing work for the Shale gas industry such as sedimentation plans and wetlands surveys.

“This is especially true for landscape architects that work for engineering firms, some of which now specialize in shale work, and that’s helped to keep several of our members’ businesses open during the recession,” Supplee said. “Small landscape architecture firms have also picked up work from the Marcellus shale play, and for them it’s been a real saving grace since it helped them weather the financial storm.”

Some of ASLA’s members specialize in public projects, like parks, town squares, open meeting spaces, and restoration projects.

“That public work is still there, though there aren’t as many government dollars available, so you have more firms bidding on the same jobs, which makes public projects more competitive,” Supplee said. “However, we are starting to see that market rebound in Pennsylvania as more dollars for public projects have become available through the gas industry impact fees.”

Reclamation projects are a main staple of landscape architecture.

“Being a Rust Belt state, we have a lot of industrial sites that are being redeveloped for other uses. Redeveloping brownfields and also redeveloping towns by taking an abandoned old building and making into a modern space are what many of our members do,” said Supplee.

The D.I.R.T. Studio

One of the premier reclamation projects in Pennsylvania was the Vintondale AMD & ART Park in Cambria County, a project that spanned from 1995 to 1998, with construction completed in 2004. The site was an abandoned 40-acre floodplain covered with acid mine drainage alongside the polluted Blacklick Creek.

The brainchild behind the project was T. Allan Comp, historian and director of the non-profit AMD & ART, who put together an interdisciplinary team of artists, designers, scientists, local historians, watershed groups, state and federal agencies, and AmeriCorps volunteers to collaborate on a model redevelopment initiative for post-coal mining regions.

“Allan wanted to finish the work of the generation that inherited this polluted legacy,” said Julie Bargmann, the internationally renowned landscape architect who worked on the project.

Bargmann’s work has been featured in TIME, Newsweek, and she has been a guest on CNN.

In 1992, she founded a landscape design practice named D.I.R.T. Studio (Dump It Right There), based in Charlottesville, Va., which focuses on designing reclamation and revitalization projects in marginalized communities and urban areas.

“We had just formed D.I.R.T. and we were looking for a pilot project, and we found one in Vintondale, which was built in 1892 by the Vinton Colliery Company as a coal mining town, and that provided just the kind of social and cultural context we were looking for,” said Bargmann.

“Geographically, Vintondale has a regional rail-to-trail route alongside it, which made it ideal for both a local park and a regional destination.”

To give the site a distinctive look, Bargmann took the “ooey gooey” basins and redesigned them to form large triangles and trapezoids, which like the large-scale ancient drawings on Easter Island can only be fully recognized by flying overhead.

“Since this was a public project, and a labor of love, everybody worked pro bono, but we still had to do some creative financing to fund the project,” said Bargmann. “We received a generous federal brownfields grant, but we were still short of funds, so we bartered with some of the mine tailings they call ‘boney’ that had been left there, which has fuel value, and we told the contractor that if you grade the site, you can take the boney.

“We also got a lot of town residents to volunteer to help out and AmeriCorps volunteers.”

As a teacher and researcher at the University of Virginia, Bargmann was an idealist, who wasn’t afraid to “slam” developers who were only interested in “putting lipstick on a pig,” and not preserving the social, industrial or cultural history of a reclamation site.

Working on a revitalization project at Ford’s River Rouge plant in Deerborn, Michigan helped open her eyes to the legal and political aspects of doing reclamation.

For generations, autoworkers toiled at the 1,200-acre plant on the River Rouge, where hundreds of cars and trucks continue to roll off a renewed assembly line. William Clay Ford Jr. envisioned the opportunity to transform this industrial icon of the 20th century into a model of sustainable industry for the 21st.

Rather than construct a new plant on a suburban greenfield, the historic Rouge Complex was revitalized by incorporating ambitious ecological systems to make a sustainable site.

“I would get slightly too righteous and scold developers for doing things half-way, without listening to them about the pressure they were under,” said Bargmann.

“For example, when I worked with the Jerry Amber, the head of Ford Motor Land Services, on Ford’s River Rouge plant, he would literally cringe when I came in the door.

“He would say, Julie, the pressure I have from the EPA is intense, they want things done a certain way, which doesn’t mesh with your plan.

“So I became more emphatic with him, and when he explained the jurisdictional and legislative issues that was causing him problems, we actually looked for a way to relieve those pressures.

“We managed to shift the project from federal jurisdiction to state jurisdiction, and the state took a lot of unnecessary red tape away, which allowed us to proceed with our plans.

“It’s the project that I’m most proud of, because the next time I saw Jerry Amber I was on a panel with him at the Wildlife Habitat Council. That’s a bit of a change for an industrialist.”

Landscape II

Landscape architecture was one of the first industries to feel the economic downturn because of construction and housing development slowing down, however, for Landscape II, a full service landscape design and installation firm in Boalsburg, it was as if the Great Recession never happened.

“Our business has been doing better during the past five years than it has in the past 20 years,” said Lara Kauffman, head landscape architect at Landscape II.

Kauffman has worked at Landscape II for 20 years, she served on the State College Borough Design Review Board for seven years, and graduated from Penn State in 1993 with a B.S. in landscape architecture.

“What we’ve seen is that many people chose to invest in their homes and make their outdoor living spaces a special place they can share with their family and friends,” said Kauffman.

“Instead of spending money on expensive vacations to exotic locations, they decided to put that money into their home and take a home vacation by making their backyards a more exotic place.”

