Category Archives: Natural Resources

On-line Seminar June 20: Landscape Disturbance & Natural Gas Extraction


Landscape Disturbance Related to Natural Gas Extraction in the Mid-Atlantic Region

Sponsored by ASPRS, CaGIS and GLIS

Date & Time: June 20th, 2014 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST 

The American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) GIS Division in partnership with the Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) and the Geographic and Land Information Society (GLIS) would like to invite our members to attend our third online seminar for the 2014 series.

Landscape Disturbance Related to Natural Gas Extraction in the Mid-Atlantic Region

Abstract:Increased demands for cleaner burning energy, coupled with the relatively recent technological advances in accessing unconventional hydrocarbon-rich geologic formations, have led to an intense effort to find and extract natural gas from various underground sources around the country. One of these sources, the Marcellus Shale, located in the Allegheny Plateau, is currently undergoing extensive drilling and production. The technology used to extract gas in the Marcellus shale is known as hydraulic fracturing and has garnered much attention because of its use of large amounts of fresh water, its use of proprietary fluids for the hydraulic-fracturing process, its potential to release contaminants into the environment, and its potential effect on water resources. Nonetheless, development of natural gas extraction wells in the Marcellus Shale is only part of the overall natural gas story in the area of Pennsylvania. Coalbed methane, which is sometimes extracted using the similar technique, is commonly located in the same general area as the Marcellus Shale and is frequently developed in clusters across the landscape. The combined effects of these two natural gas extraction methods create potentially serious patterns of disturbance on the landscape. This presentation quantifies the landscape changes and consequences of natural gas extraction for the natural gas play in Pennsylvania between 2004 and 2010. Patterns of landscape disturbance related to natural gas extraction activities were collected and digitized using National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) imagery for 2004, 2005/2006, 2008, and 2010. The disturbance patterns were then used to measure changes in land cover and land use using the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) of 2001 as a baseline. A series of landscape metrics are also used to quantify these changes and report on the potential ecosystem effects.

About the Speaker:  Terry Slonecker is a research geographer in the United States Geological Survey’s Eastern Geographic Science Center.  He has over 30 years of experience in remote sensing and geospatial analysis including positions with the U.S. Air Force, private industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  His current research interests include hyperspectral analysis of heavy metals, hazardous substances, hydrocarbons, and related vegetation stress.  He recently taught hyperspectral remote sensing at the Afghanistan Geological Society in Kabul and has been involved in several emergency response efforts including the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. He received his master’s degree in Geographic and Cartographic Sciences, and his doctorate in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia. He is currently working on mapping and measuring the landscape effects of natural gas development and on evaluating remote sensing as a tool for hazardous waste site monitoring.  On several occasions, he has served as an expert witness for the U.S. Federal Government on remote sensing related matters.

Date & Time: Date & Time: June 20th, 2014 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST

Remote Access / Registration:

       NOTE: Registration is limited to the first 500 people who sign up and log in to the seminar.

If you are unable to attend the live seminar, a recording will be posted at several days after the seminar.


Questions, Contact:
David Alvarez, CMS, GISP
GIS Division Director (ASPRS)

Nature Conservancy’s Development by Design

The Nature Conservancy has produced a tool-set “Development by Design”, which seeks to avoid, minimize and mitigate habitat impacts from infrastructure development. These analysis tools can be used by pipeline companies to find routes that minimize ecological damage and overall still be cost effective for the company.  The program analyzes habitat fragmentation and provides information on sediment loss that can be used to evaluate the effect of pipeline crossings of streams. For more on this please see the slides from Marcellus Gas Development Projections and Conservation Impacts.

Report on Important Resources and Pipeline Impacts

Hopewell Big Woods Pipeline Report

Hopewell Big Woods Pipeline Report

At the request of East Nantmeal, North Coventry, South Coventry, Union, Warwick, and West Vincent Townships, Natural Land Trust, French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust and Green Valleys Association have compiled a summary of the important natural, recreational, and historical resources in the Hopewell Big Woods. The report also provides information about the potential impacts of the proposed Commonwealth Pipeline or any other future utility rights-of-way that would pass through the landscape.


Continue reading

How to Kill a Cow or the Pipeline Blues

In a letter to Lancaster Farming, Christy Ann Strange documents the struggle she has had after the construction of gas pipeline across her farm. Her issues range from 6-inch landscaping nails causing injury to livestock, stripping of soil, damage to standing trees and littering a field with rock. East Nantmeal residents could learn from this to be very careful about any land lease agreements with pipeline agents. In particular you will need to incorporate protections for your property during construction and specific remediation of the area post construction.

Know your rights and negotiate with the pipeline companies

Property owners approached by land agents for pipeline companies, and faced with the threat of eminent domain, often feel it best to accept the first offer. But in a workshop an attorney with experience in pipeline negotiations advised landowners not to roll over. He suggested that property owners have many rights and plenty of room to get a better price. Considering that the company cannot go lower than the first offer if it comes to an eminent domain hearing, you can take the opening offer as their lowest, not their best.

