Marcellus Shale: Gas Drilling in Northern West Virginia Part II

I have been surprisingly overwhelmed by the number of articles this week addressing natural gas drilling.  While most articles focus on Pennsylvania, where drilling has been occurring for several years, we in WV should take a close look at what is happening there because we will be facing the same issues in the coming years.  One of the main reasons the number of articles has increased this week is due to the forthcoming paper by a Cornell professor who argues that natural is worse for the environment than coal.  As a mentioned earlier, I am skeptical of this hypothesis and would like to see more testing completed before drawing a conclusion.  It appears that the professor is arguing that there are large quantities of natural gas that are not actually captured during the drilling extracting process which is absorbed into the atmosphere increase the amount of carbon dioxide.

Another reason we are seeing a dramatic increase in the news this week is due to reports coming from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where it has been reported that the Pennsylvania DEP takes less than 35 minutes to examine permits for drilling new natural gas wells. This is incredulous.  Most states despise the EPA and want to control drilling and mining without the federal governments interference, but how are we, the citizens of these states, suppose to trust our state governments when one of the few regulatory agencies in charge of protecting our well water refuse to do any actual research on the affects these new natural gas drilling can have on the local environment.  Either the states need to develop tougher means to regulate natural gas drilling or the EPA will move in and do it for them.  The problem is by the time the states get organized it will probably be too late.

Yesterday, the AP reported about how gas drilling Pennsylvania has also created many problems in the small communities and towns were hydrofraking is taking place.  Now, West Virginians are a very and proud people with a strong sense of community, as the Washington Post put it yesterday, and, for the most part, we support the development of natural gas drilling in the region; however, I am somewhat frightened that this kind of animosity between people could develop.  I think that this type of anger could be avoided if we go about drilling prudently which mean taking a slow approach to and not letting development of wells outpace our ability to control it.  I would also like to see rules that force these corporations that drill to reveal the chemicals used in the fraking process we can protect ourselves.  In terms of communities protecting themselves, I was very impressed that the city of Wellsburg, WV voted to prevent drilling within city limits as the city is skeptical about the fraking process and wants to protects in residents.

Update – 4/18/2011

Yesterday, the WSJ reported that a study conducted by House Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee suggests that, ” drilling fluids used to recover natural gas and oil from deep shale formations contain substances identified as human carcinogens.”  Frankly, this really is not a surprise as the majority of citizens already assumed that these companies were pumping chemicals into the Earth; while else would these energy companies be so determined to keep in place legislation that allows them to keep the composition of the fracking water a secret.  What is really disturbing is that our congressional representatives do not find this to be a problem.  They would much rather receive enormous campaign contributions from these energy corporations than protect the citizens they are suppose to represent in DC.  Ultimately, this report will be catagorized as just another lefty Democratic ploy to hurt businesses, but I believe that this is an issue that our representatives needs to pay attention to as they poisoning of local aquifers and wells can not only detrimentally  affect the health of the people but also the livestock that people depend on for livelihood.


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