Each project starts with a free one-hour site consultation for clients living in the State College area.  After getting an idea of what the client wants to do with his property, a technician will take images of the site, and then using an advanced landscape imaging program, Kauffman or one of the other two landscape architects will show the client a three-dimensional perspective of what the landscaping will look like.

Next comes the preliminary design, which is a scaled drawing that includes the preliminary design features of the new plan. Items included in this may vary; however, typically include all of the “bones” of the garden (i.e. fences, decks, patios, walks, walls, bed lines, and critical plantings).

After the preliminary plan has been approved, Kauffman will draft the master plan. This includes plantings and specifications of the “hardscaping” (i.e. paver and wall choices, fence and trellis details), choices of trees, shrubs, and critical perennials.

A third phase is a detailed plan that includes precise specifications on all detailed areas and the decking design, intricate hardscapes and perennial and cut flower gardens.

After all the details are “set in stone,” the installation begins. The final cost of the project can range considerably depending on the intricacy of the design and the choice of the materials used.

“We don’t dictate what the yard projects should look like or what materials to use, although the topology and soil of some landscapes will determine that to some degree, but rather each project is a collaborative effort between our three landscape architects and the client,” said Kauffman.

“Our emphasis is on using native plants as much as possible and creating a sustainable design, but ultimately, it’s the clients who determine what goes into a project, because it’s their home and we want them to be happy with it.”

Region’s freight projects approved for $8.1 million in state funding

HARRISBURG, PA – Governor Tom Corbett announced on Aug. 15 that 39 rail freight improvement projects that will help sustain nearly 34,000 jobs across Pennsylvania were approved for funding from two PennDOT-managed programs.

The State Transportation Commission (STC) voted to approve nearly  $35.9 million for 13 projects through the Rail Transportation Assistance Program (RTAP) and 26 projects through the Rail Freight Assistance Program (RFAP). RTAP is a capital budget grant program funded with bonds and RFAP is underwritten through the new Multimodal Fund, created by Act 89.

Of the $35.9 million, a little more than $8 million was approved for rail projects in The Pennsylvania Business Central’s 22-county readership area.

“Transportation is a proven economic driver and these investments will help these companies maintain and create more jobs,’’ Gov. Corbett said. “Ensuring that these facilities and assets are ready to meet consumer demands is vital to keeping our state competitive.”

Last November, Corbett signed Act 89, a far-reaching transportation program that clears the way for significant investments in all transportation modes.

Following is a by-county list of the local region’s approved rail freight projects under the programs with the state share:

 

* Cambria, Clearfield, Clinton and Indiana counties: RJ Corman Railroad Group PA Lines — $4.3 million to install cross ties and switch ties, renew several  crossings, install  bridge ties and other track work.

* Westmoreland County: Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation — $1.5 million for the second of three phases for an improvement project, replacing 3.2 miles of rail and associated work.

* Blair County: Hollidaysburg & Roaring Spring Railroad — $295,942 to repair two bridges and improve  public grade crossings.

* Bradford County: Northeast Freight Transfer, Inc. — $697,417 to install 1,800 feet of track, a new switch, two conveyors and a track scale.

* Bradford and Wyoming counties: Lehigh Railway LLC — $353,500 to rehabilitate, raise, line and surface rail sidings at the Wyalusing Terminal.

* Centre County: SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority — $250,000 to complete improvements including track and turnout construction, upgrading rail and installing drainage.

* Lycoming County: Jersey Shore Steel. — $224,000 to construct 800 feet of track providing new rail service at the Montoursville facility.

* Union County: Heller’s Gas Inc. — $250,000 to construct a turnout, 500 feet of track as well as improvements for offloading rail cars.

* Westmoreland County: Lehigh Specialty Melting, Inc. — $229,026 to reconstruct 850 feet of outside track and 200 feet of track inside the forge shop and associated engineering.

Four projects have been approved in the 8-county region of Central Pennsylvania served by the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority (JRA) and its private operator, North Shore Railroad Company. The four are among the rail freight projects receiving funds, according to Steve Kusheloff, public information manager at SEDA-COG.

The $250,000 awarded to the JRA in Centre County will be used for improvements related to Graymont’s expanding lime operations in Pleasant Gap. Plans include track and turnout construction, drainage, and upgraded rail.

Heller’s Gas, based in Berwick, Union County, was also awarded $250,000. The RFAP grant was matched with $107,143 from Heller’s. Construction on the project is expected to begin next spring, with completion in the fall.

Another RFAP project was approved for $224,000 to construct 800 feet of track at Jersey Shore Steel’s Montoursville, Lycoming County facility. Jersey Shore Steel matched the grant with $67,200. Kusheloff said the project will allow raw materials to be transported to the plant by rail.

 

Home health services growing with aging population

In the year 2000, there were 600 million people in the world aged 60 and over. By 2025 that number is expected to jump to 1.2 billion and by 2050, 2 billion. It is now the “Golden Age of Aging”

In the U.S. census of 2010, more Americans 65 years and over were counted than in any previous census. Between 2000 and 2010, the 65+ population grew at a faster rate (15.1 percent) than the total U.S population (9.7 percent). In Pennsylvania, which has the fourth largest 65+ population in the U.S., the over-85 segment is growing ten times faster than the general population.

People are living longer because of new medications, research and medical devices, and with home health care services, patients are able to manage chronic conditions that 20 years ago would have been terminal.

