PITTSBURGH - Chesapeake Energy Corp. said it submitted Marcellus Shale production data to a state database last week when it was due, but Pennsylvania officials still aren't providing details of why it didn't appear online or saying whether a biannual report about one of the nation's top natural gas fields is now complete.
Pennsylvania released official data on Marcellus Shale natural gas production last week but didn't reveal that Chesapeake Energy's numbers were missing. Because the firm has been a top producer in previous reports, statewide totals weren't close to being accurate.
On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suggested that some drillers were late submitting data, but Chesapeake spokesman Rory Sweeny said in a statement that the company met regulatory requirements for sharing data. The company also sent an electronic copy to state officials last Wednesday after it became clear there were problems with a government database, Sweeny said.
One expert with experience in state oversight of the energy sector said Pennsylvania regulators probably didn't have a legal obligation to let the public know that an important database was incomplete, but they had a professional one.
"I think they botched their professional obligations," said Michael Dworkin, director of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School and a former chairman of that state's public service board.
Dworkin said it appears the DEP knew the reports were missing data from the state's largest natural gas producer, but didn't bother to include a note to that effect.
"And then they left it out in front of the public, looking complete when it wasn't," Dworkin said of the situation last week. "I think that's sloppy and unprofessional."
A DEP spokesman didn't immediately respond to questions Tuesday about whether Chesapeake tried to submit the data on Aug. 15.
Sweeny declined to provide copies of Chesapeake's emails to the state regarding its data submission and didn't immediately respond to a question about whether the state database now has the company's complete production figures.
Dworkin added that with tight state budgets, DEP probably doesn't have the funding it needs.
The Marcellus Shale is a gas-rich formation of rock thousands of feet under much of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio. Advances in drilling technology made the shale accessible, which led to a boom in production, jobs and profits, and a drop in natural gas prices for consumers. But there also are concerns about pollution and impacts to roads and other public services.