In northeastern Pennsylvania for the recent MARC1 pipeline, landowners were offered $8 per linear foot. For a 50ft right-of-way that comes to less than $7,000 per acre, suggesting a considerable gap to the average cost to fully purchase the ground. The property owner will still own the land, as the pipeline company is only purchasing an easement to cross the land. However, constraints detailed in the easement may prevent the owner from full enjoyment of use of the property. One may still enjoy mowing and maintaining the eased area and one definitely will still pay taxes on the ground. However there may be restrictions on placing structures or plantings in the eased areas. More important to potential future use, if the pipeline easement separates a significant area of the property, and no drive may be constructed across the pipeline, the owner, depending on local ordinances, may have lost the ability to subdivide and sell a portion of their property. Landowners need to understand what uses of their property may no longer be available to them, and need to be properly compensated for that loss.

The various conservancy groups in the area point out that Pennsylvania’s regulations for remediating an area after constructing a pipeline do not meet best management practices in areas such as soil erosion and forest habitat protection. Property owners can also negotiate conditions to be met during construction and how the land will be restored post-construction that go beyond the state’s requirements. One can specify the types of vegetation to be replanted and the type of long term maintenance by the company to prevent further degradation of the land. Owners viewing themselves as stewards of the land often include these types of conditions. Some have found that the pipeline companies gladly accept these conditions particularly from conservancies, viewing the implementation of the best practices as a public relations opportunity.

Pipeline clear cuts trees without permission

In Ohio, near the Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve, Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners cut down trees to make way for the installation of an underground pipeline. The company took down 100 trees owned by a private resident, 300 feet from the state-owned preserve. According to a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, “it appears that a small tract of land owned by the state was impacted without permission”. The county planning commission sent Enterprise a letter indicating that they had violated floodplain regulations. See the Columbus Dispatch article from 02/22/2013.

Courtney Hergesheimer | DISPATCH

Courtney Hergesheimer | DISPATCH

Best Management Practices for Natural Gas Pipelines

In December 2011, The Nature Conservancy as part of its Pennsylvania Energy Impacts Assessment issued a report on Natural Gas Pipelines. Their key findings included:

  • Pennsylvania’s network of large diameter natural gas pipelines will double and possibly quadruple in the next 20 years.The expansion is attributed to Marcellus shale gas development.
  • The expansion could build 10,000 miles to 25,000 miles of new pipeline in Pennsylvania.
  • Between 120,000 and 300,000 acres will be affected by natural gas pipeline construction, which is larger than the total area of all other Marcellus related infrastructure. Approximately half of this impacted area will be in Pennsylvania’s forests.
  • The expanding network of pipeline rights-of-way will create 360,000 to 900,000 acres of new forest edges. This could eliminate habitat conditions needed by native interior forest species and expose the core forest to invasive species.

Along with encouraging the co-location of new capacity with existing rights-of-way, the Nature Conservancy recommends the development of Best Practices to avoid or minimize habitat impacts. 

Penn State Extension offers free webinar on the best conservation practices for shale-gas extraction at 1 PM on February 21, 2013. Scott Bearer and Tamara Gagnolet, of The Nature Conservancy, will discuss their analysis of practices that could benefit the environment. Registration for this webinar is not necessary, and all are welcome to participate by logging in to . For more information, contact Carol Loveland at 570-320-4429 or by email at

If you missed the webinar, past webinars, publications and information also are available on the Penn State Extension natural-gas website (, covering a variety of topics, such as Act 13; seismic testing; air pollution from gas development; water use and quality; zoning; gas-leasing considerations for landowners; gas pipelines and right-of-way issues; legal issues surrounding gas development; and the impact of Marcellus gas development on forestland.

Hopewell Big Woods At Risk

The Eastern Seaboard Highlands encompass a forested area running from Connecticut to the southern sections of Pennsylvania. Within this greater forest, at the headwaters of two Exceptional Value streams, lies the Hopewell Big Woods, an expanse of more than 73,000 acres, or 110 square miles. And the last unbroken forest in southeastern Pennsylvania. This area acts as a natural filter, cleansing southeastern Pennsylvania’s air and water. Home to hundreds of plant species and important bird areas, the Hopewell Big Woods contains significant historic resources, cultural attractions and recreational activities.

Thirty-seven organizations including  federal and state agencies, local municipalities and several nonprofit groups have joined together in partnership to conserve and maintain the integrity of over 4,000 acres of old-growth forest, 15,000 acres of unbroken forest, the watersheds and rare species supported by this forest. As currently proposed, the Commonwealth pipeline cuts a wide swath through the Big Woods.

Please be sure to attend a short film on the Hopewell Big Woods being shown at Owen J. Roberts High School on February 16, 2013, at 9:30 AM. This precedes Carolyn Elefant’s presentation Knowing and Protecting Your Rights When an Interstate Gas Pipeline Comes to Your Community at 10 AM.


Location of Pipeline in East Nantmeal

The East Nantmeal Gas Pipeline Map depicts the approximate location of the proposed Commonwealth Pipeline as it passes through East Nantmeal. Please note that the final location may vary significantly from this map, as detailed surveys have not been completed.

If you have Google Earth, you can click on Screen Capture from Google Earththis link and open the data in Google Earth; then zoom in for a more refined view.