Aging Baby Boomers present a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs and job seekers as the need for home care health services increases.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor and Industry, the two fastest growing occupations in the U.S. are personal care aides and home health aides. By 2020, the number of personal care aides and home health aids will have grown to more than 1.3 million—a 70 percent increase from 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with a growth rate of 14 percent for the overall U.S. job market.

Personal care aides work for home care agencies and help clients with daily living activities such as bathing, dressing and cooking. They get paid on average of $20 per hour in Pennsylvania.

Home health aides, which includes nurses and therapists – physical, occupational and speech — provide medical care in the patients’ home.

Mark Baiada was one of the first entrepreneurs to identify the need for home care services for the growing elderly population. In 1975, he founded RN Homecare and opened his first office in Philadelphia, and later began offering franchises. Now named BAYADA Home Health Care, the company is headquartered in Moorestown, NJ. BAYADA has more than 18,000 home health care professionals, serving communities in 22 states from more than 280 offices, 70 of which are located in Pennsylvania.

BAYADA specialty practices include home health, adult nursing, assistive care, pediatrics, hospice, and rehabilitation.

“In 1973, I worked for two companies in marketing and research, but my long term goal was to have my own business,” said Baiada.

“So I asked myself, how much money do you have, and the answer was $16,000. I was 25 and I thought I had enough experience in business that I was confident I could do it. But if you have a business, you have to start out with some end in mind. So my first criterion was that I wanted my business to span coast to coast.

“I also wanted it to be a business that helped people, and one with long term growth potential, so I first looked at childcare centers, which were quickly growing during that period, but I didn’t do that because I didn’t have any childhood education training.

“Then I came across home healthcare, which had a low cost of entry, it was a business that helped others, and it had great growth potential since families were moving from extended to nuclear and becoming more geographically dispersed, so who’s going to take care of mom and dad?

“I did a careful analysis to make sure the business met all my criteria, and in my mind’s eye, I could see agencies going from coast to coast.

“I was so surprised because I was in research, and I never hired anybody or fired anybody, and now here I was in the personnel business.”

Baiada was a quick learner; today BAYADA Home Health Care is one of the largest home care agencies in the country. From 2010 to last year, the company’s annual sales have increased 35 percent to $815.6 million and the number of employees has grown 25 percent to 38,627.

The Pennsylvania Homecare Association in Lemoyne has 700 members, from small agencies with 10 patients to large national for-profits such as Bayada Home Health Care.

“Home health aid agencies receive reimbursement from Medicare, but non-medical home care agencies are either private pay or are funded through Medical Assistance,” said Jennifer Haggerty, Pennsylvania Homecare Association’s communications director.

“So what these agencies pay their caregivers depends on their level of reimbursement and their operational costs.”

Pennsylvania has 515 licensed home health agencies, 1,370 licensed non-medical home care agencies, and 202 hospice care agencies.

The consolidation going in the healthcare industry, with hospitals affiliating with large medical centers such as Geisinger or UPMC and physician groups associating with hospitals, is also occurring with home health and home care agencies. The Affordable Care Act encouraged these partnerships.

“One of the provisions of the ACA was forming Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs, which consist of hospitals, doctors, home health agencies, life programs, adult day centers, with everybody working together,” said Haggerty.

“We’re seeing home health agencies partnering with hospitals and physician groups and other community health care providers where the idea is to be patient focused rather than how it used to be where the patient would pay for every test and every surgery.

“Now it’s about focusing on the patients and the care they need, and that’s how payments are being arranged, and that’s how providers are working together to save costs.”

Another franchise home care company is the Advantage group of companies, which together deliver a wide range of health care, nursing, therapy, and social services.

The Advantage companies include AdvantageCare Rehabilitation, Advantage Home Health Services and AdvantageCare Consulting. Each franchise is locally owned and operated, which gives the staff flexibility to customize services to meet the specialized needs of the patients and to immediately respond to their changing needs and circumstances.

Advantage was founded by Amy Hancock in 2006 to serve the ongoing nursing and therapy needs of patients as they left hospitals and long-term care facilities. Advantage has offices in Pittsburgh, Washington and Hollidaysburg. The Hollidaysburg office serves Blair, Bedford, Centre, Huntingdon, Cambria, Somerset, and Indiana counties, and part of Clearfield County.

Hancock was named one of Pennsylvania’s Top 50 Women in Business in April 2009. The same year she was awarded the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the Professional Services category for Upstate New York, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia region.

“Home health probably pays slightly less than if a nurse would work in an institutional setting such as a hospital or nursing home, but for therapists – physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists – home health actually pays more for those professionals,” said Sheena Henry, director of nursing at Advantage Home Health Services’ office in Hollidaysburg, Pa.

“Even though nurses get paid slightly less for home care, they have more flexibility in their schedules. So they might be able to do things such as pick up their child after school or take courses toward an advanced degree during the day or evening whereas nurses in hospitals generally work 10 hour shifts, four days on, three days off.”

Working in a home setting also changes the nurse’s relationship to the patient.

“Working in a home setting is quite different than a hospital or nursing home because you are in the person’s home, and for most patients, that’s where they want to be,” said Henry.

“Often nurses become friends with the patients or family members because they see them so often whereas in a hospital, you might be working one floor one day and another floor the next, and the patients generally don’t stay very long in the hospital.

”So even though the nurse might be performing the same kinds of services she would in a hospital – drawing blood, taking vitals, checking catheters, etc. – home health fosters a different relationship with the patient.”

Despite the shortage of nurses in the state, Advantage has had no problem recruiting new staff members.

