Friday, July 9, 2010

Exactly how is Marcellus drilling impacting PA residents?

If you missed this article by Hannah Abelbeck, please take the time to read it now.  Ms. Abelbeck does a fantastic and thorough job of investigating the myriad of ways drilling is impacting our land, water supply, health, and our local economies--many of which are heavily dependent on tourism dollars.

Marcellus drilling transforms the state
By Hannah Abelbeck
As the scale and pace of Marcellus gas well drilling picks up, people in rural Pennsylvania are learning how to fight traffic jams, research deed histories, encounter the FBI, self-monitor streams and light their tap water on fire.

Innovations in drilling technology have fueled the rush to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale, a geological formation that underlies 70 percent of Pennsylvania and portions of Centre County.

The gas rush is on, and money is fueling all of it. Companies and lending institutions willing to invest the big money needed up front want a fast return, resulting in quicker and more intense drilling in rural areas desperate to save their sluggish economies. Residents are signing leases, desperate to supplement sagging incomes. Workers, hungry for jobs, hope to sign up for long, dangerous work days, if they can get them. And the industry promotes the benefits and downplays the costs of massive speculation, while opposing regulations that might shrink profit margins.

Meanwhile, the environment, health, and financial well-being of Pennsylvania residents is at risk like never before.

“I don’t think anybody realizes how big and ridiculous this whole situation is,” said Dave Bailey when describing what he and his neighbors have experienced in the last two years. All of his neighbors on Hedgehog Lane, a rural street in Bradford Township, McKean County had their private water wells contaminated when one company drilled and fractured 26 non-Marcellus wells near their homes two years ago.

“I’m not opposed to domestic drilling,” said neighbor Lorrie Trumbull. “What we don’t like is shoddy workmanship.” The layer of concrete that is supposed to seal the well bore from sources of underground drinking water was not properly installed on several wells, say the neighbors.

Marcellus wells are scattered over two-thirds of Pennsylvania. The 29 wells in Centre County are concentrated in a band north and west of State College.

Two neighbors had well water with so much methane they could light it on fire. One of them was Bailey. When the water in his pipes contained 89 percent free gas, he and his family had to move into a hotel for three months to avoid an explosion. Running his washing machine still sets off his gas detectors sometimes, he said. Although he was told it was safe to shower, the two or three times they tried, members of his family had rashes and burns.

Getting the problem fixed has been an ongoing headache. After the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection found the Schreiner Oil and Gas Co. responsible, the company vented Bailey’s well so that it wouldn’t explode. It didn’t solve the methane problem, so they drilled him a new well into the same water source. Then they had Culligan install a filtration system in his house, which did not remove the methane. In February DEP finally ordered the company to provide a permanent solution.

Bailey said the company plans to install a whole house osmosis system that uses lots of energy, takes up half his basement, and includes no maintenance plan. From the beginning, Bailey said, the residents have requested they be connected to the municipal water system.

Water isn’t the only problem. Schreiner’s drilling partner, Aiello Brothers Oil and Gas, built a gas processing plant, a so-called “stripper plant” right behind their houses. Trumbull said her house has filled with gas fumes several times. Bailey said he once went through two weeks of constant gas alarms.

What really bothers the neighbors is that Aiello’s New Century Pipeline Group built the plant dangerously close to their houses without a permit and in violation of zoning ordinances. The Bradford Township Zoning Hearing Board unanimously voted to deny the company’s last appeal and ordered it to remove the stripping plant altogether in February. The company is appealing the decision to the McKean County Court of Supreme Pleas and continues to operate.  Click HERE to read the remainder of the article & view accompanying photographs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Remember Centralia?

Lest we forget, mining for fossil fuels is an incredibly invasive process often fraught with accidents--the effect of which last decades.  Remember the Centralia fires?  Check out this fantastic slideshow of Centralia then...and now.

Click HERE for slideshow.