Horizontal gas drilling: perfectly safe as long as it isn’t in a watershed
An an update to our May 19 post on gas leasing for the deep Marcellus Shale play, the award-winning environmental reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Don Hopey, has a new piece on the lease sale state-wide that goes into detail about the possible effects of this kind of gas drilling on water quality:
The environmental concerns are primarily related to water use. Conventional vertical wells can take as much as 1 million gallons and horizontal drilling operations can use 3 million gallons or more.
Although most areas of the state where the drilling has taken place so far have plenty of water, problems have occurred. Range Resources-Appalachia and Chief Oil and Gas were cited and fined by the DEP in May for violating the state Clean Streams Law by removing too much water from small streams near their deep wells in Lycoming County. Both firms are now in compliance and have filed required water management plans.
Where the water goes after it’s used may be more of a problem. Water used to fracture underground rock and pulled back to the surface can be contaminated with brine and salt, and even pick up some radioactivity, and must be treated before it can be released into state waterways.
There are only two water treatment facilities in the state that specialize in such water treatment, but drilling companies can contract with municipal water treatment facilities if they have the capacity and capability to do such treatment.
We’ve received some interesting correspondence as a result of our last post on this issue. Someone with a Texas-based email provider assured us that the energy companies were honorable, and that we’d be passing up the opportunity of a lifetime if we didn’t sign. And a local gentleman from Decker Hollow was kind enough to inquire whether we’d be interested in joining other local landowners to engage in collective bargaining with the landsmen. When we drew his attention to a then-recent article in the Centre Daily Times (no longer available on the free web), in which a landowner who had signed away his subsurface rights to a gas company talked about the damage done and warned that doing so was tantamount to selling one’s soul, our correspondent replied: “My soul belongs to Jesus Christ. My mineral rights are for sale to the highest bidder.”
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