“Right now, we are staffed proportionally to the number of patients we serve, but with Pennsylvania’s elderly population rapidly growing, we may need to add staff in the future, and that could make recruiting health professionals more competitive if new entries into the nursing and therapy professions don’t keep up with demand.”

Nominations sought for Women Making a Difference!

WMD_revisedSTATE COLLEGE, PA – Once again, The Pennsylvania and Marcellus Business Central is proud to present the fourth annual “Women Making a Difference” publication scheduled to appear in the Sept. 19 edition.

It was announced earlier this week that nominations are now open for the very popular “Women Making a Difference” that showcases some of the most successful women in the region.

This marks the fourth year that the publication has teamed up with St. Francis University to seek nominations for “Women Making a Difference” so that the stories of some of the most successful women in the 22-county coverage area can be told!

Nominations are being sought from readers, community leaders, Chambers of Commerce, local businesses and community organizations to nominate women who make a difference within their own companies and the community.

Once collected, nominations will be presented to a third party independent committee spearheaded by St. Francis University’s school of business. The selection committee chooses the finalists, whose success stories will be published in The Pennsylvania Business Central on Sept. 19.

In the past, readers have presented dozens of candidates who were worthy of recognition.

Nominations can be obtained by visiting the PBC Web site: www.pabusinesscentral.com. Click on the “Women Making a Difference” tab to download the nomination form. Nomination forms can be e-mailed to newsdesk@pabusinesscentral.com, faxed to (814) 278-1303, or submitted verbally by calling (814) 278-1321 or (814) 278-1323

The deadline for nominations is Sept. 5.

$haring the wealth: How local governments spend Impact Fee money

By Julie Benamati, MBC Editor

Municipalities in the Commonwealth are cashing in on about $135 million in Act 13 Impact Fees that were distributed by the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) on July 1.

Local governments received on average about an 11.5 percent increase statewide from last year’s figures. To date, the impact fee has generated a total of $630 million in new revenue for the citizens of Pennsylvania since its enactment in February 2012.

The fee provides for the imposition of an unconventional gas well fee (also called an impact fee), and the distribution of those funds to local and state governments. It also contains 14 provisions regarding how the impact fee may be spent at the local level:

  • Construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roadways, bridges and public infrastructure
  • Water, storm water and sewer systems, including construction, reconstruction and repair
  • Emergency preparedness and public safety, including law enforcement and fire services, hazardous material response, 911, equipment acquisition and other services
  • Environmental programs, including trails, parks and recreation, open space, flood plain management, conservation districts and agricultural preservation
  • Preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface waters and water supplies
  • Tax reductions, including homestead exclusions
  • Projects to increase availability of safe and affordable housing to residents
  • Delivery of social services
  • Judicial services
  • Records management, geographic information systems and information technology
  • Deposit into the municipality’s capital reserve fund if the funds are not used soley for a purpose set forth in Act 13 of 2012
  • Career and technical centers for training workers in the oil and gas industry
  • Local or regional planning initiatives known as the state Municipalities Planning Code

Washington County collected the largest amount of impact fees this year – in the amount of $6.11 million. The county’s Union Township will receive the highest allocation at $207,988, followed by Fallowfield Township with $139,363. California Borough will receive $100,615, Donora will get $86,781, Monongahela will receive $71,136 and Charleroi will receive $63,572.

Nearby Westmoreland County is getting $1.7 million, including $348,228 for greenways and parks.

Clearfield County received just short of $1 million, and Chest Township supervisors there have already earmarked their share of impact fees in the amount of $14,492. The board authorized donating $1,800 to each of the three volunteer fire departments that serve the township, with the remaining funds set aside to be used for maintenance and repair of township roads.

State Rep. Fred Keller (R-85) said the $81,000 in impact fees received by Union and Snyder counties would be welcomed.

“This more than $81,000 is a tangible investment in safer roads, cleaner water and better trained emergency responders that will directly benefit the very taxpayers who are directly responsible for the revenue that makes our local, county and state budgets possible,” Keller said in a statement.

The northeast portion of the state received the largest percentage of funds. Susquehanna County, which received $5.4 million, is planning to upgrade heating and cooling and electronics at the county jail, improve the county’s 911 center to meet state requirements and expand the county’s GIS program.  According to Commissioner Alan Hall, the county used last year’s fees to cut property taxes by 20 percent.

Bradford County commissioners hadn’t yet decided how they will spend their $7 million, Commissioner Daryl Miller said. Municipalities in Bradford County cumulatively will receive almost $5 million more than the county government.

Lycoming County also receives a large chunk of the pie at a whopping $5.1 million.

Lycoming County Government has established a Mini-Grant Program to fund a limited number of community park projects – up to $20,000 each – using a share of the county’s Marcellus

Shale Legacy Funds. These natural gas impact Legacy Funds were provided to the county for this purpose by the PUC.

The county has recently notified municipal officials and is now inviting members of organizations that are responsible for community parks to nominate projects.

A candidate park may be owned by a municipality or a community organization, and must be open to and benefit the entire community.

The nomination deadline is Aug. 15. Award notifications will be sent the second week of September. Every project nominated will be retained by the county for future consideration of other funding sources.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

 

 

 

New Pig Energy products provide engineering control to prevent spills, injuries

By Beth Powell

TYRONE, PA — There have been numerous studies regarding hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination. Surface spills, however, are one area where industry, regulators and environmentalists tend to agree on the risk. Sources of oil, fuel, fracturing fluid and flowback spills at the well site include the drilling rig, mud tanks, diesel tanks, frac tanks, pumps, sand kings, generator sets, light stands, contractor vehicles, and blowouts at the well head.

The risk of surface spills can be mitigated by secondary containment, which is a safeguarding method in addition to the primary containment system (storage tanks, pipes, drums, blowout preventer). Depending on the liquid, secondary containment may be required by federal and state regulations. New Pig’s focus is 100 percent on safely, effectively and efficiently containing these chemicals to prevent to contamination of the ground and surrounding water.

New Pig Energy (NPE), founded in 2013, manufactures secondary containment liners for the shale gas industry to protect the environment while keeping workers safe on the job. The company’s products provide an engineering control for operators, service companies and regulators to prevent spills and reduce slips and falls. New Pig, the parent company, is the world leader in liquid control and containment—and has been for nearly 30 years. By leveraging that experience and applying it to the shale industry, the team of leak and spill experts deliver the best secondary containment solutions on the market.

From tank farms to well pads, NPE has designed containment systems and furnished onsite support for some of the world’s largest and most respected companies in the United States and abroad. Along with design and manufacturing, we provide training and keep current on the latest regulations and certifications to help our customers stay in compliance. From the stone used on the pad to the equipment that removes the liner, we are actively involved and always improving.

Award-winning PIG Well Pad Liners

Named as Environmental Protection’s New Product of the Year for the past three years, the patents-pending PIG Well Pad Liner is engineered and proven to perform under real-world conditions. he unique layered composite handles long-term, multiphase deployments under the harshest conditions— offering up to four times the tear resistance and seven times the puncture resistance of standard HDPE liners.  Secondary containment is the safeguard if anything happens to the original containers, which means the secondary containment must be watertight even under heavy traffic. NPE pioneered the composite structure and its lifespan from air rig to fluid rig to completions to production.

Each layer in the composite is formulated—with all materials made in the USA–and constructed for specific properties, such as toughness, long-term chemical compatibility and cold-crack resistance.  Beyond the physical properties, how a material interacts with the workers is critical. Unlike plastic, our composite liner is designed to be thermally stable to maintain a flat work surface–it will not grow and shrink causing tripping hazards as the temperature changes.  In fact, safety was why we got involved in well site containment in the first place. Plastic can effectively stop a spill but it quickly becomes an ice-skating rink in the winter leading to near misses and lost-time accidents. The top layer is 20-year old New Pig product proven to reduce slips in falls in manufacturing environments. The PIG Well Pad Liner is only liner certified by the National Flooring and Safety Institute (NFSI) as a high-traction work surface to help prevent slip and fall accidents.

Beyond the liner manufacture, NPE engineers and modifies tools and equipment for installation and removal.  We designed cleaning, cutting and winding equipment to efficiently remove the liner. Instead of requiring up to ten dumpsters, we can fit a typical site into two containers with one going for recycle.

New Pig Energy’s Legendary Service Advantage

• PIG Well Pad Liners are always in stock and available for warehouse pickup or hotshot 24/7.

• NPE is headquartered in the heart of the Marcellus Shale play to provide personal service, hands-on training and support.

• NPE works with our customers every step of the way, from assessing needs and explaining regulations to installation support and post-install maintenance

• NPE doesn’t believe in the “lay and walk away” approach to containment.The oil and gas industry runs 24/7, so NPE provide sonsite service and support 24/7— even after installation.

• The PIG Well Pad Liner is 100 percent American made—zero imports, zero offshore!

• NPE has warehouse locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wyoming to support the Marcellus, Utica and Niobrara Shale plays.

Beth Powell was appointed vice president and general manager of New Pig Energy in January 2013 to focus on the specific needs of Shale drilling. She is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University with a BS degree in chemical engineering and an MBA.

 

Civil engineers hold first Shale conference in Pittsburgh

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) held its inaugural shale-related conference, titled Shale Energy Engineering Conference: Technical Challenges, Environmental issues and Public Policy, in Pittsburgh on July 21-23. More than 300 people attended from the engineering community, the shale gas industry, environmental organizations, and local, state and federal governments.

ASCE stated in its program that it decided to hold its first national conference on shale gas in Pennsylvania because “it’s one of the most active regions of shale works in the U.S., where the effects and impacts of operations and production have become part of our daily lives, whether it is the sudden fortune of landowners, creation of new jobs in the region, controversial debates over drilling in public parks, the environmental effects of occasional substandard practices, and many other stories and activities.”

The ASCE conference focused on the challenges that lie ahead: developing the means and technology to carefully monitor all aspects of shale plays; encouraging and promoting the development of technologies that would allow for cost effective shale exploration while minimizing the impact on water resources, surface and groundwater aquifers, geological stability of impacted areas, and air quality; and discussing infrastructure assets such as roads, pipelines, water, and wastewater networks.

The conference opened with a speech by Governor Tom Corbett.

“Engineers have figured out how to drill for gas and do it safely,” said Corbett.

“Marcellus shale has had an impact, and the young engineers will someday look back and see what they did. This is important not just for us, but for [future] generations.

“You can change the geopolitics of the world. Ten years ago, we were getting natural gas from abroad. The United States was an importer and Pennsylvania was an importer. Pennsylvania is now an exporter.”

Corbett ended his speech by thanking the engineering community.

“You’re really on the cutting edge,” said Corbett. “All engineers are, but especially here because of natural gas. We look to you to do this. We thank you for the work you do and have done.”

Kemal Niksic, P.E., a native of Bosnia and a principal engineer with Hatch Mott MacDonald of Pittsburgh, was the conference chair. He is also the president of ASCE’s Pittsburgh region.

“I wanted the governor at the conference because he’s very supportive of the industry, and everyone thought he gave a very uplifting speech,” said Niksic.

“We had a lot of environmental groups attend, so it was assuring to them to hear the governor say that engineering related to shale development will be done using best practices to protect the environment.

“It was also important to us, because as civil engineers, we have as our core mission the protection of the public good and the sustainable development of our resources.”

Conference panelists and keynote speakers discussed water resources, geotechnical issues, environmental and public policy regulation, and different kinds of infrastructure, from site development to transportation.

“The idea was that these topics would be of interest to our members, but also to a wider public and industry audience, with the goal of trying to identify the challenges in these areas,” said Niksic.

“Judging from the comments we received from the conference attendees and what I personally drew from what was going on, our inaugural conference was very successful.”

ASCE’s conference had more than 40 presentations and panels with experts from various disciplines, from civil engineering to geotechnology, from key industry players including oil & gas drillers to government officials, including USGS, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Ohio Department of Transportation.

On Sunday, before the conference began, a group of attendees toured two of Range Resources’ seven pads in Cross Creek Park. The tour started at a drilling rig and ended at a producing well pad. The purpose was to learn how Range has successfully overcome traffic, zoning and geological issues unique to the area.

Organizing the conference began earlier this year with a call for papers. ASCE received over 70 peer-reviewed papers.

“When we started looking at the abstracts for the papers, it was clear there was a high interest on the topics of transportation and infrastructure, by that I mean roads, bridges, and pipelines,” said Niksic. “I found that fascinating since I didn’t realize how extensive these issues were.”

Niksic decided to break off the topic of infrastructure into a fourth tract at the conference with its own set of panelists and speakers, adding to the other three tracts – technical challenges, environmental issues and public policy.

To organize the infrastructure tract, he chose Cesar Quiroga, Ph.D., P.E., who is the senior research engineer manager at the Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

“What you saw in the infrastructure tract at the conference was partly a reflection of my professional interest in transportation, but it also reflected the larger interest of the civil engineering community in terms of what issues they thought were most urgent,” said Quiroga.

“If we hold this conference again, we will try to broaden the scope to include urban planning, transportation planning, emergency responders, hospitals, and even workforce development.”

Quiroga organized the infrastructure tract along several themes – technologies and examples of documentation of the transportation network before drilling and after development; roadway repair and reconstruction technologies; and pipelines, both surface impacts and below ground impacts.

Panelists presented papers on pipeline detection monitoring, and also on site development.

“The latter is perhaps what the organizers of the conference had in mind, to optimize the safe and responsible construction of structures at the well site itself,” said Quiroga.

The papers were followed by three sessions dealing with infrastructure coordination. The biggest disagreement about infrastructure among the attendees wasn’t over technical challenges, environmental issues or public policy, but about who should pay for the maintenance, repair and reconstruction of roads and bridges.

“This is where we hit a wall, at least at first,” said Quiroga.

“Depending on which group you talked to, you’d get different answers.

“For example, if you talked to local government officials, very frequently, they would point the finger at the industry, and tell the gas companies, ‘You ruined the roads, now you have to fix them.’

“But when you talked to the industry players, they didn’t understand the process the government uses to plan, design and operate road systems, and most gas operators don’t own the trucks that bring in water, sand and chemicals. They could easily say, those are our suppliers using the roads, not us.

“When you talk to the suppliers, they would tell you, we use the roads just like other companies that supply the automotive industry or the plastics industry or the food industry. They are on the roads every day just like we are. So yes, we carry heavy loads, but so do they, so we’ll kick in to help maintain the roads as long as everybody else who uses the roads does, too.”

Some argued that the landowners who are getting rich from the shale production should pay for the infrastructure. Others said that everybody in states with shale plays benefit directly or indirectly from having a gas boom in their state, so the residents of the state should pay for the infrastructure maintenance.

“At the end of the day, what you had is a big conversation with all the major stakeholders, and each one eventually agreeing that they should pay a portion of the cost to maintain, repair and reconstruct the roads and bridges since they all benefit from well-maintained infrastructure.

“At the transportation center where I work, we’re beginning a new program called the Sustainable Transportation and Energy Systems Initiative, and one of the goals is to provide forums for the various stakeholders to sit at the table together and try to come with up solutions which recognize that everybody benefits from shale gas, and therefore everybody should pay for the infrastructure that makes the shale plays possible.”

Attendees of the civil engineers' Shale conference take a tour of Range Resources.

Attendees of the civil engineers’ Shale conference take a tour of Range Resources.

Marcellus Shale Coalition issues annual workforce survey results

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) recently released the results of its annual workforce survey. The findings – based on 2013 data – were provided by a large majority of MSC member companies, representing nearly 95 percent of Pennsylvania’s shale production.

Key survey highlights include:

  • 26.5 percent of new hires work in engineering and construction, 23 percent of new hires work in equipment operations; 15.2 percent in operations and maintenance, 8 percent in administration, 7 percent in land and 5 percent in environmental, health & safety;
  • 83 percent of new hires came from Marcellus Shale states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Maryland
  • Positions most difficult to fill
  • Workforce diversity; and
  • Recruitment methods and challenges, including educational and professional training needs.

According to the survey data, MSC member companies expect to hire more than 2,000 new employees in 2014. The survey also indicates that the majority of new hires are in three sub-sectors and are weighted more so in southwestern Pennsylvania: engineering and construction; midstream and pipeline; and operations and maintenance.

“Attracting and retaining a high-quality, local workforce is a key tenet of our Guiding Principles. By nearly all metrics – and with Pennsylvania’s unemployment at its lowest level since September 2008 and well below the national average – we continue to make positive progress on this important commitment, helping to create opportunities for those seeking work in our growing industry. And while some challenges still exist, this survey helps identify gaps to refine and better direct our collective efforts aimed at boosting local job growth for years to come.”

 

Court further limits reach of gas drilling law

HARRISBURG, PA (AP) — A Pennsylvania court has further limited the reach of a major 2012 law that modernized drilling regulations, ruling Thursday that state public utility regulators cannot review how local zoning restrictions affect the natural gas industry.

The Commonwealth Court decision threw out the Public Utility Commission’s newly authorized power to withhold drilling fee revenue from municipalities whose zoning it deems to illegally restrict drilling activity.

The decision is another blow to an effort by Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican-controlled Legislature to respond to the drilling industry’s complaints about municipal zoning. It follows a state Supreme Court ruling in December that said the law could not strip local zoning authority over drilling activity, such as the placement of rigs, pipelines, waste pits and compressor stations.

John M. Smith, a Pittsburgh-area lawyer who helped represent the seven municipalities that sued, said they were pleased that the court “once again protected the rights of local governments and Pennsylvania citizens.”

The Commonwealth Court ruling rejected three other challenges in the lawsuit to elements of the sprawling law.

Those three victories led Corbett’s office to say the opinion “speaks volumes to the constitutionality of state regulation of oil and gas activities.” A spokesman would only say that the office is evaluating the impact of the ruling on the intended role of the utility commission.

The court left intact limits on what doctors may reveal about the proprietary contents of hydraulic fracturing solutions.

Still, Smith said that while the court did not find the “medical gag rule” to be unconstitutional, the court interpreted the law to allow certain disclosures that alleviated much of the plaintiffs’ concerns over the secrecy. Those disclosures include to patients who suffer chemical exposures from drilling operations, to other treating physicians and in medical records, Smith said.

The court also refused to require the state to notify people who rely on private water sources of the potential for drilling contamination and it rejected the argument that the law authorized illegal private eminent domain for natural gas pipelines and storage.

In addition to the seven municipalities — four in Washington County, two in Bucks County and one in Allegheny County — the plaintiffs include environmental advocacy group Delaware Riverkeeper and Dr. Mehernosh Khan, a former Pittsburgh-area physician who is now practicing in Massachusetts.

The 2012 law grew out of a desire to modernize Pennsylvania’s 20-year-old drilling laws to account for a Marcellus Shale drilling boom made possible by innovations in technology, most notably horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The law did not include a severance tax on the industry, but it did allow counties to impose an impact fee. Most of the revenue goes to local governments that host the gas wells, while state agencies and grant programs get the rest.

After the industry descended on Pennsylvania in 2008 to tap into the Marcellus Shale, companies began complaining that some municipalities were exploiting a legal gray area and using zoning rules to illegally limit drilling.

Corbett, a Republican, backed the industry, arguing that a 1984 state law had intended to outlaw municipal regulation of oil and gas operations anyway.

The law’s provisions effectively told municipalities where they must allow various types of drilling activity, but they were put on hold by a lower court and were never enforced before the Supreme Court ruled 4-2 in December that the state had overstepped its bounds.

 

Russia-China natural gas deal spurs effort to expedite LNG exports

BY R. BROCK PRONKOMBC Regional Business Analyst

Russia’s 30-year, $400 billion deal to sell China natural gas from a state-owned gas supplier, Gazprom, stirred a reaction from some members of Congress who want the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to expedite its sluggish LNG (liquefied natural gas) export approval process so the U.S. could export more natural gas.

Senators John Hoeven (R-ND), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources), and Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness, are concerned the deal will embolden Russia’s position in Ukraine since it makes Russia less reliant on selling natural gas to Europe, and a threat to cut off supplies or raise prices significantly could pressure Western European countries to lift their sanctions.

The senators also are recommending a strategic review of U.S. energy policies, a joint U.S.-European Union initiative on energy security, and further efforts to promote greater energy productivity in Ukraine.

“This strengthens Russia’s hand in regard to what they decide to do in Eastern Europe, and it makes it even more imperative that we advance our legislation to allow exports of LNG to Europe so that they have alternative sources,” said Hoeven.

The House passed HR 6, which states that DOE must make a final decision on an LNG export project within 30 days of the environmental impact statement approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). It also provides for an expedited judicial review process in the event that DOE doesn’t meet the deadline. The Senate has a similar bill pending, but it hasn’t taken action on it on a committee level yet.

Hoeven disclosed that he has holdings in oil and gas companies, mostly publicly traded upstream and midstream limited partnerships — between $190,008 and $503,000 in equity in various oil and gas companies, including Energy Transfer Partners, EV Energy Partners LP, and Copano Energy (now owned by Kinder Morgan, a partner with GE in the Gulf LNG Liquefaction Project now before the DOE).

Since a good portion of the gas supplying LNG facilities will be coming from the Appalachian Basin, the outcome of the proposed legislation will have an impact on Marcellus and Utica shale gas companies operating in wet gas regions.

One such company is the Forth Worth-based Range Resources, which recently announced it had signed several agreements involving planned pipeline projects, terminals and ethane crackers in which it agreed to supply natural gas and ethane from the Marcellus shale to export terminals and proposed petrochemical plants.

The projects include: Energy Transfer Partners’ Rover Pipeline, which is expected to connect the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia with Canada and the Gulf Coast by 2017; the Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Cameron Parish, La., where Cheniere Energy Inc. is building a liquefaction plant; an unnamed, planned liquefied natural gas terminal; a proposed petrochemical plant that an affiliate of Sasol Ltd. plans to build near Lake Charles, La.; and the Ascent ethane cracker that Odebrecht proposes to build in Parkersburg, W. Va.

“The Rover pipeline provides Range flexibility in selling natural gas to high demand markets in Canada and the Gulf Coast, while the LNG and ethane supply agreements further diversify and strengthen our customer base with industry leading companies,” said Jeff Ventura, CEO of Range Resources.

Discontent with the Approval Process

There are two major federal permits LNG companies need to have whether importing or exporting natural gas. One is from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the other is from FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).

The DOE regulates the commodity of natural gas for import and export. FERC regulates the design, construction, and operation of the facility and its impact on the environment.

Under DOE’s rules and regulations, when it receives a completed application to export LNG to a non-free trade agreement country, it publishes a notice in the federal registry to allow interested persons to protest it, comment on it, or file motions to intervene.

When that comment period expires if no-one has introduced evidence as to why the project should not go forward, DOE can proceed to an immediate decision.

“That had been DOE’s procedure up until December 2012 when it established what it called an ‘order of precedence” whereby it made decisions on whether or not to proceed with an LNG project based on the timeline when the applicants filed with FERC,” said Bill Cooper, president of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade association in Washington, D.C., which has been lobbying Congress to speed up the LNG approval process.

“That change in regulations caused a tremendous amount of consternation for the applicants, contracting partners with the applicants, and with policy makers in Washington who want the process to move along faster.”

Cameron LNG and Dominion Cove Point, which both applied for permits before the changes went into effect are on their way to being close to building their facilities and will likely be approved by DOE by the end of the year.

“Other projects that were higher in the queue under the old system may also have been decided by the end of the year, but now DOE is not going to decide on any of them,” said Cooper.

“Last year, DOE changed its game plan again, and is now saying that it’s no longer going to use when an export company filed at FERC as a timeline when it will proceed with its approval, but instead it’s not going to do any more conditional authorizations, it’s only going to make final authorizations, and it won’t do that until the company completes the environmental process with FERC, which could take up to two years.

“The first change DOE made, the order of precedence delayed the decision make process, and now this decision to go straight to file after the environmental review process, the industry views as a further delay that completely unnecessary.

Having to go through the environmental review process first rather than be granted conditional approval beforehand means that would-be exporters won’t be able to line up gas suppliers or end users in advance or go to the banks and use that conditional approval to secure the capital needed to build the facility.

“We think that DOE is violating the law, and we wholeheartedly support the effort in Congress to force DOE to expedite the process.”

While DOE hasn’t stated the reasons for its change in approval procedures, in 2012 the department commissioned a study by NERA Economic Consulting on the impact that LNG exports will have on the price of domestic gas. The study found that the U.S., in all scenarios, would see an economic boost from exporting natural gas and that any increase in domestic natural gas prices would be insignificant and the U.S. consumer will not be adversely affected.

A number of independent analyses also concluded that LNG exports in the range 6 to 12 Bcf/d would not have a significant impact on domestic prices. For example, the Peterson Institute for International Economics report “Liquefied Natural Gas Exports: An Opportunity for America” concluded that LNG exports would raise domestic natural gas prices between 3.5 to 16 percent, depending on the demand in the U.S. for domestic natural gas.

LNG Export Facilities

Currently, the U.S. has only one LNG export facility in operation, which is located in Alaska, one other has been approved for construction in Louisiana, and two have been conditionally approved, one in Maryland and one in Louisiana, pending final approval from DOE.

ConocoPhillips Co. received approval from DOE to resume exporting LNG from its Kenai, Alaska, facility, and began exporting gas in the spring. It had exported LNG from the facility for decades, but the company shut down its Kenai export terminal in February 2011, citing market conditions, which have since turned around.

Cheniere Energy Partners, L.P. is a Delaware limited partnership that owns 100 percent of the Sabine Pass LNG terminal located on the Sabine Pass Channel in western Cameron Parish, Louisiana. The Sabine Pass LNG terminal has regasification and send-out capacity of 4.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) and storage capacity of 16.9 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe). Cheniere’s import/export terminal is the only LNG facility is the lower 48 states that has FERC approval to begin construction.

Cameron LNG, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is also building an LNG export terminal in Louisiana. Cameron has conditional authorization from DOE and has completed its environmental impact statement. It could receive final approval from DOE by the end the year.

In May, Dominion Energy welcomed the release of a federal environmental assessment by FERC that found the natural gas export project proposed for its existing Cove Point LNG facility in southern Maryland can be built and operated safely with no significant impact to the environment.

Dominion has entered into agreements with companies in India and Japan, who will be receiving LNG via tanker ships.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other federal and state agencies that reviewed our proposal are to be commended for their thorough and independent assessment,” said Diane Leopold, president of Dominion Energy.

“The 241-page report represents nearly two years of study, tens of thousands of pages of documentation and many thousands of hours of work.

“This marks another important step forward in a project that has very significant economic benefits and helps two allied nations in their efforts to increase their energy security and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

As of March 10, 29 other LNG export applications have been approved and are currently under DOE review. Two other applications, from Texas LNG LLC and Louisiana LNG Energy LLC, are pending approval.